Mar 20, 2008

Reply to Comment of Mr. De los Reyes

UPDATE: This piece, originally posted onto INQURER.net's Vox Populi section did not pass moderation, for one reason or another. Talk about the voice of the people not being heard! Then again, it's pretty useless now except as a memoir to the facts that led to the VICTORY of the Sumilao farmers over injustice. Hey, see above article for the details. We've won!

UPDATE 2: This piece DID pass moderation! For some reason or another, the moderation took several DAYS! Haha... fine with me. XD

Mr. De los Reyes, I do not mean to insult your intelligence when I say that you should check your facts before stating things against the Sumilao (not Somilao) farmers. Do remember that the 144 hectares of land the “original owner” (Norberto Quisumbing) was recognized under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 (R.A. 6657) as Ancestral in nature (historically, the 144 hectares of land in question was part of a larger parcel about 244 hectares in size which was illegally seized by the Angeles clan in the 40’s from the Higaonons there) and whose tenants - the 137 MAPALAD farmers and now the SALFA farmers who are the children of the MAPALAD farmers - were the descendants of the original residents of the land, thus entitling them to ownership of the land via the issuance of a Certificate of Land Ownership. Next, regarding your argument that the conversion of the 144 hectares of land to agro-industrial nullified the ownership of the land by the farmers: this could simply not be possible because the application for land conversion was ILLEGAL in nature, primarily because the request for land conversion (N.B. city councils can only reclassify lands, not convert them) was passed at the town council level of Sumilao and affirmed at the provincial council of Bukidnon with the knowledge that such a request can only be received at the Department of Land Reform and that the “conversion order” passed by the Bukidnon provincial council was moot and void, and secondly because the 144 hectares of land was evaluated by 3 government offices as prime agricultural land, exempting it from conversion acc. to DAR Administrative Order 20, series of 1992. Finally, regarding the sale of the land to SMFI: Quisumbing could not have sold the land to SMFI in good faith or legally given that the development plans contained in SMFI’s development plans were radically different from Quisumbing’s plans in the application for land conversion that he had submitted to the provincial council (which by the way, was never even completed in the first place). If the law is to be followed, the non-compliance with the “1 year to begin, 5 years to complete” rule was enough to nullify the “conversion order”; however, SMFI brazenly defied DAR A.O. 1, series of 2002 which included sections on the obligation of future landowners to stick with the original development plans of the land conversion applicant, lest the land return to the original CARP grantees (which in this case, I believe, is a good thing). By proposing to build a piggery on the land, they violated the order by leaps and bounds.

Last time I heard, SMC (yes Mr. De los Reyes, the case is now being pursued not just by SMFI but also by the bigwigs in San Miguel Corporation) was indeed offering another, larger land to the Sumilao farmers. In fact, that’s old news since that was the talk of the town during the farmers’ stay in DLSU a few months back. However, the question that begs to be asked is this: given that SMC already knew of the presence of this land in Bukidnon, why did they still insist on using land that was smaller in nature and whose ownership was doubtful? Besides, during the “negotiations”, SMC did not fully disclose the ownership of the land leading us to suspect that there was some foul play involved - might it be that SMC was taking the land of another group of farmers, that it was part of a “divide and conquer” plot the powers above were hatching?

Mr. de los Reyes, I, my colleagues in DLSU , and the many other youth groups who have expressed support for the Sumilao Farmers firmly believe that the facts point to justice being denied to the farmers. This is not simply a case of farmers wanting their land back - this is a case of farmers wanting justice for the atrocities done to them and thousands of farmers around the country who have had their land stolen from them by the rich and powerful. The Sumilao issue might just be the test case that those who are still looking for their dignity as people - and the appreciation of the people as the beings responsible for putting food on our tables - are looking for.

Besides dear sir, can you stomach the fact that priority is being given to providing air-conditioning to pigs over the livelihood and life of human beings just like you? I think you know the answer to that.

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