Support the Sumilao Farmers!

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN), Christian Life Community Philippines (CLCP), the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG), Ateneo Peace Institute (API), Ateneo Business Resource Foundation Inc., Office of Social Concern and Involvement (OSCI), Student Councils/Governments of various Universities and Colleges, Balawud-Mindanaw, KAISA, UGMA and other Non-Governmental Organizations and People’s Organizations are organizing to help the Sumilao Farmers from Bukidnon to get back their ancestral land.

Backgrounder of the Case of the Sumilao Farmers:

The Sumilao farmers are the indigenous people (Lumads) of Sumilao Bukidnon. They were the early settlers of a piece of ancestral land in Sumilao, Bukidnon. A portion thereof, 243.885hectare area of the ancestral and served as the Seat of Government of the Higaonons where the traditional paghusay and pamuhat were conducted by the Higaonon tribal council lead by Apo Manuagay Anlicao and Apo Mangganiahon Anlicao. The ancestral land is a flat agricultural terrain situated in the midst of Mt. Sayawan and Mt. Palaopao, and where Mt. Kitanglad can be seen from afar.

Then the Angeles came in 1930s forcibly evicting the Higaonons from their ancestral land and converted the land into a cattle ranch. Later, the land was transferred to the Ilagans. In 1970s, the ancestral land was divided between 2 landowners: 99.885 hectares to Salvador Carlos while the 144 hectares was transferred to Norberto Quisumbing. The ancestral land was eventually leased to Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI) for 10 years. At this time, the Higaonons became farmworkers of the land they once owned.

With the advent of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law in 1988, the 144 ancestral land was covered for distribution to 137 Mapadayonong Panaghiusa sa mga Lumad Alang sa Damlag (MAPALAD) farmers, all of Higaonon lineage. Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) was subsequently issued in their names making them the owners of the 144 ancestral land. For the first time in several years, the MAPALAD farmers regained their ancestral land. What followed next was a controversial legal battle which sparked national interest involving the sad state of agrarian reform in the country.

The Quisumbing family applied for conversion of the land from agricultural to agro-industrial before the DAR notwithstanding the fact that prime agricultural lands are non-negotiable for conversion. Quisumbing proudly proposed the establishment of a Development Academy of Mindanao, cultural center, Institute for Livelihood Science, museum, library, golf course, and Mindanao Sports Development Complex, Bukidnon Agro-Industrial Park, Forest Development and Support Facilities including the construction of a 360-room hotel, restaurant and housing projects, among others.

Further, Quisumbing partnered with the LGUs of Sumilao and Province of Bukidnon where the latter illegally passed Resolution No. 24 and Resolution No. 94-95, respectively, allowing the conversion of the land despite the fact that LGUs have no power of conversion under the law as the same belongs to the DAR Secretary.

The DAR Secretary denied the application because of its patent invalidity. On appeal to the Office of the President, Executive Secretary Ruben Torres issued the infamous Torres Resolution approving the application for conversion despite its illegality. Left of no more recourse, the MAPALAD farmers decided to do the only non-violent and peaceful means their forefathers taught them during unpeaceful times – a Hunger Strike. For 28 days, the MAPALAD farmers ate nothing but drank only water in front of the DAR Office in the cities of Quezon and Cagayan de Oro. Their peaceful protest caught the interest of the public: Cardinal Sin, including presidential wannabees Erap, Renato De Villa, and several senatoriables, LGUs and the House of Representatives.

Due to huge public pressure, President Ramos issued the so-called "Win-win Resolution" wherein 100 hectares were to be given to the farmers while 44 hectares to Quisumbing. It was a pleasant victory for the MAPALAD farmers and the whole peasant sector. However, their victory was short-lived.

Quisumbing brought the same before the Supreme Court. MAPALAD, as farmer beneficiaries of the 144, intervened in the case and raised novel questions such as the validity of conversion of prime agricultural lands which are supposedly non-negotiable for conversion, the power of reclassification of LGUs vis-à-vis DAR's authority to approve conversions, and the validity of the comprehensive agrarian reform law itself.

Unexpectedly, the Supreme Court evaded the resolution of the substantial issues of the case and found one perfect excuse: reglementary periods. The Supreme Court refused to answer the constitutional issues and asserted that the DAR failed to question the Torres Resolution on time. The Supreme Court skirted merits and yielded to technicalities. The questionable Torres Resolution was reinstated while the "Win-win Resolution" was invalidated. Worst, it denied MAPALAD's intervention by equivocally saying they were merely "recommendee farmer beneficiaries”, hence, have no real interest over the land. MAPALAD's dream of regaining their ancestral land vanished in seconds. They lost to numbers.

Several years have passed since then yet the 144 hectare land remains idle. Not one of those proposed development projects and infrastructures by Quisumbing ever materialized. The "promises" of economic vitality, employment and increase in income, leaves much to be desired as everything was a "castle in the air". Apparently, the Quisumbings have successfully fooled the MAPALAD farmers and the peasant sector, local government units, national government, Supreme Court, and the Filipino people in general, by such empty "promises" of development in order to circumvent the coverage of the 144 hectare ancestral land and evade the implementation of genuine agrarian reform in the country.

As a non-violent way of protesting the more than 10 years of injustice they have gone through in trying to reclaim their ancestral land, 50 "lumad" farmers belonging to the Mapalad Multi-purpose Cooperative (MPC) will march on foot from their hometown of Sumilao, Bukidnon in the south to the capital city of Manila in the north from October 10 to December 10.

