Sa gitna ng unos, lumalaban pa rin!
Farmers seeking the distribution of the 157-hectare Hacienda Bacan in Negros Occidental gather today at the Land Registration Administration (LRA) office in Quezon City to call on Administrator Eulalio Diaz to register a new title for the hacienda in the name of the Republic of the Philippines.
The farmers are backed by several groups of indigenous peoples who just arrived from Bukidnon and are set this week to call on the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to facilitate the issuance and registration of their certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT).
Hacienda Bacan, located in Barangay Guintubhan, Isabela, is registered in the name of Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corporation, which is owned by the family of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.
It was offered in 2001 for distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) through the voluntary offer to sell (VOS) scheme following an announcement by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that she would distribute the Arroyo lands.
In July 2008, the Land Bank of the Philippines deposited payment of over P142 million for the property and asked the Registry of Deeds of Negros Occidental to cancel Rivulet’s title and issue a new title in the name of the Republic.
A new title is needed so that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) could issue the certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) to the 67 farmer-beneficiaries of the hacienda.
However, provincial Register of Deeds Romulo Gonzaga refused to register a new title allegedly because of a pending application for conversion filed by Rivulet at the DAR.
Gonzaga later admitted in a letter to DAR, in response to its repeated orders to issue a new title, that he is under threat of administrative and other cases from Atty. Roy Rondain, lawyer of Mike Arroyo, if he registered a new title for Hacienda Bacan.
In the wake of Gonzaga’s refusal, the farmers went to the LRA in Quezon City in September 2008 to ask then Administrator Benedicto Ulep, a friend of Mike Arroyo, to register a new title.
Ulep, however, ordered the farmers arrested for occupying the lobby of the LRA office and filed charges of illegal assembly and scandal against them, but the Commission on Human Rights intervened and the charges were dropped.
“Today we are back at LRA because there is a new administration and we have high hopes that this new administration will listen this time to our call,” said Charito Celis, a leader of the farmer-beneficiaries.
Celis also called on new DAR Secretary not to entertain the conversion application of Rivulet and instead join them in actively pressing for issuance of a new title for Hacienda Bacan.