Occam’s Razor

December 12, 2007

Jesus Walks

My years in UP taught me this: the amount of human rights violations transpiring in our country is directly proportional to the number of poor people we have multiplied many times over. Even further, massive land grabbing is not a myth but its pervasiveness has elevated itself to a non-crime leaving a long trail of generational wounds in its path. Case in point: the plight of the Sumilao farmers.

It’s not difficult to understand their story as it is after all the stuff that makes our history. We were, as a matter of fact, mere settlers in our own country fighting off a deluge of imperial armies once upon a time. The battlecry then was that we were here first. We live here. This is our country, we cried.

A few hundred years after we are still hearing the same cry, but this time around from the Sumilao farmers. They were mere settlers in Sumilao Bukidnon when nobody else lived there. When it was a mere piece of land, they toiled and made it productive and raised generations of their families there. Until of course the rich and powerful forcibly evicted them in the 1940s.

While I am won’t to generalize the extremely rich as matapobre who given a chance would quash humanity out of the destitute, I also know this: A potent combination of knowledge/power/money versus a people with limited (if at all) amount of knowledge/education/money/power — the latter is always at the losing end. And most of the time they lose in the saddest of manners, scratching their heads as they retreat in defeat not having a full grasp of what had just swept through them.

In the case of the Sumilao farmers, when this first happened it was that time again to worry where and how to get the next meal. An ordeal, I am sure that is not unfamiliar to them but when the event seemed to have drawn its final curtains it was an ordeal that may prove to stay longer and more frequently than usual.

While it is a sad legal fact that the Supreme Court has determined that they have no legal claim to the land, it is also a fact that legalities can be mere technicalities that can cripple the power of law. In this case of mere average legal complications, surely lawmakers can do better than limit their view with a few legal merits. After all this is one of those times that the human element of the law comes into full productive practice.

To begin with, that piece of land is already rightfully theirs until someone who knew better “legally” grabbed it from them. There is CARP, too. And I leave it to my lawyer friends to explain it in its intricate details. But while we’re at the business of studying legalities, we might as well take a look at how the CARP’s execution (or lack thereof) comes in the uh, legal picture.

When the land titles of the poor farmers were cancelled after the Supreme Court ruled to grant Quisumbing’s request to convert his land, it was under the condition of his 5-year development plan. This approval to convert his land from agricultural to agro-industrial effectively avoided CARP ruling which would have granted the titles to the Sumilao farmers.

The 5-year plan did not materialize. Quisumbing decided to sell the land to the San Miguel Foods Inc. who then opted to turn the land into a “world-class” piggery. Such irony.

The Sumilao farmers’ voice is now clear and obviously more informed, revoke the land conversion order since the 5-year development plan which was the foothold of Quisumbing’s conversion request did not materialize. The land too is a prime agricultural land anyway, and this alone disqualifies it from any form of conversion under the DAR Administrative Order No. 20, Series 1992.

Strewn in the middle of the Sumilao fight are gaps that I trust our legislators and lawyer friends to settle inside the courtroom for it is a matter of fact that we have a lot of good men and women out there.

While I see the protest of the Sumilao farmers as a sign of progress (it is a relief to see the less priveleged find their voice in a peaceful manner instead of retreating in fear), I also feel that it’s sad that issues are not given the attention they deserve until something dramatic similar to “a march of a thousand miles on foot” happens.

I believe in the law. And I am inclined to believe that one good thing that happened in our history which granted us our country is not forgotten. We got justice and freedom when we got our country back from the imperial powers. In a country of lawmakers who treasure their independence and nationality, the Sumilao farmers will get their land back.

_______

Please support the Sumilao Farmers. Had info from Rico that it’s best to visit them at the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (QC Circle area) early tomorrow since they have activities early the following morning. They need blankets since it’s been getting cold at nights in Manila and they don’t have enough blankets.

Online Petition: Click Here
More Info: Lakaw Sumilao

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