Farmers belonging to Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) and AMGL – Nueva Ecija (Amgl – NE) organized the “Lakbayan laban sa Pangangamkam at Pagpapalayas” (Caravan against Land grabbing and Displacement) and travelled across Guimba, Muñoz, Cuyapo, Quezon, Licab, Aliaga, Jaen and Sta. Rosa where vast rice lands of the province are located. The action is to oppose the stirring land grabbing, displacement of farmers, cancellations of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT and Emancipation Patents (EP) and foreclosure implemented by Land Bank. The groups claim that Nueva Ecija is a classic model of the bankruptcy of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and CARP Extension with ‘Reforms’ (CARPer).
“We all know that Nueva Ecija is the country’s rice granary but farmers still do not own the lands they till and worse they are being displaced and lands being and planned to be converted,” said Joseph Canlas, Amgl chairperson who co-led the caravan.
Bankruptcy of CARP
The groups cited the case of farmers from Brgy. Manggang Marikit, Bagong Barrio and Yuson (Mambayu) in Guimba town. The Mambayu issue involves more than a hundred hectares in Brgy. Manggang Marikit that used to be part of Hacienda Davis. When it was covered by CARP during the 1990s, it was leased by DAR and Land Bank to Philippine Cotton and a Taiwanese agro-corporation. The Mambayu farmers cultivated from 1992 until the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) fabricated a list called ListaSaka in 2007. It composed illegitimate farmers and individuals involved with interested financiers and speculators. Members of ListaSaka who was able to position to some parts of the land sold them to a religious sect. ListaSaka leaders are also relatives of Guimba police chief. Since ListaSaka was prepared by PARO, they filed ejectment cases against the Mambayu farmers that reached the Court of Appeals in 2010. Decision of some cases are favorable to ListaSaka while some are yet to be decided. Since last year, the PARO, Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO), Guimba and Nueva Ecija PNP and the 81st Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army, consistently harassed the Mambayu farmers to vacate the lands. From May to present, the ListaSaka members have attempted numerous times to occupy the lands, backed up by police and military and hired mob but Mambayu farmers are able to defend their rights as they are the ones who developed them.
In addition, Mambayu farmers were terrorized by the Oplan Bantay Laya in 2005. They were victimized by extra-judicial killings, abduction and torture. One peasant woman was forced to commit suicide due to constant harassment and his husband suffered a mental breakdown. Until 2007, Mambayu leaders and members were always interrogated and physically harmed by elements of the military. By the beginning of Aquino presidency In 2010, elements of the 81st IBPA transformed the barangay hall of Manggang Marikit as their detachment. They conduct regular military operations to harass the farmers and repress their resistance to the PARO landgrabbing and displacement. Last June 25, the Guimba police chief himself arrested a Mambayu farmer when he was attending his farm and charged with usurpation of real property as complained by ListaSaka leaders.
The numerous attempts of ListaSaka members to occupy the lands were defied by Mambayu farmers and support from AMGL. The dispute was raised to the Dept. of Agrarian Reform – Region 3 office (DAR 3) and DAR Central office. The regional and central office affirmed that the case is an agrarian case and they have jurisdiction, thus, cases filed at criminal courts should not be the key. DAR 3 issued a memorandum to review the list of farmer-beneficiaries, essentially junking the PARO’s ListaSaka.
“The Mambayu case is one of the worse implementation of CARP, DAR officials who are supposed to push for land reform are the ones very eager to displace them. Their very intention is to sell the lands to interested buyers and subject it to land use conversion, ” Canlas said.
CARP claims that Nueva Ecija compose 36% of the total number of FBs in Central Luzon or about 95,855. DAR recorded that covered lands 169,375-hectares thus averaging the farmsize to 1.77-hectares per FB. The CARP working scope for the province reach to 179,366-hectares hence the program boast of 94% accomplishment. Many farmers from Quezon-Licab-Sto. Domingo-Aliaga (QLSDA), south Nueva Ecija and other towns are now facing cases of cancellation of CLOA, CLT and EP, foreclosure by Land Bank and direct ejectment of landowners. Haciendas are also preserved that proves that CARP did not realize genuine land reform or breaking up land monopoly and land distribution to the farmers.
In Hacienda Rueda in Brgy. San Andres I, Quezon town, 238.34-hectares have been covered by CARP but annually farmers receive notices of foreclosure from Land Bank. In Brgy. Pulang Bahay, Quezon, CARP covered 455.33-hectares but farmers are facing problems caused by inaccuracies within Land Bank.
In Brgy. Bicos, Rizal, CARP-PD 27 covered 412-hectares but farmers are now facing cancellation cases of CLT. Some farmers claim miscalculation of Land Bank, revising the involved lands thus increasing the rate of amortization. In Brgy. Cacapasan, Cuyapo, the 569.40-hectare Hacienda De Santos are cultivated by about 521 farming households. In Brgy. Pacac, Guimba, Hacienda Gabaldon, Hacienda Kilantang and Hacienda Anggara compose the 822-hectares covered by CARP-PD 27 but farmers are now facing cases of cancellation of CLT and EP. In Sta. Rosa, Jaen, Cabanatuan City, San lsidro and other southern Nueva Ecija towns, farmers are facing land cases usually ejectment cases filed by landowners. Some already have their EP but landowners would backtrack into petitioning for their retention targeting the position of farmers.
“CARP and CARPer is not a program of land reform as it has not implemented any ‘reforms,’ it is plainly a land transaction where DAR served as the broker, the landlord the seller and ‘farmer-beneficiary’ the buyer. It is even worse than any ordinary business transaction as CLOAs, CLTs and EPs could be cancelled anytime as the landlord and DAR decide,” he added.
LUC, CLEx, NLEx East
Aside from facing cancellation and foreclosure cases, Nueva Ecija farmers would be victims of the Aquino government promotion of the Central Luzon Development Plan (CLDP) particularly the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB) that includes the Central Luzon Expressway 1 and 2 (CLEx 1 and 2) and North Luzon East Expressway (NLEx East). CLEx 1 would pierce from Tarlac City to Cabanatuan City, then CLEx 2 from Cabanatuan City to San Jose City. CLEx 1 and 2 are estimated to convert about 319.5-hectares of prime agricultural lands and homelots of Nueva Ecija farmers and residents. While NLEx East would pierce from Cabanatuan City, through Sta. Rosa, San Leonardo, Gapan then towards Bulacan province. It would lead to the La Mesa Parkway in San Jose Del Monte City in Bulacan where MRT 7 inter-modal station is also planned to be constructed.
“This very absence of land reform in the province is the very cause of farmers’ unrest. The Nueva Ecija people are historically revolutionary since the colonial times, they are also usual victims of the state’s fascist attacks but farmers are determined for their rights to land and livelihood. The present Aquino government has not promised nor implement any reforms for the poor farmers, thus, Nueva Ecija farmers know that he is of the same feather as the past anti-farmer and anti-people presidents,” Canlas said.