In response to CMU's lies
WE ARE NOT SQUATTERS! In contrast to the statements of Central Mindanao University, we have every right to claim the land as our own. The 400 hectares of land is where we have founded our homes and livelihood.
Tracing the landholdings of Central Mindanao University, their land title for the 3,080 hectares the campus sits on has been continuously disputed since the university's institution in 1958. Indigenous Peoples' communities around the university insist that CMU had claimed part of their ancestral lands and that they were driven out by default due to the land titling processes instituted by the Philippine government which they hadn't the benefit to understand before.
In 1985, after the lease CMU granted to the Philippine Packing Incorporated expired, a part of the lands were rented out for cultivation to some university employees through the Kilusang Sariling Sikap Program. Many of them were previously employed by CMU to manage the university's own rice fields that had then gone bankrupt.
In 1986, even before the farmers could harvest the rice, CMU changed its decision and refused to allow the farmers to continue tilling the land. It was during this time that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program under then President Corazon Aquino was implemented. The farmers organized themselves through BUFFALO (Bukidnon Free Farmers and Agricultural Laborers Organization) and petitioned for the inclusion of the 1,200 hectares of land they were tilling into the program. Poor farmers nearby also decided to come together and apply for lands – another 1,200 hectares – thus, the TAMARAW (Triad Agricultural Manpower of Rural Active Workers) and LIMUS (Landless Tillers Inhabitants of Musuan) were born. In 1989, the petition of the three groups – collectively called BTL – was partly approved, the Department of Agrarian Reform and Adjudication Board ordering the distribution of 400 hectares (from the original 2,400 in the applications) to 252 farmers. But CMU insisted that they needed the landed for experimental farms and other educational purposes and had the Certificate of Land Ownership Awards given to the farmers canceled by the Supreme Court in 1992.
When the farmers were finally served a writ of demolition in 1999, they bargained for an extension of their land lease for another tenyears. The final agreement had been for an extension of only five years but it stipulated that the farmers will only be evicted “if the relocation site is ready for occupancy upon review and recommendation of the Task Force” (the Task Force being composed of the presidents of BTL, Maramag Mayor, then Cong. Juan Miguel Zubiri, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer and the CMU president). Until now, no decent relocation site has been offered.
The first relocation sites that were offered in 2007 to the farmers were in the municipality of San Fernando and in Barangay Cabanglasan, Malaybalay. The area shown to the farmers were on steep mountain slopes, not suitable for agriculture – the places definitely ‘needing additional support to the farmers who may transfer’. Another relocation site offered was in Talakag, a better area for agricultural production. However, it was only 128 hectares, not enough to accommodate the BTL communities. Additionally, other farmers have already laid claim over the area. The BTL members did not want to 1. Fight among themselves for the 128 hectares and 2. Fight with other farmers for the small resources while the larger lands are leased to multi-national corporations or monopolized by institutions.
The P40,000, which the university have held against those who already accepted the money – because they desperately needed money from the successive failure of the crops those times – is not enough for a farmer to start from scratch with a land that is not fit for tilling.
CMU boasted their framework of peace and development, humanitarian accord, poverty alleviation, social justice, human right and the rule of law. And yet they throw back at us the P2.2 M unsettled payment of the farmers who were not able to make enough the past years due to unanticipated natural occurrences such as the prolonged drought of last year. Senator Zubiri had offered to help in the payment of the said debt but CMU maintained there was no payment of any sort.
The refusal to allocate the lands that originally had been unproductive – but were painstakingly cultivated over the years by the farmers – is not in any way humanitarian even for their reasons of educational advancement. The university owns 3,080 hectares of land. The farmers have already contented themselves with the aspiration to have the right to till 400 hectares. CMU should not use the promotion of education as a leverage to evict the farmers because it has been obvious from the start that the goal of CMU, and that of President Maria Luisa Soliven, has been the commercialization of the facilities of the university for profit at the expense of the farmers and the students alike. We propose to CMU that instead of kicking out the famers, CMU should seek a larger budget appropriation to education from the national government as it is the Constitutional responsibility of the state to prioritize education.
The issue of relocation has always played an important factor in the many negotiations between the BTL and CMU over the years. The farmers maintain that the reliance on a third party for the relocation site puts the burden on the farmers.
On the other proposals of CMU in lieu of the land titles, the farmers are adamant to accept these for many reasons. First, the farming communities have been there for more than two decades. Never had there been any provision for the education of the farmers’ children. The farmers refuse to believe this offer especially now that the tuition fee in CMU has risen. Their children will in fact be further robbed of opportunities to study since their parents would no longer have sustainable income.
The farmers hope that the CMU would not use the promotion of education as a leverage because in their experience with the university, the target of the educational facilities have never been the poor – as what they claim with their ‘affordable education’ – because they have seen the commercialization of the facilities in the university, the rising fees, and the non-benefit of the institution to the poor communities that surround it. In its statement, "So the Public Will Know," reasons for evicting us was obscured. But a report that Davao Agricultural Ventures Corporation (DAVCO) targeting our parcel of land for its plantation business is becoming apparent.
Ours have been and continues to be a historical struggle for our right to land and life. CMU, which employs guns and goons, continue to deny us of our democratic right. Yet we shall remain steadfast until genuine agrarian reform is achieved.
April Argen Pat B. Marzon
Staff, Amihan NMR
+639052472573 / +639996221291
Northern Mindanao Region
MINVIZCON Blg., IFI Compound
Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City
Tel.no: (088) 850-5854