SOME beneficiaries of the farms formerly owned by business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. are seeking P3.7 million in damages after they were allegedly forced to vacate from their land.
The ECJ Cloa Holders Association (ECJCHA) filed a counterclaim before the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (Parad) on January 30, seeking P2 million in actual damages, P1 million in moral damages, P500,000 in exemplary damages, P200,000 in attorney's fees and P3,500 for every appearance of its counsel against the ECJ Farmworkers Agrarian Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Efarbemco).
The ECJCHA is considered a breakaway group of Efarbemco.
They claimed that petitioner Efarbemco, through force, threat, intimidation and with the help of armed men, forced their way in the land they owned in nine haciendas over the weekend.
They also claimed that the petitioner destroyed their fences and markers and burned four nipa huts.
They prayed to dismiss the petition of Efarbemco, which claimed that the illegal occupation of ECJCHA on some of the farms had hampered its operations, on the ground of failure to state a cause of action for ejectment.
About 500 members of ECJCHA trooped to the Parad office in Bacolod City Tuesday, as they are pushing for the cancellation of the joint venture agreement between the Southern Negros Joint Venture Corporation (SNJVC), which now manages the farm, and the Efarbemco.
After the hearing on the petition of Efarbemco Tuesday, Parad recommended to maintain the status quo, which means "there are no movements from two parties," said Parad sheriff Samuel Robles.
He added that the two parties agreed to maintain the peace and order in the area.
Robles said the next hearing has been set on February 8, with officials from their central office expected to arrive and "mediate."
Lawyer Cecil Maquirang, counsel of ECJCHA farmers, said the Parad order to maintain status quo is "beneficial" to her clients, as it means "no demolition" and "they won't be removed from the area."
She said they have a pending petition on the ownership of the land before the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (Parc) and the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
She said they referred it to the Parc so that the issue of possession will be answered.
"But for the meantime, they have no right to disperse people," she added.
She said the ECJCHA farmers are also questioning the scheme of distributing the land since "it wasn't beneficial" to them.
Joel Nochepo, spokesperson of ECJCHA, called the joint venture of the cooperative and the SNJVC "illegal," as he claimed they are the rightful owners of the land.
He added that they will wait for the decision of Parc and that they will honor it even if it is unfavorable to them.