SOLID SUMILAO FACTS distorted by desperate paid advertisements

In this David vs. Goliath struggle where the corporate giant currently splurges hundreds of thousands for paid ads, we rely on good souls to pass this message to spread the REAL SCORE. Please be generous with your time as the poor farmers rely on our help.

SOLID SUMILAO FACTS distorted or evaded by desperate paid advertisements

1) Sumilao farmers are LANDLESS as defined in RA 6657 "One is considered landless if he/she owns less than 3 hectares of agricultural land."

a. The 66-hectare Carlos Estate was distributed to 78 farmers belonging to the MAPALAD Multi-Purpose Cooperative who received between .4 to .9 hectares per family.
This means that those who benefited in the Carlos estate ARE STILL QUALIFIED to become beneficiaries under the agrarian reform program.

The point of the agrarian reform program is to distribute lands to help landless farmers have sustainable livelihood. This is why the law provides that a family size farm which is around 3 hectares is necessary to fulfil the program's objective of improving the lives of farmer-beneficiaries. To say that the Sumilao farmers who own land sizes far less than what is provided by law are no longer qualified beneficiaries is to violate the very spirit of the agrarian reform law.

b. The other group that joined the Sumilao march is the SanVicente Landless Farmers Association (SALFA) and NOBODY IN THISORGANIZATION OWN ANY PARCEL OF LAND.

2) Tenancy is NOT a requirement to become a beneficiary under CARP. R.A. 6657 provides: "The lands covered by the CARP shall be distributed as much as possible to landless residents of the same barangay, or in the absence thereof, landless residents of the same municipality in the following order of priority: agricultural lessees and share tenants, regular farmworkers, seasonal farmworkers, other farmworkers, actual tillers or occupants of public lands, collectives or cooperatives of the above beneficiaries; and others directly working on the land.

a. Most of these farmers were already screened and named in the title/CLOA (Certificate of Land Ownership Award) that means they were already deemed rightful beneficiaries under the agrarian reform program in general and in the 144 hectares in particular.

b. Even so, we are still in the pre-coverage stage and who would become beneficiaries or the inclusion/exclusion process is still another step after the issuance of the Notice of Coverage. The Sumilao farmers are very much willing to undergo this process. Their more than 10 years of faithful and peaceful cooperation with the law should be a glaring proof of that.

3) CLEAR VIOLATIONS OF SMFI rendering current operations as ILLEGAL:

a. From the Office of the President's Order ( December 18, 2007): "Apparently, the unilateral development of subject landholdings into a hog farm by SMFI is NOT one of the purposes for which the conversion order has been issued. This clearly deviates from and constitutes a VIOLATION of the conversion order issued to therespondent NQSRMDC."

b. SMFI claims they made consultations but the resolution referred to by San Miguel Foods Incorporated was a bogus resolution.No such barangay council session favourably endorsing the piggery project happened. Assuming without conceding that the Sangguniang Barangay unanimously approved and endorsed the project, it cannot be denied that it remains to be in violation of the law because Local Government Units have NO POWER OF CONVERSION under the law as thatprerogative solely belongs to the Department of Agrarian Reform.

4) 144-hectare land is CARPable:

a. Sec 4 of RA 6657 provides that "The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 shall cover, regardless of tenurial arrangement andcommodity produced, all public and private agricultural lands as provided in proclamation no. 131 and Executive Order no. 229,including other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture.

b. The area is considered prime agricultural land that is traversed by an irrigation facility. (A basis for the Order denying the conversion from agricultural to agro-industrial issued by DAR Secretary Ernesto Garilao on Nov. 14, 1994).

c. 144-hectare land is adjacent to the constantly quoted Carlos Estate that was already CARPed. In fact, the 2 sections of the one big CARPable land are just divided by barbed wires.

5) 144-hectare land is Higaonons' ANCESTRAL LAND

a. The forefathers of the Higaonon Indigenous Cultural Communities led by tribal leaders Apo Manuagay Anlicao and Apo Mangganiahon were the early settlers.

b. The land was considered "balaang yuta" for the Higaonons, atthe same time, the seat of the government for the tribal leaders wherethe traditional "pamuhat" and "paghusay" were conducted.

