DAR to enforce Writ of Installation for farmers in disputed Davao land

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(CNN Philippines, May 17) — Five months after Davao del Norte farmers were supposedly forced away from their farms by agribusiness company Lapanday Foods Corporation, they will finally be able to reclaim their lands.

On Thursday, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano will lead the official turnover of the 145-hectare San Isidro Farm banana plantation to members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI).

"Tayo po ay naglabas para ma-execute pa rin ang Writ of Installation ng order...Ito na yung break open order para mabuksan ang gate ng Lapanday at makapasok yung 159 na miyembro ng MARBAI at ma-install peacefully and successfully doon sa kanilang area," said Mariano on Wednesday.

[Translation:We released the Writ of Installation of order to be executed...This is the break open order so the Lapanday gate would be opened and the 159 members of MARBAI could come in peacefully and successfully, to be installed in their area.]

Around 240 police and 100 army personnel will assist and secure the area during the turnover.

Earlier this month, the group of farmer-beneficiaries from Tagum City, Davao del Norte picketed in Mendiola, Manila for two weeks.

President Rodrigo Duterte then assured them of government assistance during a dialogue held May 9.

READ: Duterte assures farmers of assistance in reclaiming land

Meantime, Lapanday Foods Corporation insists on its right to manage the land, citing a November 2016 order from a Davao Regional Trial Court affirming its ownership.

Agrarian Reform officials then stressed that the lower court has no jurisdiction over the matter, and only the Supreme Court can stop the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) from carrying out its decisions.

They explained that DAR has quasi-judicial powers over agrarian reform concerns as provided in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

"As regards implementation of agrarian laws, it is the Department which has original and exclusive jurisdiction. No court can interfere with that jurisdiction of DAR," said DAR Undersecretary Luis Pangulayan.