The first time Rep. Luis Villafuerte went up and asked the farmers to meet with him in April, “he hoodwinked us to sign a paper which we thought was just an attendance sheet, but later turned out to be our supposed agreement to donate the lands we have been tilling to Green Earth,” members of Lingap Magsasaka, the farmers’ group, told Bulatlat during the northern leg of the 10-day Lakbayan.
By MARYA SALAMAT
BULACAN — Farmers representing more than 230 families have denounced an attempt by a congressman to reverse land reform in their area.
Since April 2009, Rep. Luis Villafuerte, an ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and congressman of the second district of Camarines Sur, had gone up three times to Sitio Malapad na Parang, Barangay Sibul in San Miguel, Bulacan, escorted by two truckloads of military men in full battle gear. He has been going there to claim some 375 hectares of land from the farmers who had cleared and developed it in the past three decades. These farmers hold Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP (now CARPER), but Villafuerte has apparently been trying to revoke it. For the supposed benefit of a foundation with Christian and environmentalist ideals, he has been working for the exemption of the said lands from CARP coverage.
The first time he went up and asked the farmers to meet with him in April, “he hoodwinked us to sign a paper which we thought was just an attendance sheet, but later turned out to be our supposed agreement to donate the lands we have been tilling to Green Earth,” members of Lingap Magsasaka, the farmers’ group, told Bulatlat during the northern leg of the 10-day Lakbayan, the national peasant caravan that ended in a massive demonstration in Manila to commemorate the Mendiola Massacre 23 years ago.
“During the meetings called by Villafuerte, we were being videotaped. If we asked permission to ask Villafuerte a question, his assistants would first note down our names. Meanwhile, military men surrounded us,” one of the farmers recalled. They reported that after staking his claim on the land, Villafuerte went back another time to cajole some of them into becoming farmworkers for Green Earth, and plant bamboos among other cash crops, instead of the present rice and corn, which Villafuerte, according to the farmers, belittled as “not earning as much.”
The farmers are presently growing palay (rice), corn, vegetables, bananas and other fruit trees.
Green Earth is a foundation being led by Mylene Villafuerte-Matti and James Matt, Villafuerte’s daughter and son-in-law. In the name of Green Earth and with military escorts, they are now surveying the lands being tilled by more than 200 farmers of Malapad na Parang. They have begun putting up markers, killing grown trees and replacing it with truckloads of new trees and bamboos, reported the farmers.
“It used to be that our lives were not this complicated,” lamented Rodelo Galono, 51. Like other farmers in the area, he said he had lived and worked there in Malapad na Parang as their parents did before them, unaware that Villafuerte “owns” it.
Calls for Genuine Land Reform
Farmers of Sitio Malapad are calling for genuine land reform or the immediate distribution of their lands. The way it is going, they said, the Certificates of Land Transfer (CLTs), Emancipation Patents (Eps) and CLOAs they hold would be nothing but mere pieces of paper if the government allowed Villafuerte to deny them the lands they have been tilling.
The farmers said they did not meet up with Villafuerte anymore when the latter called for them the third time. Knowing that they face an uphill battle because it is Villafuerte’s daughter and son-in-law, escorted by Scout Rangers who are already leading in the surveying of the land, the farmers joined the Lakbayan to press the government for a “genuine agrarian reform program.” (Bulatlat.com)