Tinang farmers oppose new validation order

Agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) of Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac trooped to the main office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Quezon City on Monday morning to question a new directive labeling them as mere claimants.

Reacting to a new announcement by the Concepcion Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO) last February 17 that the 237 farmers are “potential beneficiaries”, members of the Malayang Kilusang Samahang Magsasaka ng Tinang (MAKISAMA-Tinang) held a rally at the DAR, protesting another validation process being held today February 20 and on February 21 and 27.

The MARO made the announcement 10 days after Sec. Conrado Estrella III assured original ARBs, acknowledged and validated by DAR since 1996, would be installed within 45 days.

The Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) in a statement said the MARO’s decision to subject the ARBs to another round of validation undermines Sec. Estrella’s authority.

“A re-validation process had taken place as recently as June 20 (2022), almost two weeks after the illegal mass arrest of the Tinang 83, underscoring that 178 of the original list of 236 ARBs should be installed on their land, and that the Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) they held remained legitimate,” UMA spokesperson John Milton Lozande said.

“Why was MARO obscuring the fact that Tinang’s ARBs were already CLOA-holders?” Lozande asked.

“Masyado nang matagal ang 27 taong ihinintay ng mga magsasaka ng Tinang. Mahigit 30 benepisaryo na ang namatay at hindi nasilayan ang napipintong tagumpay. Dinagdagan pa ni Sec. Estrella ng 45 araw ang kanilang paghihintay,” Lozande added.

(Twenty-seven years is too long for the Tinang farmers to be kept waiting. More than 30 of the original ARBs have died and have not yet seen their impending victory. Sec. Estrella has added 45 more days to their long wait.)

The farmers accused Concepcion Mayor Noel Villanueva as behind the latest round of delays in their installation to the land, expressing hope that the new validation process is not the local executive’s way of getting back at the ARBs whose complaint against the police who arrested them last July 26 was adjudged “sufficient in form and substance” by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Among the almost 30 police officers implicated was P/Lt. Col. Reynold Macabitas who had been seen receiving instructions from Villanueva on the day of the mass arrest.

The Hacienda Tinang struggle gained prominence when the police arrested more than 100 ARBS and their supporters while undertaking attempting to plant crops on the disputed property.

UMA expressed hope that MARO’s action was not petty retaliation from the landgrabbing mayor for the Office of the Ombudsman’s judgment that the Tinang 83’s complaint against Concepcion police, filed by the Tinang 83 on July 26, was “sufficient in form and substance.”

“Where are they getting the courage to counter DAR commitments and any semblance of logic and concern for the farmers? How close is Villanueva to the powers that be that he can spit at the face of justice?” Lozande asked in Filipino.

Meanwhile, acting UMA chairperson and former Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao to investigate the MARO decision seemingly contradicting Sec. Estrella’s promise to the farmers.

“We respectfully urge Sec. Estrella to clarify DAR’s position on the matter, fast-track the installation of Tinang ARBs on their 200-hectare land, and look into why MARO officials have been throwing farmers under the bus in favor of Villanueva,” Casilao said.

“Please don’t let unscrupulous officials break the hearts of our farmers all over again,” he added.

Both Casilao and Lozande said they hope the DAR would understand why MAKISAMA-Tinang would refuse participation in MARO’s re-validation activities.

“It would undo 27 years worth of struggle, and waste all the blood, sweat, and tears poured into the assertion of their rights over land withheld from them by the mayor,” they said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)