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Case Closed!

By JOSE ALSMITH L. SORIA with reports from John Colasito
March 21, 2016

ORMOC CITY, Leyte – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has declared the Fran Farm case that has dragged on for 16 years closed after the two involved rival farmer groups agreed and signed the final compromise agreement on March 10 this year.

This milestone achievement in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in Barangay Matica-a in this city started in December 2015 when the Bugho Farmers Association (BFA) offered the 21 hectares to the Fran Farm Workers Association (FFWA) while keeping the 25 hectares with the former.

In 2015 the DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) ruled with finality awarding the entire 46 hectares to the BFA.

Leyte Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Renato Badilla, who led DAR officials in facilitating the negotiation, expressed hope that a better environment will govern the FFWA and the BFA and finally lead to peace and development in the area, a peace that has been elusive for a long time.

BFA president Rosenda Apay and FFWA leader Benjie Malinao led their respective groups in signing the final compromise agreement that provides: the grant by the BFA of the 21 hectares in favor of FFWA, with the 25 hectares retained by the former; conduct of subdivision survey by DAR on the two landholdings; mutual recognition and respect of each other as qualified farmer beneficiaries; dropping off of claims, legal suits and charges leveled against each other; recognition of homelots occupied by FFWA farmers inside the 25 hectares allocation by the BFA; issuance and registration of individual CLOAs among the FFWA members for the 21 hectares, while BFA opted for a collective CLOA for the 25 hectares; DAR will facilitate with the DARAB the approval of the final compromise agreement; and DARAB to issue the corresponding appropriate order enforcing the final compromise agreement.

Aside from DAR officials, the signing of the said document was witnessed by non-government organization representatives Rina Reyes from RIGHTS and Rubie Espina from KAISAHAN. Present as well are local officials and members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The controversy started in 1999, when the rival groups questioned the identification and qualifications of each other as agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to a landholding formerly owned by Teofilo Fran which resulted to a series of legal actions and litigations lasting for 16 years.

Bad blood worsened when an FFWA member was shot and killed inside the DAR Ormoc City office premises during a court hearing on the case by still unidentified perpetrators.

Today, both groups are already peacefully installed and tilling their respective areas.

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