TACLOBAN CITY- After 16 years of suffering and fear, farmers from Ormoc City claimed their rights to farm lands awarded to them by the government. The 21 farmers from Barangay Matica-a of said city belong to the Bugho Farmers Association who were awarded by their CLOAS(certificate of land ownership) by the Department of Agrarian Reform(DAR) in December,1999. However, months after they were installed as beneficiaries of the government’s agrarian reform program, farmers who were said to be aided by an armed group took control of their lands.

On April 30, the 21 farmers initiated a self-installation saying they were reclaiming their lands awarded to them 16 years ago by the DAR. Rosenda Apay, president and at the same time spokesperson of their group, said farmers who were working in a private company forcibly took their land away from them, with armed group providing them support. “In December 26, 1999, when we were installed by DAR, no protests from any group of farm workers were heard. We were able to clear the land which was previously planted with sugar cane (and) convert it into rice farms, through manual method, as we do not have any farm machineries. We were able to make it productive and were able to harvest the first fruits of our labor,” Apay said in a statement.

Apay added that by their second cropping, a group of former farm workers who also claim to be qualified beneficiaries of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program started to harass them. Apay recalled that the “the gravest act they did to us was when they drove us out when we were harvesting our crops by using armed men, and even some military men, who are friends and allies of one of their members.”
According to Apay, they reported their plight to the DAR but to no avail.

“It is in this context that we are now exercising our rights through self-installation, based on the certificates of land ownership award under CLOA # 00276805, TCT# 780 and CLOA#00276806, TCT# 781 as the lawful and rightful owners of said lots,” Apay said. The Rights Network, a nongovernment organization, is assisting the farmers.
Leyte Samar Daily Express sought comments from DAR officials in Leyte, yet they denied the request for interview in the meantime that they are still yet to consolidate the official information on the ground from the assigned agrarian reform program officer in Ormoc.