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TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines– The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has declared the 16-year old land rights rivalry here as “case closed” after the warring Bugho Farmers Association (BFA) and Fran Farm Workers Association (FFWA) in Ormoc City “agreed and signed” a final compromise agreement.

This milestone achievement in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in Matica-village in Ormoc city started in December 2015 when the BFA offered the 21 hectares to the FFWA while keeping the 25 hectares with the former, according to Jose Alsmith Soria, DAR regional information officer.

“In 2015 the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) ruled with finality awarding the entire 46 hectares to the BFA. Leyte Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Renato Badilla, who led DAR officials in facilitating the negotiation, expressed hope that a better environment will govern the FFWA and the BFA and finally led to peace and development in the area, a peace that has been elusive for a long time,” said Soria.

In a statement, Soria said that BFA president Rosenda Apay and FFWA leader Benjie Malinao “led their respective groups in signing the final compromise agreement.”

This agreement, Soria said, includes: the grant by the BFA of the 21 hectares in favor of FFWA, with the 25 hectares retained by the former; conduct of subdivision survey by DAR on the two landholdings; mutual recognition and respect of each other as qualified farmer beneficiaries; dropping off of claims, legal suits and charges leveled against each other.

Recognition of home lots occupied by FFWA farmers inside the 25 hectares allocation by the BFA issuance and registration of individual certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) among the FFWA members for the 21 hectares, while BFA opted for a collective CLOA for the 25 hectares;
DAR will facilitate with the DARAB the approval of the final compromise agreement; and DARAB to issue the corresponding appropriate order enforcing the final compromise agreement.

The signing of the said document on March 10 this year was attended by land rights advocates and non-government organization representatives Rina Reyes from Rural Poor Institute for Land and Human Rights Services (RIGHTS Inc.) , along with DAR officials, police and local officials.

“The controversy started in 1999, when the rival groups questioned the identification and qualifications of each other as agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to a landholding formerly owned by Teofilo Fran, which resulted in a series of legal actions and litigations lasting for 16 years,” recalled Soria.

“Bad blood worsened when an FFWA member was shot and killed inside the DAR Ormoc City office premises during a court hearing on the case by still unidentified perpetrator,” he added.

Today, however, Soria said that “both groups are already peacefully installed and tilling their respective areas.”

Meanwhile, RIGHTS Inc. has enjoined DAR in Eastern Visayas that the implementation of the final compromise agreement between two rival farmer groups in Ormoc city be ensured.

“We have heaved a collective sigh of relief that everything seems to have been resolved in a peaceful manner,” said Reyes, RIGHTS networks project officer.

“Much as BFA would have wanted that the rule of law was instead enforced like, CLOA holders installed in all 46 hectares, they have always been humane in their approach to the dispute such that they considered the landless among those who illegally occupied their land, thus the Compromise Agreement,” she told PNA.

Expressing her elation over the development, Reyes said that RIGHTS and another land rights group Kilusan Para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (KATARUNGAN) “will see this through until the CLOA holders have full access and control over the entire 25 hectares.”

“We would like to enjoin the DAR in Eastern Visayas to ensure that the compromise agreement be implemented at the soonest time possible, and that the appropriate support services be extended to the CLOA Holders,” she said.

Reyes also recalled that DAR regional director Sheila Enciso “have promised one land master to the CLOA holders exactly one year ago on March 10, 2015.”

“On behalf of the CLOA holders, we would also like to acknowledge the support and intervention of the Commission of Human Rights lawyers Homero Rusiana and Carmelita Rosete.

“Also, this would have been quite difficult without the full support of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace and Social Action Center of Palo Archdiocese,” Reyes said.

First appeared in Philippine News Agency, March 25, 2016