Sunday, December 9, 2007

Still a Long Walk for the Farmers. . .

After convening in Baguio, summer of 1997, the Second Division of the Supreme Court finally decided on the controversy brought before it regarding the validity of the “Win-win resolution” which originated from the Office of the President through Deputy Executive Secretary Renato Corona (settling the issues posed by the biased decision of Executive Secretary Ruben Torres) by allowing the farmer-beneficiaries of Sumilao, Bukidnon a share of the 144-hectare land allegedly owned by Norberto Quisumbing. In that win-win resolution, the Office of the President ordered the distribution of the 100 hectares to the farmer-beneficiaries and the remaining 44 hectares to be devoted to the conversion plan proposed by Quisumbing and approved by Torres.

After a long and arduous wait, the Sumilao farmers who have long been fighting over the ownership of their ancestral land finally had the attention of the nation after taking their pleas before the streets of Manila. On October 9, 1996, these farmers staged a hunger strike in front of the DAR office, supposedly in charged of implementing the CARP which is supposedly aimed at redistributing the vast lands of hacienderos to tenant-farmers. That hunger strike was devastating to the government as it was boasting the fruits of economic growth back then. Thus, it intervened, albeit harshly against the farmers, at first, when it issued an order approving the conversion plan applied for by Quisumbing which covered the entire area of 144-hectares. It modified subsequently its own order upon pressures from the church and civic groups. Corona issued the so-called win-win resolution granting the 100 hectares to the farmers and the 44 hectares to Quisumbing. . .a little too late.

A little too late because back in the province of Bukidnon, the local government units have been in haste adopting the first order issued by Torres; a bitter betrayal for their own constituents.

And as if to validate the fact that justice does not come easily for the underprivileged, the Second Division held that the first order issued by the Office of the President is already final and executory, thus, could no longer be assailed. To quote the ponente, Justice Martinez:

Now to the main issue of whether the final and executory Decision dated March 29, 1996 (Torres’) can still be substantially modified by the "Win-Win" Resolution.

We rule in the negative.

The rules and regulations governing appeals to the Office of the President of the Philippines are embodied in Administrative Order No. 18. Section 7 thereof provides:

Sec. 7. Decisions/resolutions/orders of the Office of the President shall, except as otherwise provided for by special laws, become final after the lapse of fifteen (15) days from receipt of a copy thereof by the parties, unless a motion for reconsideration thereof is filed within such period.

Only one motion for reconsideration by any one party shall be allowed and entertained, save in exceptionally meritorious cases. (Emphasis ours).

The Supreme Court ruled out based on technicalities. But in the same ruling, the Second Division apparently misquoted how equity is weighed in controversies affecting the marginalized sectors of society.

Be it remembered that rules of procedure are but mere tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, must always be avoided. Time and again, this Court has suspended its own rules and excepted a particular case from their operation whenever the higher interests of justice so require.

As if to castigate further the petitioners on the misavoidance of the rules , the Supreme Court added:

In the instant petition, we forego a lengthy disquisition of the proper procedure that should have been taken by the parties involved and proceed directly to the merits of the case.

Supreme of all, the Supreme Court erased any silver lining that should supposedly be gleaned upon from this sad plight of the farmers. It ruled no less that the MAPALAD farmers are not real parties-in-interest. In its own words:

The rule in this jurisdiction is that a real party in interest is a party who would be benefited or injured by the judgment or is the party entitled to the avails of the suit. Real interest means a present substantial Undoubtedly, movants' interest over the land in question is a mere expectancy. Ergo, they are not real parties in interest. interest, as distinguished from a mere expectancy or a future, contingent, subordinate or consequential interest.

And so Norberto Quisumbing really had his day in court without even stepping into the hall of justice. The petitioners were peculiarly the local government units of Bukidnon and the Corporation owned by Quisumbing. The defendants were Corona and the DAR defending the validity of the win-win resolution the former issued. The MAPALAD farmers filed a motion to intervene, but the Supreme Court denied the same. Few years after, the conversion plan approved by Torres did not materialize instead Quisumbing conveyed the questioned land to the SMFI. SMFI is now claiming ownership over the land and is now developing it into an agro-industrial estate divesting further the claims of the farmers. And so the long and arduous walk. . . Protesting to suffer or to suffer in protest?

The long walk by the Sumilao farmers from their lands to Malacanang to press the government to order SMFI to return their lands which were subject to CLOAs previously could never be a shooting for the moon even at this stage where legal ownership has already been vested to SMFI. It is a continuing struggle that transcends any legality constituted improperly and based on wrong and malicious political favors. However, it is very distressing that the suffering of the farmers for relentlessly invoking a right has gone this far. The long walk is pregnant with symbolism. It no less than confirms that the government was too far for the South. It was unable to reach out for centuries even at this point of time. Not even a Senator who’s born from Mindanao could disprove the fact that services are too controlled to trickle down south. Really, if the Honorable Senator has the balls to mediate and reach out to the farmers, at the least to assuage them because of their torn lives right there at their homeland, he won’t be waiting for that photo-ops outside the Senate: he, extending his right hand to one of the protesters who was squatted there under the blistering heat of the sun. Disgusting!

I still have the faith that the struggle of the farmers would end with the farmers reclaiming the lands taken from them. But I’m sure there’s still a long walk to take with the current administration’s disregard for even the most basic of human rights. There’s this news, for instance, which reported that the government would finally intervene before the Left gets into the picture. Imagine!


Ann said...

Nakakafrustrate na naman. May mga tao talagang di marunong mahiya.. ilang pamilya naapektuhan nito pero puro sarili lang nila naiisip nila.

Sana maresolve to with the farmers getting their due...and the a-***** getting theirs.

Political Jaywalker said...

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