DAR execs deny graft allegations in Lapanday land orders

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2017 04:05 PM

MANILA - Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Undersecretary Luis Pañgulayan on Monday denied committing graft over orders against Lapanday Food Corporation (LFC).

Mariano said under the Philippine Constitution and Republic Act 6657, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has exclusive and original jurisdiction on implementing the Agrarian Reform Law.

"Kasama na po ang cease and desist order, installation dun sa Marbai area na yun. EO 229, eto ang tinatadhana, the DAR has the powers to punish for contempt and issue subpoena duces tecum to enforce its decisions--cease and desist orders, installation, yun ay orders na inissue ng secretary," he said.

Mariano also said DAR has quasi-judicial powers to solely determine if a case is an agrarian dispute in nature, and only the Supreme Court can restrain them from implementing their decisions.

"At malinaw po naman na ang MARBAI is an organization of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, at sila po ay rehistradong owners may individual titles po sila e," he said.

Last Thursday, Lapanday representative Atty. Noel Punzalan filed a graft complaint against the top DAR officials for allegedly giving unwarranted benefit to members of Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. (Marbai), the group of farmers who took over the 145-hectare portion of a banana farm being managed by Lapanday.

DAR, under Mariano's leadership, issued a cease and desist order to place MARBAI in possession and control of the area. A Writ of Installation was also enforced to let the farmers physically possess the land.

In a press conference Monday, Lapanday representatives said Mariano overstepped his authority by meddling into the issue.

Lapanday counsel Leilanie Espejo said the Regional Trial Court in Davao already decided that the issue is not an agrarian dispute, which is beyond the DAR's jurisdiction. 

Espejo also clarified that Lapanday is not claiming the land; rather, it just wants to uphold the agreement with Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (HEARBCO) to buy the bananas from the plantation.