THE Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law is now on its 20th year but farmers continue to mount protest marches to assert full and fair implementation. Last Thursday,the police arrested and detained at a Quezon Ciy jail nine farmers who trekked to the Department of Agrarian Reform to demand certificates of land ownership over Hacienda Bacan in Isabela town, Negros Occidental.

The 157-hectare estate is among the pieces of agricultural land owned by the First Couple, spouses Gloria Macapagal and Jose Miguel Arroyo and their families. In 2001, the President promised to distribute Hacienda Bacan and other Arroyo landholdings to farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Our latest offering, a story by Annie Ruth C. Sabangan, PCIJ senior researcher-writer, looks at the seven-year delay in the effort of the farmer-beneficiaries to claim the hacienda that Mr. Arroyo acquired in an auction in 1994, when Mrs. Arroyo was still a senator.

In 2007, Mr. Arroyo issued a “declaration of trust” where he disowned claim or interest in the estate and posed no objection to its sale or auction by Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corp. that appears in the land title as owner of the property.

But as the Land Bank started processing a P42.3-million certificate of cash deposit (COD) as compensation, the Negros Occidental Register of Deeds insisted that Mr. Arroyo should also be named as a payee. Lawyer Ruy Alberto Rondain, counsel to both Rivulet and Mr Arroyo, says that the Department of Agrarian Reform neither served notice nor conducted any hearings “to determine just compensation.”

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