In response to CMU's Public Statement (link here:
we are issuing this collective statement of the
BTL and the BTL Women's Association
In response to CMU's lies
June 19, 2011
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 ten years. 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.