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PHILIPPINES: Sixty two farming families face loss of land

December 22, 2008

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-267-2008

22 December 2008
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PHILIPPINES: Sixty two farming families face loss of land

ISSUES: Right to land; right to property; right to housing; right to food; agriculture
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes with deep concern over the plight of sixty two farming families who face the threat of losing their land in the province of Bukidnon after they were excluded as beneficiaries for land distribution despite the fact that they have been farming the land for at least 15 years. Their names were replaced with persons who have never cultivated the land.

CASE DETAILS: (According to information received from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP-Mindanao))

The Don Carlos Bukidnon United Farmers Association, Incorporated (DCBUFAI), where the 62 families affected farmers are attached, was formerly the defunct BFI-Carlos Bukidnon Farmers Association. It was first registered in 22 April 1997 with 224 members. After changing their name, they had also obtained a new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration no. H1999-00214.

However, their membership has reduced to 109, including the 62 families mentioned above who now face threats of losing the land they cultivate and from which they get their means of subsistence.

Even before they became an association, these farmers had already entered the landholdings of Bukidnon Farmers, Inc. (BFI) on individual capacity from 1986. It lasted for succeeding years until the management of the BFI had them recruited into planting corn and other crops in between the coconut trees the BFI had planted purposely to maintain its cultivation. But when the BFI close down after having been sequestered, the farmers have not been given any compensation.

At present, each of these farmers had been able to cultivate about one hectare each. The period by which each of them had been cultivating the land ranging from fifteen to twenty years respectively which they planted sugarcane, corn and rice.

However, of the 109 members of farmer, it is learned that sixty-two of them have not been included in the list as beneficiaries for land distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme (CARP), a law which provides distribution of land to landless farmers, which is being implemented by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). This is despite them having been included in the list during a pre-screening in 1996.

They were said to have been excluded from the list for reasons that they were not in the original list which is not true. The reality that the farmers have been actually possessing and since cultivating the land for many years was also ignored. They, however, learned that the new list of names of the beneficiaries recently issued are persons who are either not residents of Don Carlos or have never cultivated the land.

They have also learned that the land these farmers had been cultivating have in fact already been covered by a Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA), which means the occupants have already have the legal right to claim ownership under the CARP. However, they only came to be aware of this until recently.

To affirm the farmer's claims, on 24 January 2000, the office of the Barangay Reform Council (BARC) issued a certification which affirms that the 62 families of farmers are residents of the place and has since been cultivating the land reform for many yeas.

On 8 October 2008, the farmers filed a petition to have their names included as beneficiaries with the regional officer of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Region X, in Cagayan de Oro City. The certification that the BARC has issued was also included in the farmer's petition which the farmers filed.

Nine days later, October 17, John Maruhom, DAR regional director, forwarded the farmers' petition to Norberto R. Amora, provincial agrarian reform officer in South Bukidnon. The endorsement has had a notation and called for the attention of Adones Obsioma, chairman of the Task Force BFI, for him to evaluate and take appropriate action.

On 6 November 2008, the farmers once again followed-up their petition at Obsioma's office. Though his secretary has already confirmed of having received the DAR communication but she was not aware of what action he had taken, if there is any. His secretary also could not tell exactly when Obsioma would return to his office.

On 7 November 2008, they made another follow up again by going to the office of the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO) but they were told that Obsioma was on leave.

On 9 December 2008, they wrote a letter to John Maruhom, DAR regional director, informing him that for several occasions that they made follow-up with Obsioma's office they have not been able to meet him and always been told by his secretary he is not around. This prompted the farmers to proceed to several offices of DAR in Maramag and Don Carlos municipalities respectively hoping they could meet Obsioma to do follow-up on their case. However their efforts failed to show substantial progress.

On 15 December 2008, the farmers were once again told that Obsioma was in Manila. Thus, at the time this appeal is being written, Obsioma is yet to take action into concluding the farmer's petition to have their names included in the list of beneficiaries. Under the law, only the beneficiaries of the CARP upon DAR's assessment could have the possibility of owning the land they cultivating under the land reform.


SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to concerned authorities, in particular the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), requesting for their immediate intervention into their farmers' plight. The farmers' petition should be acted upon without delay and that inquiries into the irregularities in the exclusion of the farmers are beneficiaries; and the inclusion of the names of the persons who are not actually farmers.

The AHRC has also written letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to food and on adequate housing calling for their intervention.

To support this appeal, please click here:


SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

PHILIPPINES: Sixty two families of farmer face threats of losing land

Affected families: Sixty two families of farmers; residents of San Roque and San Ramon, Don Carlos, Bukidnon; members of Don Carlos Bukidnon United Farmers Association, Incorporated (DCBUFAI), an organization of actual tiller farmers
Name of the responsible government agency: Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the government agency responsible for implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme (CARP)
Status of the case: The farmers have already filed a petition with the DAR to have their names included as the beneficiaries for the distribution of the land reform. However, the failure of Adones Obsioma, chairman of the Task Force BFI, to evaluate and take appropriate action to have the petition resolve promptly aggravated the farmer's plight of facing the threats of losing the land.

I am writing to express my grave concern about the plight of the sixty families of farmers mentioned above who faces threats of losing the land where they have since been cultivating at least for 15 years.

It is extremely disappointing that these farmers, despite them having actually possessed the land and cultivating them for at least 15 years, their names have not been included in the list of beneficiaries for land distribution.

Instead, the name of persons who are either not residents of the place and never actually cultivated the land were included in the list of beneficiaries which is completely high questionable. I could not comprehend why the farmers who are supposed to benefit this land are in fact facing threats of being deprived or lose their land. Not only did this procedures questionable but also legally incoherent.

The farmer's plight, too, had been aggravated by the government's failure, in particular chairman of the Task Force BFI, Adones Obsioma; and the Department of Agrarian Reform's (DAR) office' to have the farmers' petition to have their names included in the list of beneficiaries be resolved without delay.

I have learned that since November 6 of this year, the farmers could either not locate Obsioma at his office for several occasion as they make follow up for their petition. Also Obsioma also failed to take immediate action to respond the DAR regional office endorsement in Cagayan de Oro for him to take action on the petition. It is disappointing that Obsioma have continuously fails perform duties he is obliged of doing and is expected from him.

Apart from that, the expansion of a pineapple and banana plantation in their area has aggravated the scenario that would lose their land unless the government responsible in dealing with their case takes prompt action. The lack of concern to have the farmer's plight resolve promptly as what is being shown by the public officials is unacceptable.

It is disappointing that these farmers have had to endure threats of losing the land they cultivated which would eventually have a tremendous effect in their families as they would lose their means of subsistence.

I fail to comprehend that although details and the evidences in this case have provided that these families of farmers should have had benefited this land under CARP; however, in the implementation of this programme is otherwise. And even though were DAR itself have identified these farmers as beneficiaries during their initial screening it fails to upheld these farmers right by failing to act on their petition promptly.

I therefore urge you to take an effective and adequate action in this case.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph

2. Ms. Leila De Lima
Commissioner
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: chr.delima@yahoo.com or mtm_rodulfo@yahoo.com

3. Datu Nasser C. Pangandaman, Al Hadj
Secretary
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
Eliptical Road, Diliman
Quezon City 1104, Metro Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 3088
Tel: +63 2 929 3460 / 930 0380
Email: busysquare@yahoo.com

4. John M. Maruhom, CESO, IV
Regional Director
Department of Agrarian Reform, Region X
Macaranhan, Carmen
Cagayan de Oro City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +6388 723727/726 422
Fax: +63 88 858 2674

5. Mr. Norberto R. Amora, MPA
Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer II
Department of Agrarian Reform Provincial Office
South Bukidnon
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 88 8131 387
 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)


Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-267-2008
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.