Farmers finally occupy parts of Lapanday-managed farm

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After two failed attempts in April, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has placed the farmers on the Tagum City farm managed by Lapanday Food Corporation (LFC) on Thursday, May 18. 

The 159 banana plantation farmers of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Incorporated (Marbai) now occupy the lands they were awarded under the Comprehensive Agrarian Regorm Program (CARP). The farmers own a 0.79-hectare portion of the 145-hectare farm. 

DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano spearheaded the installation of farmers with the assistance of the local police. 

The execution of DAR's installation order happened at 11 am on Thursday. Hours before this, the police conducted clearing operations on the farm. 

"The [DAR] Sheriff and the PNP [got] rid of any obstructions, like booby traps that may be present inside the [San Isidro] Farm," Mariano said. 

The DAR chief earlier tried to issue the writ of execution last April 18 and 21 but failed because the LFC reportedly mobilized armed security to barricade the farm. 

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier gave Mariano the go signal to install the farmers when the Chief Executive visited the Marbai members at their picket line near Malacañang in early May.

This was despite the LFC's statement that the Davao City Regional Trial Court had given it the authority to manage the farm under its contract with the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (Hearbco-1).  

Hearbico-1 is the mother organization of the Marbai farmers. Marbai broke away in 2011 when it didn't want to renew the contract allowing LFC to manage the farm. 

After installation, Mariano asked the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to provide round-the-clock security for the farmers for two days.

"Although they are now installed on their farm lots, they are still in danger," said Mariano. 

The DAR chief issued a cease and desist order to LFC in December 2016 after receiving reports that its security forces harassed the remaining Marbai farmers in the area. 

In a statement released Friday, May 19, LFC criticized the DAR's operation. 

"The company likewise denounces the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), led by Secretary Rafael Mariano, for forcing the installation by coercing the Philippine National Police to assist him carry out his highly anomalous action," said LFC. 

"Lapanday also blames Mariano for directly instigating the mob who became violent and unruly as the installation of the breakaway agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) was proceeding in Madaum, Tagum City on May 18," it added. 

LFC maintained that the produce of the farm shall continue to be sold to them under their contract with Hearbco-1. 

"The re-entry of its former members into the farm does not modify the existing agreement  where Hearbco- 1 is obligated to deliver and sell the fruits from the whole plantation to Lapanday," said the company. Rappler.com 

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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