50-Year-Old Land Dispute at Heart of Carnage in Rizal, Kalinga

Apparent inaction of national as well as provincial government agencies is blamed for the Rizal, Kalinga demolition carnage of June 25. At the heart of the matter, however, lies a 50-year-old land dispute.

Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 21, July 1-7, 2007

Apparent inaction of national as well as provincial government agencies is blamed for the Rizal, Kalinga demolition carnage of June 25. At the heart of the matter, however, lies a 50-year-old land dispute.

Rizal Mayor Marcelo “Bebbot” dela Cruz blamed government agencies including past provincial officials who opted to sit down on their problem.

But the Cordillera police declared that Monday’s carnage was an offshoot of a long-running dispute over a 2,934-hectare former Madrigal agricultural estate in San Pascual.

Nine settlers who opted to fight it out with policemen and soldiers died in the stand-off-turned-firefight incident last Monday. At least 10 police officers were seriously wounded.

And tension is still there according to Dela Cruz even as Kalinga Police Director Sr. Supt. Severino Cruz said peace is slowly returning to the area.

Six “ambushers” who apparently dug themselves in foxholes against the government forces were charged Wednesday for frustrated murder before the Kalinga prosecutor’s office, Cruz said.

The six, who apparently participated in the ambush, are still in the custody of the Kalinga police while they are awaiting “commitment orders” to the provincial jail. Actually, there were eight all in all, but two were minors, Cruz said.

But beyond the arrests and the charges, the land problem however remains unsolved. Thus, there looms the possibility of another bloodbath in the future if the root of the problem lingers on.

This is underscored by the fact that just after the carnage and after seizing firearms from the “squatters,” policemen found more high-powered firearms, Cruz said.

Half a century’s problem

The problem, Dela Cruz lamented, dates back to the 1940s when original settlers from Regions I, II and III “developed” the pioneering flat agricultural land.

In the 1950s, the Madrigals (family of Sen. Jamby Madrigal) turned the original settlers into “tenants” who tilled the land and produced for them in exchange for being able to live in the area.

After a long court battle with the Madrigal family, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the tenants and declared a 533-hectare section of the estate as ancestral land. The High Tribunal ordered that the portion classified as ancestral land be returned to the original inhabitants.

The government handed over the ancestral land to 127 families from three Kalinga clans in December 2004.

But the problem arose when some heirs of the original settlers unscrupulously “sold” other parcels of land not part of the portion granted to them by law to unwitting upland Kalinga natives, the Rizal mayor said.


Both Dela Cruz and Tabuk, Kalinga Mayor Camilo Lammawin blamed what they described as “snail-paced action” by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the provincial government for the escalation of the problem.

”For a long, long (time) we have been reporting the problem to higher authorities, (but) no provincial administration (except…Gov. Macario Duguiang) took a second look at it,” said Dela Cruz.

Lammawin, who is especially concerned with Rizal’s situation – considering that the town is the gateway to Tabuk which recently became a city – blamed national government agencies for not being serious in addressing local concerns. “We do not understand why not even a single national agency can implement a simple Supreme Court decision,” Lammawin said.

Thus, last June 25, when town officials implemented the anti-squatting town ordinance, policemen and soldiers were fired upon by residents.


Dela Cruz also placed his sympathies with the families of the victims of the carnage. A lesson to be learned, he said, is “for our people not (to allow themselves to) be victimized by land speculators roaming around town.” Buyers should first check with the town registry, he said.

Newly-elected Gov. Floydelia Diasen could not be reached for her comment on the incident and the solutions she plans to implement to address the problem.

Sen. Jamby Madrigal vowed she would investigate the matter in her capacity as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities when the 14th Congress opens.

International attention

The land problem which spawned the carnage in Rizal, Kalinga has also attracted international attention.

Ecumenical Fellowship-USA has strongly condemned the violence that ensued in June 25’s incident. EF cordinator Augustus Martinez said that they are aware that Rizal, Kalinga is in the border of Cagayan province and has been a hotbed because of land problems.

The group also lamented that instead of being resolved peacefully, the land problem resulted in violence. Contributed to(Bulatlat.com)

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