Tarlac court junks cases against land reform beneficiaries and supporters

“The threat of additional schemes also remains as Noel Villanueva and his minions desperately cling onto the Tinang farmers’ land. We remain vigilant.”


MANILA – Peasant groups welcomed the dismissal of cases against the 83 farmers and their supporters, collectively called #Tinang83, as the court granted the motions to quash information with merit on June 27, Monday.

The Tinang 83 was charged with malicious mischief and illegal assembly after the police violently arrested them on June 9 while peacefully holding cultivating activities.

Read: Land reform beneficiaries, supporters violently arrested for holding collective farming

Capas-Bamban-Concepcion 2nd Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge Antonio Pangan quashed information for “illegal assembly for being duplicitous, and for failure to allege the essential facts constituting the particular kind of illegal assembly falling under the jurisdiction of the first level court.”

The information for malicious mischief is likewise quashed by the court as 1) the facts charged do not constitute an offense 2) the third element of malicious mischief was not alleged herein 3) the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case (which involves an agrarian dispute).

The court also referred the land dispute case to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) as it has no jurisdiction over the matter.

In his 13-page decision, Pangan said that Section 19 of RA 9700 or CARPER Law states that cases pertaining to the implementation of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) shall be referred by the judge or the prosecutor to the DAR.

“… if there is an allegation from any of the parties that the case is agrarian in nature and one of the parties is a farmer, farmworker, or tenant, the case shall be automatically referred by the judge or the prosecutor to the DAR which shall determine and certify within 15 days from referral whether an agrarian dispute exists,” it said.

The court also said that while the complainants (cooperative) alleged that it owns the land, “the farmer-beneficiaries of CARP who have Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) have all the right to possess and cultivate the land.”

Citing a Supreme Court ruling, Pangan said the CLOAs are “sufficient proof to entitle the holder the right to possess lands, and are issued as preparatory steps for the eventual issuance of a certificate of title after compliance with certain conditions/prerequisites.”

The court also took judicial notice of the fact that the DAR had already issued Certificate of Finality on April 2, 2018, directing DAR Tarlac to immediately distribute 200 hectares of land collectively registered in the names of Teresa Villanueva, et al.

The court added that even the complainants “admitted that the ownership of the land remains determined with finality by the DAR.”

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilinas (KMP) lauded the court’s decision but said that the struggle of the Tinang farmers continue as they have yet to be installed as land beneficiaries.

“The threat of additional schemes also remains as Noel Villanueva and his minions desperately cling onto the Tinang farmers’ land. We remain vigilant,” the group said in a statement.

The Tinang SN. Multi-purpose Cooperative Inc. Was established by the Villanueva family and has been in control of the land. In April 2021, the Villanuevas even filed a petition seeking to nullify and stop the implementation of DAR’s order to distribute the land to 236 agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Read: Tarlac farmers assert ownership of 200-hectare land controlled by political clan

Peasant advocate group Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) lauded the court’s decision and demand action against Concepcion Philippine National Police Officer-in-Charge Reynold Macabitas, Acting Provincial Prosecutor Mila Mae Montefalco-Ikeshita, and incoming Concepcion mayor Noel Villanueva.

“Because of their machinations and desperation to maintain control of Hacienda Tinang, #Tinang83 faces even more baseless charges—disobedience, usurpation of real rights, and obstruction of justice,” the group said in a statement.

They also received reports that 10 of #Tinang83 will be charged with “child exploitation” while 6 will face “human trafficking” charges.

Aside from the dismissed charges, the #Tinang83 was also charged with disobedience of a person in authority, obstruction of justice and usurpation of real rights.

Read: Tinang farmers: We are not criminals

But the group said they will not be cowered.

“We know that we are fighting for what is right, what is just, and what is true. We are humbled and strengthened by the knowledge that none of us are alone when we #StandWithFarmers. We know that our collective action will win us many more victories against injustice, not just for #Tinang83 but for countless others,” the group said. (RTS) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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