CARP exemption for es-Davao Or Gov’s land stumps farmers; De los Reyes’s move comes after Land Bank pays for 108-ha property
Sixty-one farmers wishing to secure a big chunk of a 108.41293-hectare property of the late Davao Oriental Gov. Leopoldo N. Lopez covered by the agrarian reform may soon end up owning nothing.
The property, originally covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. (T-7792) T-772 and located in Sitio Panumbon, Barangay Don Enrique, Mati, Davao Oriental, has ended up being subdivided into 21 lots covered by titles that had been registered with the Land Registration Authority (LRA).
Incensed farmers tagged the registration as illegal since the property had been the subject of a certificate of deposit (COD) of more than P2 million filed by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to cover the payment of the property under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Worse, 20 hectares of the entire property had been exempted from the coverage of CARP by no less than Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes on December 7, 2012 in a resolution condemned not only by farmers but also by officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) who had rejected the pleas of the Lopezes since 1998.
Armed with the resolution, the Lopez heirs can now yank out all farmers in that part of the estate and start commercial or industrial operations to the detriment of agrarian reform beneficiaries.
By doing so, De los Reyes also added fuel to the persistent demand of farmers to oust him from the DAR, with Task Force Mapalad (TFM) citing his dismal performance in land distribution.
CARP is set to end on June 14, 2014.
De los Reyes gave credence to the action of the Register of Deeds (ROD) in Mati, who wrote on December 12, 2008 that the original title to the property— (TCT-7792) T-772— was already cancelled based on an alleged prior Deed of Donation of Undivided Interest in Real Properties executed by Leopoldo N. Lopez as donor, in favor of his 10 donees, on July 31, 1974.
The ROD’s action came after the DAR had issued the notice of coverage (NOC) and then Undersecretary for Field Operations Narciso Nieto had completed all the surveys and determined the qualified beneficiaries, pushing the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to issue a memorandum of valuation (MOV) on May 28, 2008 for the 58.4183 hectares portion of the Lopez property which was recommended for acquisition.
On August 1, 2008, a certificate of deposit (COD) for P2,063,705.25 was issued to cover the acquisition cost of the 58.4183 hectares.
All throughout the same period when the Lopezes were losing their cases before the DAR, they were still operating to have the 21 titles covering the same property registered with the ROD, which should have provided the documents to the MARO as the CARP implementing officer.
Before the Lopezes managed to have their new titles registered, the DAR had already determined in early 2008 the 61 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to benefit from the 58 hectares of the 108.41-hectare Lopez hacienda.
In September 2008, the Davao Oriental ROD registered the 21 titles under the name of nine children and the widow of Leopoldo N. Lopez.
All told, the Lopezes cut up the entire property into 21 different titles to avoid CARP coverage, with the deed covering 103.5 hectares, the total figure much bigger than what the 1974 deed of donation gave to each donee— 9.85 hectares each— an indication that something was amiss.
Under the new titles, eight Lopez children got 11.85 hectares each while Diana Lopez and Rosalind Lopez got 10.79 hectares each.
The same deed was purportedly inscribed in the title by the ROD on November 4, 1974.
“By doing so, the ROD effectively stalled the CARP coverage by refusing to issue a title in the name of the Republic of the Philippines over the subject property. Despite prior knowledge as to the CARP Coverage of the subject landholding and without DAR Clearance, the ROD, in collusion with the Lopezes, gave due course to the Deed of Donation and Deed of Partition illegally presented by the Lopezes and issued titles to them,” the farmers howled.
Not content with flaying the provisions of CARP, the Lopezes also sold 20 hectares of the 108.4183-hectare property to a certain Hannah Straver, a Filipina married to a foreigner, in the amount of P8 million.
Straver then applied for conversion of the land from agricultural to non-agricultural use, raising the hackles of the beneficiaries who trooped to the DAR Central Office to demand that the application be denied, which was granted.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes has reportedly approved the CARP exemption in spite of the determination by the municipal agrarian reform officer (MARO) of Mati and the provincial agrarian reform officer (PARO) of Davao Oriental that the Lopezes could not enjoy such exemption after it had managed to secure a deferment of CARP coverage from 1988 to 1998.
De los Reyes’s approval of the CARP exemption had been severely criticized by the Panumbon Farmers and Farmworkers Association (PAFFARMA) through Samuel E. Batanan, who argued that as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), he should be championing the interest of the farmers “and not the interest of landowners who want to evade CARP coverage by hook or by crook.”
Lopez’s widow, Rosalind Lopez, was also a former governor of Davao Oriental.
Due to DAR’s approval of the exemption of the property from CARP coverage, Rosalind Lopez and the nine heirs and heiresses would continue to enjoy the unrestricted use of more than 100 hectares of the property, leaving crumbs to the 61 farmers who had been seeking land from the hacienda since 1998, exactly 10 years after Leopoldo Lopez secured a deferment in agrarian reform coverage.
Apart from Rosalind, the others beneficiaries of De los Reyes’s action are Maria Elena Lopez-Adaza, Leopoldo Lopez II, Leopoldo Lopez III, Leopoldo Lopez IV, Leopoldo Lopez V, Leopoldo Lopez VI, Leopoldo Lopez VII, Irene Lopez-Mitra and Diana Lopez.
The property, which is covered 93 percent by coconuts and 7 percent by palay, is managed through the LNL Agricultural Corp., which employs regular and seasonal farmworkers.
A petition for CARP coverage of the property was filed by Hermenegildo Sumono on November 10, 1998 before the MARO of Mati on behalf of retrenched employees of LNL Agricultural Corp., terminated farm workers and landless farmers.
On February 7, 2004, or more than five years after the filing of the petition, the petitioners met with DAR regional director Rodolfo Inson and newly installed PARO Benjamin Luz, both of whom committed to place the Lopez land under CARP.
A notice of coverage (NOC) was issued by the PARO on August 4, 2004 and 37 of the 47 applicants were initially identified by MARO as qualified beneficiaries on December 29, 2004.
In the first quarter of 2005, the Lopezes asked a local court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the DAR from implementing CARP coverage over the property and the scheduled screening of beneficiaries was aborted on April 6, 2005.
On May 25, 2005, Rosalind Lopez, as widow, filed an application for retention before the Office of DAR Regional Director in Region 11, demanding a big portion of the landholding as retention area in favor to the heirs of Leopoldo N. Lopez but this was denied by the regional director, compelling her to bring the matter to the DAR Central Office, where it was denied anew.
It took Rosalind three more years to make a masterful move to avert CARP coverage using the ROD and five more years to complete the work by having DAR scratch the name of Hacienda Lopez from properties that are subject to mandatory agrarian reform coverage.