“The lands at Balingcanaway were covered by the agrarian reform program since the Magsaysay administration by the Republic Act 1400 or Land Reform Code of 1955 but it was plagued with government’s corruption resulting to illegal titling of lands to private individuals,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL Chairperson.
The St. Tropez Holdings Corp. investors include Martin P. Lorenzo, an executive of Pancake House Group Holdings, Inc. and Lorenzo-owned Macondray, sister-company of Lapanday, as board chairman, Gabriel Singson, Jr., former finance undersecretary and Pancake House and Macondray executive, Pancake House group’s corporate secretary Atty. Janette Peña and Atty. Bob Guinto of NMGRA Law office. The title claiming the lands is named to Peña and Guinto, while Singson was the signatory of the letters telling the farmers to vacate the land.
“These so-called executives and professionals, rich and powerful are on the onslaught of immoral and unjust land grabbing in the countryside, they are claiming ownership of the land when the very title they have fabricated in 2003 could be traced to the ‘arriendero’ Teresita Cruz, who the Dept. of Agrarian Reform have no legal claim of the land,” Canlas said.
“We have anticipated massive land grabbing and speculation when the SCTEx was constructed, thus, many farmers are now victims, threatened to be displaced from their lands,” he added.
The group added that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and CARP Extension with ‘Reforms’ have been useless to protect the interests of the farmers.
“I don’t know what the officials of Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO) and Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) are doing at their offices when problems like this are proliferating. The farmers in Balingcanaway have been cultivating the lands since the 1990s but agrarian reform officials never dared to look unto the status of the land, paving the way to land grabbing and illegal titling of lands,” Canlas said.
In addition, displacement efforts are also pushing through at the nearby area at Brgy. San Roque, La Paz town.
The group said that heirs of Pablo Gozun, farmer-settler since the American occupation are now being displaced from their land and their houses were demolished on November 4, 2010.
“Their case is unacceptable and enraging as their ancestor developed the lands since the 1920s. He cultivated rice, vegetables, sugarcane, planted trees and maintained the public cemetery. American and Japanese occupation took place in the area still he was not considered as a farmer-beneficiary of the government’s agrarian reform program, even by CARP, he is the classic model of the victim of the uselessness of this program,” Canlas said.
The groups said that the 22-hectare lands are being claimed by the heirs of Magdalena Sevilla, particularly Dorotea Sevilla-Joson.
“CARP’s futility is evident as other parcels within the 22-hectare estate were covered by CARP and farmers were given Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs), but the heirs of Gozun, the very original clan at the site were not considered as FBs,” Canlas said.
AMGL and AMT said that Dorotea Sevilla - Joson told the farmers to vacate the lands as there of construction of a memorial park. The group added that La Paz Municipal Administrator Carlo Ladia, a nominee of Abang Lingkod Partylist, is acting as a broker as the project would be implemented by the local government unit.
“We believe that Mayor Michael Manuel and his father former mayor Dionisio Manuel are involved in this project, as the old Manuel was involved with the anomaly of the construction of a memorial park in Brgy. Caramutan as reported by Banat journalist Bonifacio Gregorio in 2003. In addition, Ladia was the one who continues to deceive the farmers into buying the disputed lands,” AMGL said.
Gregorio was killed on July 8, 2003 as he had focused on corruption issues mainly involving former mayor Manuel.
AMGL said that the Gozun family was already issued with a Notice of Coverage by the PARO involving the 0.6-hectare land where their houses are located. The group said that while the issue is already with the PARO, former mayor Manuel and Ladia continues to maneuver into scamming the farmers to pay for the lands under the framework of the Community Mortgage Program.
“The Sevilla - Manuel and Ladia syndicate is conspiring with some residents promising them to award the land for free, in exchange that they would lead the farmers to form the homeowners’ group that would transact with the Social Housing Finance Corporation,” Canlas said.
“These so-called homeowners’ association leaders are misleading the farmers such as promising they would be given P60,000, when this amount is the would-be subsidy for the mortgage program, worse, they would be obliged to pay P40,000 to cover the P100,000 due payment for their land,” Canlas said.
The groups said that the CMP would enable Sevilla to dispose of the land, Manuel and Ladia to pocket the unnecessary funds supposed to be for the development of the site. Worse, farmers would be the victims, coerced to pay the amortization or face eviction.
“The very cause of this issue is that CARP or even CARPER does not encoin genuine land reform, paving the way for massive land grabbing and displacement of farmers. DAR offices are dormant about the farmers’ interest on the land,” Canlas said.
To address the issues, AMGL and AMT are planning to hold a dialogue with officials of the PARO and MARO in Tarlac City to be attended by about a hundred farmers from Brgy. Balingcanaway and Brgy. San Roque, La Paz. #