Duterte assures farmers of assistance in reclaiming land

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 10) — Davao del Norte farmers who have been picketing on Mendiola Street in Manila for two weeks will now go home "happy" after President Rodrigo Duterte assured them of government assistance in reclaiming a 145-hectare banana plantation.

"Hindi ako makapagsalita kasi masayang-masaya kaming hindi luhaan doon sa Tagum, kasi nagpromise si President Duterte na siya mag-order ng (Philippine National Police) doon na mag-assist sa amin," Mely Yu, chairperson of Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Incorporated (MARBAI) said on Tuesday after Duterte talked to them.

[Translation: There are no words right now, I'm so happy we won't go home empty-handed in Tagum since President Duterte promised he will order the police to assist us.]

The picketing farmers are land reform beneficiaries from Tagum City demanding the turnover of the San Isidro Farm banana plantation, which is allegedly controlled by agribusiness company Lapanday Foods Corporation.

Duterte said courts should stop giving the government a hard time to recover the property of the people.

"Isauli 'yan. Kasi nakuha ninyo 'yan sa koneksyon ninyo kay Marcos, kay Aquino, hanggang ngayon," Duterte said during a dialogue with the farmers.

[Translation: Return the land. You got it through your connections with the Marcoses and the Aquinos, until now.]

On April 11, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano issued a writ of installation for the farmers, which Lapanday refused to recognize.

The farmers said armed security guards had been barricading the banana plantation.

Yu, who is also one of the 159 land reform beneficiaries, said they were banned from tilling the land since 2011 after they refused to sign a co-management agreement with Lapanday.

Duterte also asked the farmers to go home since their "leader" was already in Manila.

"Refrain from coming back here too much because the leader is already here, the Secretary of DAR. I'm the one who keeps on saying go. Let's not go to court anymore because that takes too much time… If the law is in favor of you, it will really work in your favor, not mine. If it's not in your favor, we'll find another way, but don't force your way," Duterte said.

Farmers want Duterte to intervene in land claim