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Sumilao Farmers arrive at Calbayog City

Press Release
By Sumilao Farmers
November 7, 2007

Sumilao farmers taking overnight sleep in Catbalogan.
The Sumilao farmers during their overnight stay on Saturday at the Saint Mary’s College of Catbalogan.

CALBAYOG CITY, Samar  –  It had been a hot Monday afternoon when the Sumilao farmers walked their way to the City at around 4:00pm.  They proceeded to the Our Lady of Porziuncola Hospital to bring their fellow marcher, Restituto “Toto” Anlicao, who is suffering from pain due to complications brought about by his foot blisters.  For 8 days, Anlicao endured the wound on his feet and walked the unpaved and muddy roads of Western Samar.  Last night, his blood pressure shot up as the wound may have already reached his bones.  Anlicao is one among the 54 marchers reclaiming the 144 hectare land in San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon and a qualified farmer beneficiary of the said land.

The “Walk for Sumilao, Walk for Justice” is the 60-day campaign of the Sumilao farmers who are determined to walk, on foot, from Sumilao, Bukidnon to Malacanang, Manila.  They have walked approximately around 730 kilometers up until Calbayog City to bring their calls to the President and to the DAR Central Office: Restore the Dignity of the Sumilao Farmers and Reclaim the 144-hectare Land.  The 144 land that was supposedly converted into agro-industrial purposes – there would have been constructed a museum, golf course, schools, and hotel - remains to be agricultural in use today.  Being the rightful beneficiaries of the said land, the 144-hectare ought to be distributed to the Sumilao farmers.

Rene Penas, one of the spokespersons of the Sumilao farmers, said during the press conference held at Diocesan Pastoral Center early this evening that, “we farmers are legitimate beneficiaries as provided under Sec. 22-A of RA 6657 being landless residents of San Vicente Sumilao and are able and willing to till the lands as provided for by law and so much so we are in the order of priority of said law”.

Ten years ago, the said land was awarded to them by virtue of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) issued to them by DAR Secretary Garilao and was further affirmed by a win-win resolution issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos after the 28-day hunger Strike in the Year 1997. Such victory was short lived, as the Supreme Court ruled against the MAPALAD farmers based on technicality and not on substance, thus evading the question of constitutionality and affirming the infamous “Torres Resolution” approving the application for conversion order. Ten (10) years have already lapsed and nothing happened to the land as per conversion order, worst Quisumbing Sr. had already sold the 144 hectares to San Miguel Foods Inc., (SMFI), which under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (RA 6657) is a grave violation of the said order.

Apparently, the Quisumbings have successfully fooled the Sumilao farmers and the peasant sector, the local government units of Sumilao and Bukidnon, the national government, the Supreme Court, and the Filipino people, by circumventing the coverage of the 144 ancestral land through illegal conversion.  They evaded the implementation of a genuine agrarian reform in the country. Both actions were made in violation of DAR Administrative Orders 1 and 2, Series of 1990 and other pertinent laws on conversion.

A decade has lapsed since the “28-day Hunger Strike” and until now the farmers are still landless and fooled by rich and unscrupulous owners who manifestly evaded the spirit and intent of the Agrarian Reform Law.

Sumilao Farmers composing of two organizations the MAPALAD (Mapadayunong Panaghiusa sa Lumad Alang sa Damlag) with 78 members and SALFA (San Vincente Landless Farmers Assocation) with 90 members, are now taking the lead to reclaim the 144 hectares which is theirs from the very start.

The Monday march (November 5) is the 27th day-march of the high-spirited farmers despite of all the challenges that came along their way.  Never hesitating to walk, regardless of road and weather situation, the long and winding road bound for Malacanang.  Since Mindanao and up until Calbayog City, they were consistently accommodated by the priests and bishops of the Catholic Church.  In Calbayog, for example, they were welcomed by Bishop Isabelo Abarquez and Fr. Cesar Aculan and they would rest for two nights at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.