Banana farmers and workers today trooped to the office of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to press the latter to award thousands of hectares of land taken away from them by Antonio Floirendo’s Tagum Development Corporation (Tadeco).
According to Billy Cabintoy, Secretary General of the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries One Movement (AOM), the 28,816-hectare banana plantation of the Tadeco of the Floirendo family, a then Marcos crony, is a clear example of how legitimate agrarian reform beneficiaries are robbed of their rights to till their own land through various schemes such as leaseback, leasehold, contract growing and agri-business venture agreements (AVAs).
Not one of more than 1,890 ARBs in the Floirendo plantation benefit from the use of their land. They either remain plantation workers enduring slave-like conditions or laid-off when they complain and assert their rights.
A number of them have been harassed and barred from entering their lands. Blood has even spilt on their lands as some of their leaders have been killed by private armies of the Floirendo family.
In early May of this year, the DOJ had ruled that the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Tadeco first inked in 1969 was illegal. The Commission on Audit (COA) later reaffirmed this by stating that the deal was unconstitutional and called for the filing of criminal charges against former officials of the DOJ and the BuCor who approved the deal with TADECO.
But other than the above, Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) under the WADECOR Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc., Checkered Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries and Employees Multi-purpose Cooperative, PAHECO Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc., and Linda District Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. have already won their cases at the DAR and even up to the Supreme Court.
Only the immediate installation of the ARBs would provide justice to them. This can only be done if the DOJ which is a member of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) strongly recommends that it revoke the Joint Venture and various Agri-business Ventures Agreements (AVA) that the Floirendo’s had not only with BuCor but with the ARBs as well.