33 farmer-leaders face illegal assembly charges

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THIRTY-THREE farmer-leaders from Mindanao and Negros, to whom President Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2012 promised full implementation of the Comprehensive Land Reform Program, were arrested while holding a lightning rally near Gate 3 inside Mala–cañang Palace on Tuesday.

The 22 male and 11 female farmer-leaders, all members of Task Force Mapalad, were arrested by combined elements of the Presidential Security Group and Police Station 8. They were taken to the Manila Police District headquarters on UN Avenue by two military trucks for questioning. A case of illegal assembly is being readied against them.

Alberto Jayme, 49, of Cadiz City said President Aquino met their leaders in the Heroes Hall on June 14 two years ago. “The President instructed Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes to hasten the distribution of parcels of farm lands, but up to now we have yet to receive the certificates of ownership. The CARP [Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program] extension deadline is fast approaching on June 30.”

The farmer-leaders represent 20,500 farmer-beneficiaries, i.e. 12,500 from Negros Occidental, 12,000 from Bukidnon, and 3,000 each from Davao Oriental and Davao del Sur. They were staying at a make-shift camp in the Quezon Memorial Circle just outside the main gate of the Department of Agriculture.


Jayme said after the Mala–cañang meeting with the President, several DAR officials, both from the provincial and municipal offices, visited their areas, but nothing concrete came out of it. “Some areas have yet to be surveyed. Not even a notice of coverage was issued, which the first step of the process.”

That June 14, 2012, Aquino approved the release of P1 billion for support services for their initial capitalization and socialized credit of farmers. The President also approved the P30 billion annual funding for the full implementation of CARP within two years.

Most of the lands subject to CARP are owned by wealthy families like those of Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Maranan and Mayor Carlo Luis of Mati City. Some haciendas are owned by the Lopez, Rabat, Tolentino, Arcal, Rochamora and Ong families. These lands were bought by DAR for distribution to farmer-beneficiaries.

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