THE management of Davao-based Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI) has decried the allegedly deceptive tactics employed by two ranking government officials to “agitate and confuse” agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) regarding the fate of their agribusiness venture agreements (AVA) with the company.
In a letter addressed to the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), which is chaired by President Duterte, MEPI also assailed the “insensitivity” of Undersecretaries David Erro and Marcos Risonar of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to the plight of ARBs and other workers in MEPI’s banana plantation.
MEPI president Antero Sison, Jr. said he found it disturbing that the two DAR officials would resort to “deliberate and organized misinformation” when they held a consultative meeting in Tagum City last March 23 with members of the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (Damarbdevco).
The meeting was held to discuss whether the AVA between MEPI and Damarbdevco should be continued and to determine the options open to ARBs in case they elect to get out of the existing lease contract. MEPI was not invited to the meeting.
He said the actions of the DAR representatives were “devoid of due process as we have not been given the opportunity to correct these obviously erroneous and biased statements made by them.”
At the meeting, Sison said Erro and Risonar misled the ARBs by telling them the following erroneous statements:
• The revocation of the AVA between MEPI and Damarbdevco is already final and executory. Sison said this statement was “not factual and is misleading” because the PARC, in a March 7 letter to MEPI, informed the company that the Council agreed to defer action on the issue and that President Duterte had instructed the DAR to hold consultations with the parties involved “to discuss the intention to continue, modify or rescind the subject lease AVA with MEPI.”
• MEPI no longer has legal ground to appeal the decision for the AVA cancellation. Sison said this claim “is not supported by legal grounds as MEPI’s motion for reconsideration has not been decided with finality.”
• With the cancellation of the lease AVA with MEPI, the two other ARB cooperatives—Sifabco and Starbenco—may now take over the MEPI farm. Sison said this false statement “is alarming as it amounts to fomenting anarchy and instigating possible violence” and shows “conduct unbecoming of government officials.”
• The land originally donated by MEPI to Damarbdevco was made to DAR and not to the ARBs and, therefore the ARB, need not worry about payment of just compensation to MEPI when the AVA is revoked. Sison said “this is completely wrong as the records will clearly show that the land was donated to Damarbdevco and eventually subdivided to the individual ARBs to whom respective Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) were issued.”
“With the DAR’s statement, the ARBs were given the wrong impression that they are not obligated to pay for the land at all,” Sison said.
Sison said he was also alarmed over the “uncaring” attitude of the DAR officials on the welfare of the ARBs and other MEPI workers who would end up jobless when the AVA is revoked. Sison said Damarbdevco members informed him that the DAR officials told them that their plight was no longer DAR’s concern.
“In the interest of fairness and transparency, we strongly urge the PARC to cause the DAR representative(s) to clarify as soon as possible the concerns expressed by the Damarbdevco officers and members,” Sison said in his letter.