Lawyer raps Mariano for ‘installing’ farmers

A LAWYER filed graft raps on Friday against Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and another official before the Office of the Ombudsman for the installation of 159 banana farmers at the Lapanday Foods Corp. in Tagum, Davao del Norte.

Noel Oliver Punzalan accused Mariano and Undersecretary Luis Pañgulayan of abuse of authority for entering the compound of the agribusiness firm and installing the farmers to the 145-hectare banana plantation owned by Lapanday.

He called on Ombudsman Conchita Morales to place the two government officials under a preventive suspension.

The “respondents clearly used their office and abused their authority to deliberately favor the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. [Marbai],” the complaint read.

Last Thursday, Mariano led the installation of 159 Marbai farmers displaced from their lots in 2011.

President Rodrigo Duterte gave Mariano the oder to install the farmworkers after a meeting with them outside Mendiola, Manila.

The workers were earlier forcibly evicted by Lapanday Food Corp. from the land they were tilling.

“I am thankful that the installation of the farmers were executed orderly and peacefully,” Mariano said.

“With concentrated force, cooperation and teamwork from the DAR, the farmers, our supporters and the assistance of the PNP, the farmers now have physical control of their land.”

Mariano and a team composed of undersecretaries, regional directors and provincial agrarian reform officers stood by the gates of Lapanday while waiting for the department’s sheriff’s signal to safely enter the compound with the farmers.

The team was assisted by 50 police officers who conducted a clearing operation of the San Isidro farm area within the Lapanday area.

Mariano said the clearing was necessary to reinstate the farmers.

“This was for the safety of the farmers who would enter the gates of the LFC for their installation,” Mariano said.

“The sheriff and the Philippine National Police would get rid of any obstructions like booby traps that might be present inside San Isidro. In the event that any untoward incident might happen, the sheriff’s teams and the PNP would be there to stop the violence.

“Although they are now installed in their farm lots, they are still in danger.”

Mariano requested a 24-hour police visibility for two days and round-the-clock security for all farmer-beneficiaries and their families for 60 days.

But Punzalan said that Mariano and Pañgulayan “did not even consider that the Marbai members are not the only agrarian reform beneficiaries in the land awarded to the Hearbco-1 whose majority members honor and respect the counter-approved compromise agreement with LFC,” Punzalan said.

In a media statement, Lapanday Foods Corp. said the complaint for violation of Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and for grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and oppression/grave abuse of authority, filed by lawyer Noel Olive Punzalan was received by the Office of the Ombudsman the same day Mariano led the installation of more than 150 members of the Madanum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. in the 145-hectare property.