ABOUT 50 farmers camping outside the Provincial Capitol building in Bacolod City since Friday night have sought the help of President Rodrigo Duterte for their claim on a portion of the Capitol-owned Negros First Ranch at Hacienda Ilimnan in Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia.
The farmers, who belong to Hacienda Ilimnan Farm Workers Association, are supported by the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW)-Negros and its allied groups, including Bayan-Negros.
Danilo Tabura of NFSW-Negros said he sent his handwritten letter to Duterte on July 12 through a private courier.
“I asked the President to review the problem in Hacienda Ilimnan because the Provincial Government, under the Negros First Ranch program, oppressed the people there,” Tabura said.
“When the Capitol first implemented the program, they said that the first who would benefit are the residents there. We’re appealing to them now to give a solution to this,” he added.
Tabura said he is hopeful that Duterte would heed to their call.
Moreover, Tabura clarified that there was no takeover of the property when they trooped to Negros First Ranch last week as declared by the Provincial Government.
He said they left the property because the Army and the police secured the area, adding that a police official even threatened them.
“That’s why we left the Murcia property and went to the Provincial Capitol,” he said.
Tabura said he doesn’t know yet until when they are going to hold the picket outside the Capitol building, but they are hoping to have a dialogue with Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. today.
“The governor doesn’t know our situation,” he added.
He said the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) had awarded the property to them in 1998.
“We are beneficiaries of the property. We sworn in before a judge,” Tabura said, adding that they were surprised that they couldn’t utilize the land anymore in 2010 after the provincial government acquired the property.
“It was the province that took over our livelihood,” he added.
Tabura said all they are asking is to utilize a portion of the land, about 10 to 15 hectares for the 55 families, near the river.
“The province is not utilizing it anymore,” he added.
The Provincial Government lost its petition to exclude the property from Carp coverage, based on the ruling of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
“We’re happy that their petition was denied. That’s why we decided to reclaim the property,” Tabura said.
He added that they have been camping outside the Capitol building since Friday night, and there was an attempt to disperse them on the second night.
“If they will disperse us again, I told them that we will camp outside the house of governor so he would hear our plight,” Tabura said.
During the camp out, some rallyists brought out “donation boxes” to ask for assistance from motorists and commuters.
Tabura said they are thankful for those in private vehicles and jeepneys who stopped and gave them money, which they use to buy food.