By ROD TAJON
CABUGAO, Ilocos Sur — On the eve of the impending demolition of more than thirty households, the farmers and their families and peasant leaders barricaded at the entrances of Barangay Bato, Cabugao, Ilocos Sur to prevent any move from the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) to evict them from their own houses and farm lands.As per Writ of Demolition issued by Judge Gil Baclig, provincial adjudicator of DARAB, demolition was scheduled October 26. The 21 farmers lost their case of tenancy to Lucrecio Sajor at the DARAB-Ilocos Sur and Region 1 while there is an on-going petition at the DARAB Central Office on the cancellation of Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT).
According to Tatang Romeo Serrano, secretary of Alyansa ti Kumpang ti Cabugao (Alkumpac), a chapter of Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation), the farmers were enraged with the decision of DARAB, having been an agency that should provide genuine land reform to farmers. “They ruled in favor of those who have money instead of protecting the rights and welfare of the farmers,” he pointed out in Iloko.
The said CLT was issued in the early 80’s but was later on canceled after it was claimed by Lucrecio Sajor, brother of one of the farmer beneficiaries of the CLT’s. Since then, cases have been filed at the DARAB until the Regional and Provincial Offices issued decisions involving tenancy of farmers.
“The farmers should be the one owning the lands because they were awarded CLT’s which were also canceled by DAR,” stressed Zaldy Alfiler, secretary general of STOP Exploitation. He added that the military and police have been ordered by the DARAB to lead the demolition. “The actions of the DARAB is a clear picture of injustice among the farmers,” he added.
Closing the entrances
On October 25, the farmers, together with their families, began barricading at the entrances of Barangay Bato by putting barbed wires, waste tires and bamboos, and hanging of banners calling to stop the demolition. Even children assisted in setting up the barricade.
Nearly 50 farmers and their families together with STOP Exploitation and Kabataan Partylist guarded the entrances overnight. Two households already demolished their own houses and left the barangay due to fear. Others have packed their things and brought them to the barangay hall. The barangay hall is also under threat of demolition as it is part of the 25-hectare Sajor land claimed.
According to several residents, some twenty military troops belonging to 3rd Infantry Battalion arrived at around 5:00 in the afternoon and proceeded to the barangay hall. After an hour, they left and transferred to a hill near the entrance of the barangay.
Meanwhile, Barangay Captain Santos Aquino, also a beneficiary of the CLT and other farmers, together with Sangguniang Panlalawigan Member Atty. Ronnie Rapanut filed a Motion to Quash Demolition Order at the DARAB-Ilocos Sur. Said motion questioned the Special Order of DARAB on the basis of an ongoing petition at the DARAB Central Office.
The long (awaited) day
According to Alfiler, some 100 members of demolition team arrived on the dawn of October 26. Allegedly, they were composed of former Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) from Baguio City, which, according to Lucrecio Sajor in his interview at DWRS Commando Radyo, were paid P500, 000 together with the Philippine Army for their services.
At around 6:00 AM, some 50 families of farmers guarded the barricade to prevent the demolition team to enter the barangay. Aquino and Alfiler went as early as 6:00 AM and waited for Sheriff Tadeja to arrive. They also furnished a copy of the motion to the PNP.
SPM Rapanut announced via Commando Radyo and Bombo Radyo that the Motion to Quash the demolition was granted by the DARAB Regional Office at around 8:00PM.
Aquino, together with Felix Sajor, Romeo Serrano, Arthur Serrano, Elmer Serrano, Juan Castillo and Alfiler proceeded to the Municipal Hall to meet with Sheriff Tadeja of DARAB, Sangguniang Bayan Member and then Officer-in-Charge Teddy Soller, Vice Mayor Danny Gazmen and other SBM members, Provincial Police Director Reynante Partible and Sajor’s representative Marlon Riotoc for the impending decision of the DARAB-Ilocos Sur on the Motion filed last October 25.
Contrary to the memorandum issued by the DARAB Regional Office, the motion was denied by Judge Baclig for lack of merit. Baclig cited in his decision that, “the respondents did not, hence, the present situation of the parties came about as a matter of legal course because for failure to appeal on time, both decisions became final and executory.”
SPM Rapanut denounced the decision of Judge Baclig, and cited that DARAB immediately decided on the motion without even hearing it. “The demolition should be delayed because there are still legal remedies which could be availed by the farmers,” he said in Iloko. Sheriff Tadeja dismissed the plea of SPM Rapanut and the LGU officials of Cabugao and demanded for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the demolition.
Sensationalizing the struggle
After hearing the news, the residents of barangay Bato returned to the barricade and guarded it. While some have returned home to pack up and move out of their house, a number of residents remained and vowed to fight for their rights.
Felix Sajor and Meliana Serrano, siblings of Lucrecio Sajor were pushed to plead to Lucrecio as a result of the Sheriff’s stern demands for a document to hold the demolition. Hours later, Felix and Meliana’s plea “saved” the residents from demolition.
“The bargain was that, they were given a year to remain but after one year, they voluntarily leave their houses and after the harvest season, they would not anymore plant to their farmlands,” Alfiler narrated. He added that the farmers and residents were forced to sign the agreement as they were left with no choice.
Alfiler pointed out that DAR should have based its judgment on the welfare of the farmers and that landlords should not be glorified for offering false hopes. “The real issue here is the inutility of DAR and neither our involvement nor the legal counsel of the farmers,” referring to the tirades of some local media alleging STOP Exploitation and the farmers’ legal counsel of misrepresenting the Bato farmers.
Tatang Romeo said that if they all agree to the conditions of Sajor, they have also surrendered their rights to the land. He and other farmers, however, vowed to continue struggling for genuine land reform. “We will continue to fight until we attain victory in our struggle,” Tatang Romeo concluded in Iloko. # nordis.net