DESPITE the cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano Thursday, prohibiting Lapanday Food Corporation (LFC) guards from evicting farmers from the 145-hectare banana plantation in Madaum, Tagum City, the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (Marbai) claimed that the company, which they accused of land grabbing, still intrudes in their areas.
In a press conference, Tinood nga Repormang Agraryo-Marbai (TRA-Marbai) Chairperson Antonio Tuyac said that despite the CDO issued by Mariano on December 14 to address the land dispute, they have seen the company harvesting the bananas within their areas.
The order prohibits security guards "from forcibly evicting the members of petitioner Marbai from the subject landholding and from disturbing their peaceful possession and occupation of the subject property."
The disputed land was awarded to farmers in 1996 under the government's agrarian reform program by virtue of the approval of the compromise agreement.
Although there is already a CDO, LFC allegedly continued their operations and even harvest the bananas within their jurisdiction and disregard the order.
Under the CDO, only the 159 farmers under Marbai are allowed to harvest the produce within their land while LFC is prohibited.
Tuyac noted that Mariano had already directed the local officials to get police and military assistance to secure farmers from being harassed and maintain peace and order of the area to avoid violent attacks like what happened on December 9.
Tuyac said, however, days after the CDO issuance, there was still no security intervention that will secure their lives and avoid similar incident that previously injured seven of their members after they were allegedly attacked by the LFC security guards.
Marbai said Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon was directed by Agrarian undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Pagulayan to create an Inter-agency task force involving the Philippine National Police, Commission on Human rights, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Local Government Units and Department of Agriculture to monitor the situation of the farmers.
"Pila na kaadlaw pero wala gihapon police assistance. Wala gihapon PNP nga nagpakita bisan ug naga request nami (Days have passed yet there is no police despite our previous requests)," they said.
They had also contacted the sheriff to implement the CDO but they said that Regional Trial Court Branch 14 had issued a motion that hinders them to do so.
Pangulayan earlier said that only the DAR has the primary, exclusive and original jurisdiction in resolving agrarian dispute such as this and not the courts.
Marbai urged LFC to respect the ruling and stop their alleged harassment towards the agrarian reform beneficiaries.
To date, two of the seven farmers are still confined in the Tagum regional hospital.
As early as October, LFC already denied taking over the land granted to the farmers.
"Lapanday Foods Corporation clarifies that it does not claim ownership over agrarian reform lands awarded to Hijo Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative and Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1. This is in reaction to a recent gathering of members and sympathizers of these cooperatives at its offices in Davao City," LFC said in a statement last October.
The LFC said these cooperatives remain the absolute owners of these lands and they only want "these cooperatives to honor and respect their valid and lawful contracts with LFC that mandate them to sell the bananas produced in their farms to LFC and allow LFC to manage their farms to ensure the quality of their produce."