Our Appeal:

We would like to invite everyone to join the Mass and the Candle-Lighting Ceremony in solidarity with the Sumilao farmers on November 23, 2007 at the Immaculate Conception (College) Chapel inside the Ateneo de Manila University. A short program together with the various universities, colleges, schools and organizations supporting the Lumad farmers shall commence after the mass at the Gate 2.5 along the Katipunan Avenue.

We appeal that you compassionately support the Sumilao farmers. Should you wish to support this advocacy, please communicate with us so that we can include the name of your institution or organization to those groups that are supporting the Sumilao Farmers. Let us be one with the Sumilao farmers in prayers and in their fight for social justice.


Statement in Support of the Sumilao Farmers

More than 10 years have passed since the first cry of help was made by the landless farmers of Barangay San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon, but today, the rightful claim and possession of these Lumad-farmers over their land remain to be elusive. What is clear for the Sumilao farmers is that entities have claimed possession and control of their land through brute force, intimidation and the power of the purse.

Since the decision of the SC in August 25, 1999 affirming the conversion became final and executory and up to the present, or for a period of more than 5 years, Norberto Quisumbing Sr. Management and Development Corporation failed to initiate or undertake any single development work in the area in violation of the conditions of the conversion order:
· Failure to develop within 1 year period from the issuance of conversion order
· Failure to complete development work within 5 years
· Failure to submit request for extension to develop within 6 months before the lapse of the 5 year period

San Miguel Foods Incorporated, as mere successor in interest, is bound by the Torres Order in accordance to AO 1, Series of 1990 which states:
· Sec 33.9. Conditions of Conversion Order. - The landowner and future landowner(s) of the property approved for conversion shall not change its use to another use not authorized under the Conversion Order without prior consent from the DAR
· Sec 34. Effects of Approval of Conversion. – (34.1) It shall be limited to the specific use of the land authorized in the Conversion Order. (34.3) The conditions thereof shall be binding upon successors-in-interest of the property

San Miguel Foods Incorporated and Monterey’s plan to put up a piggery is contrary to original plan and violates DAR AO 1, Series of 2002 and Comprehensive Rules on Land Use Conversion

We can present the legal contentions of these farmers and we can refute the arguments of the other claimants, yet one painful reality is that the Sumilao farmers remain to be “outsiders in their own land”. They continue to be poor and hungry, craving to be tillers of the land they should call their own but are unfairly and unreasonably restrained from doing so, robbed of their very God-given land source of their very future, all in the disguise of so called progress.

We urge everyone to rise to the defense of the common good, which states that “we are called to cultivate an awareness of and sensitivity to the needs of others. The absence of concern for the common good is a sure sign of a society in need of help.” (Catholic Social Teaching)

Many times we have fallen prey to our insatiable hunger for wanting what we do not have, while these brothers and sisters of ours are simply fighting for what was once theirs but was taken from them.

We refuse to remain silent when the future and dignity of our people are threatened by enterprising individuals who have forgotten what is their and what is not, individuals who have forgotten what it means to be human, to be divine.

We call upon the President and the legislators to address this matter, and we beg you to act now. A strong republic and the claim that our country possesses a robust economy will remain a farce unless the disadvantaged and marginalized sectors of our society are not able to possess and enjoy their just and equitable share.

We extend our full support to the Sumilao farmers, and call upon all people of goodwill to do the same. The march ahead may be long and hard, but our faith is in the law, reason and our God.

Manalagin. Manindigan. Makialam.

SIMBAHANG LINGKOD NG BAYAN
ATENEO BUSINESS RESOURCE FOUNDATION INC.
ATENEO OFFICE OF SOCIAL CONCERN AND INVOLVEMENT
ATENEO PEACE INSTITUTE
ATENEO SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT
BALAWUD-MINDANAW
CHRISTIAN LIFE COMMUNITY PHILIPPINES
KAISAHAN
NOTRE DAME of MARBEL UNIVERSITY- PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER
SENTRO NG ALTERNATIBONG LINGAP PANLIGAL (SALIGAN)
UGMA

Supported by the student councils from:
Assumption College San Beda College
Ateneo de Manila University San Sebastian College
De la Salle University St. Scholastica’s College
Don Bosco College University of Santo Tomas
Miriam College


MASS & CANDLE-LIGHTING CEREMONY
In Solidarity with the Sumilao Farmers


Date: November 23, 2007
Time: 5:00PM – 7:30PM
Venue: Immaculate Conception (College) Chapel, Ateneo de Manila University (Mass)
Gate 2.5, ADMU Campus (Candle-lighting Ceremony)


PROGRAM FLOW:

5:00PM Eucharistic Celebration

6:00PM March from College Chapel going to Gate 2.5

6:30PM Welcome Remarks / Presentation of groups

SCHOL. XAVIER C. ALPASA, SJ
Executive Director
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

6:35PM Video presentation of the Sumilao Farmers

6:45PM Case Summary of the Sumilao Farmers

c/o Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN)

7:00PM Testimonial

PETER TUMINHAY
Sumilao Farmer

7:10PM Reading of the Official Statement

SCHOL. ISMAEL JOSE III V. CHAN-GONZAGA, SJ
Associate Director
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

Signing of the Statement in Support of the Sumilao Farmers (groups present)

Candle Lighting Ceremony (Planting of Candles along Katipunan Avenue)

7:30PM End of Program / Acknowledgement