THE lawyer of the owners of a 29-hectare coconut farm in Magdug village, Gov. Generoso in Davao Oriental refuted the claims of a farmers’ group that they are set to be installed as the rightful owners of the disputed land.

In a story published in Monday's issue of Sun.Star Davao, members of the Magdug Farmers Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (Magfarba) led by Felipe Esclito, accused the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Southern Mindanao of failing to act on the directive of its central office to install them as farmer-beneficiaries.

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Lawyer Michael Castaños, who represents the 10 owners of the land, said that his clients possess valid certificates of titles issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"This group applied for Cloa (Certificate of Landownership Award) issued by DAR after my clients were already issued a title by the DENR. In civil laws, the first title always prevails, which was issued to my clients in 1998," Castaños said.

He said that the coconut farm has already been subdivided into 10 and could no longer be considered under the Comprehensive Land Reform Law.

He also clarified claims of the group that they were attacked by goons hired by Arcal back in 2006 and ejected them from the land.

In a letter addressed to Esclito on October 11, 1999, DENR has dismissed the claims of the group over the land, to wit:

"it can be deduced from the documents that the nine patents were issued by the DENR-PENRO (Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office) in November 1998 and registered with the Register of Deeds of Davao Oriental between November 20 to 27 while the Cloa issued to your association by DAR was dated December 28, 1998 and registered with the Register of Deeds on December 29, 1998."

The letter also stated "that which is first to be registered shall prevail."

However, Castaños said Esclito's group forcibly occupied the land and enjoyed its harvest for the next five years. He said the group was charged with unlawful entry and the group was ejected.

"The Court of Appeals sided with us and ejected them. Since then, they kept on threatening to enter the property again. They have resorted to guerilla tactics to acquire the land of my clients," the lawyer said.

Castaños furnished Sun.Star Davao of the copy of the letter addressed to DAR Southern Mindanao regional director Datu Yusoph Mama from its central office.

The letter read: "it is incumbent upon your office to install the ARBs on their landholding immediately upon the issuance of Cloa to them in the absence of any legal impediment of their installation."

"We have won the cases they filed against us, including the quieting of title. They have elevated the case before the Court of Appeals and we have been granted the temporary restraining order," he said.

"There will be no installation of farmer beneficiaries since there are legal impediments to this case," he said.

Efforts to reach Mama proved futile as of this posting Wednesday as the no one was answering the telephone numbers listed.