By Ben O. Tesiorna
Emancipate landless tillers and uphold their dignity. This was the appeal of the peasants in the Davao Region as they urged the administration of President Benigno Aquino III to distribute much of the 5,212 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony that is being leased to agricultural giant Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (Tadeco) of the Floirendos.
In a statement, the Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon sa Kanayunan (UNORKA), the biggest organization of landless and poor peasants in the Philippines, said that “much of the land, are yet to be covered for distribution and land occupation by the rightful beneficiaries.”
“Here in Mindanao, one of the contentious land disputes is the 5, 212 hectares of public land administered by the Department of Justice- Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR-DOJ) which is the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol). The land was transformed into a banana plantation through a lease contract between the BUCOR-DOJ and the Floirendo-owned Tadeco,” said Unorka secretary general for Mindanao Rosauro Tapal Sr.
The group claimed that Dapecol only occupies 200 hectares out of the 5,212 hectares where the penal colony is now located. Since its reservation in 1931, the area was said to have never been actually, directly and exclusively utilized by Dapecol for the purpose for which the land was reserved to justify exemption from coverage to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program that was started under the administration of then President Corazon Aquino.
It was learned that BUCOR- DOJ maintained that the 5,212 hectares of land leased to Tadeco is for the “usufruct” or special use for the rehabilitation of the inmates. Usufruct refers to a real right conferred on the beneficiary/usufructuary to enjoy the fruits of the property of another with the obligation of preserving its form, substance, and productivity.
However, the peasant’s group claimed that Dapecol’s usufruct usage has gone beyond its original purpose since the land has become a banana plantation and it did not serve the purpose for rehabilitation of the inmates.
Unorka called on the Aquino administration and the new justice secretary to act on the case as they demanded for the revocation of the lease contract between BUCOR- DOJ and Tadeco.
“The new Aquino administration has the mandate to fully implement the remaining 4 years of CARPER. The agrarian reform question will be the litmus test for his sincerity for the walking the right way. Unorka – Mindanao challenges this administration to fulfil and strengthen the agrarian reform that his mother has made as a centerpiece program,” Tapal said.