6) The Sumilao farmers are the LEGAL and MORAL OWNERS of the 144 hectares:

a. This is the first and foremost reality that should not be evaded by stating availability of other idle government lands. The 144-hectare land is their holy and ancestral land being Higaonons.Why should they be given other lands when they are the rightful owners of the 144-hectare land?

b. If SMFI knows that there are other lands available, why did it have to displace indigenous peoples who are qualified to claim the 144 hectares of land?

7) Strong support from CREDIBLE, INTELLIGENT, EXPERIENCED,AUTHORITATIVE and HIGHLY RESPECTED individuals and institutions who also studied the case:

a. Former DAR Secretaries and Undersecretaries. Sec. Abad even said that "DAR should always stand beside the farmers. In the case of Sumilao, the facts are very clear." (PDI, 12/08/07 )

b. Legal luminaries, various lawyers' groups and law schools. Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ said "The welfare of the underprivileged need not be achieved the big business way. Let the little people decide what is best for themselves and for their dignity as human beings – especially since they have the law on their side! "(PDI, 12/24/07)

c. Church Authorities, several Bishops, Dioceses, religious organizations including Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, CatholicEducational Association of the Philippines, Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, and countless others. Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales emphasized the higher moral principle that called for kindness, love, sympathy and compassion for the poor. (PDI,12/21/07)8) SMFI Legal Counsel is DAR's former Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs who knows too well that the 144-hectare land is CARPable, that the Sumilao farmers are qualified beneficiaries and that the Supreme Court's approval of the conversion is subject to conditions. Furthermore, one may also simply look at the following documents to see the truth:

a. Tax declaration clearly stating the land is AGRICULTURAL;

b. History of the title

As regards development, The Church through the Vatican's PontificalCouncil for Justice and Peace issued the official document last month (November 23, 2007) entitled "Towards a Better Distribution of Land:The Challenge of Agrarian Reform." Here are some salient points:

o Many developing countries have sought to modernize their economies as quickly as possible by basing themselves for the mostpart on the often unjustified belief that rapid industrialization can bring about an improvement in general economic well-being, even ifagriculture suffers in the process.
o Imbalances in the division of land ownership and the policies giving rise to and sustaining them are the source of seriousobstacles to economic development. Such imbalances and policies canhave economic consequences which affect the majority of thepopulation.
o Agrarian reform is one of the most urgent reforms andcannot be delayed. In many situations, radical and urgent changes are therefore needed in order to restore to agriculture – and to rural people – their just value as the basis for a healthy economy, withinthe social community's development as a whole.

Furthermore, Economists from Ateneo de Manila University stated that"In economic development, it is widely recognized that effective land reform is a sine qua non of agricultural change and rapid economicgrowth. Countries that have undertaken effective land reform not onlyhave had more robust agricultural growth and productivity, they alsohave enjoyed a better distribution of income and lower rates of poverty. "

The effect on growth and development will be much greater if CARP wasimplemented more decisively.

We end with SALFA President Napoleon Merida, Jr.'s sentiments:

"The very point of our 1,700 kilometer walk was to make our rights of the land very compelling and difficult to ignore. We chose a verypeaceful way of asserting our rights even if it meant a big sacrificefor us. We succeeded in gaining a recognition of our rightful claimover the land and the injustices that we have endured over the last decade. For once, the public, the Church and even the Office of thePresident have seen our side and have recognized that the law is onour side. Now, through their expensive full-page ad SMFI is trying topaint a picture of itself as the savior of the farmers of Bukidnon andthat we have no right over our land. What is the price of justicethen? Is it worth P2.4B in investments?"

Manalangin. Manindigan. Makialam. SIMBAHANG LINGKOD NG BAYAN

Scholastic Xavier C. Alpasa, SJ
Loyola House of Studies
Ateneo de Manila University
Loyola Heights, Quezon City
Tel. No. 426-6101
Telefax 426-5968
Mobile 0920-5556617
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