THE ASSEMBLY 2008-2009
The Political Science Organization of the Ateneo
Sixty farmers from Calatagan, Batagas are gathering for another historic march from Batangas to Manila to assert their right of ownership to 507 hectares of agricultural land legitimately granted to them under a program of agrarian reform. The land, originally owned by Ceferino Ascue, was distributed almost twenty years ago (1990) to 318 tenant farmers. Emancipation patents were distributed to the tenants of the farm land. In the decade since the land was distributed many of the farmer-beneficiaries were already able to fully pay their land amortizations.
In 1995 however, the heirs of Ceferino Ascue, ignoring the fact that the land had already been distributed to farmer beneficiaries, sold the land to Asturias Industries, a mining firm. Asturias Industries secured permits to begin mining operations. The company also put in question before the Department of Agrarian Reform the legality of the distribution of the land.
The Department of Agrarian Reform in 2000 upheld the protest of Asturias Industries thereby legally denying the farmer beneficiaries ownership of the land. The protest was upheld on the grounds that 1. the land was primarily agricultural since it was “mineralized” 2. there were no defined or clear tenancy relations between the previous land owner and the farmers and 3. the land was not devoted to the production of rice or corn. The farmers’ ownership of the land was effectively revoked as a result.
The Assembly recognizes that the basis for the protest by Asturias Industries could perhaps be legally sound. We do not question the legality of the DAR decision. We also recognize the developmental potential of a mining industry for the local government of Calatagan.
However, WE BELIEVE THAT SOCIAL JUSTICE IS NOT FOUNDED ON MERE FRAMES OF LEGALITY. ADHERENCE TO THE LAW DOES NOT RELEASE ANYONE FROM THE MORAL DUTY TO WORK FOR A JUST SOCIETY. The lack of legal responsibility does not in any way absolve Asturias Industries of its social responsibility.
WE SYMPATHIZE WITH THE CALATAGAN FARMERS IN THEIR STRUGGLE TO ASSERT THEIR LEGITIMATE RIGHTS AS CITIZENS BEFORE THE LAW AND AS PEOPLE. THE ASSEMBLY IS ONE WITH THE ATENEO COMMUNITY IN THE EFFORTS TO AID THE FARMERS AND IN THE GREATER TASK OF WORKING TOWARD A MORE JUST AND HUMANE SOCIETY.
Furthermore, The Assembly sees the case of the Calatagan farmers as reflecting severe institutional flaws within the structures of administration and governance. This is clearly yet another failure of the bureaucratic apparatus. WE BELIEVE THAT SIGNIFICANT INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS ARE NECESSARY TO ENSURE THAT THE MARGNINALIZED AND UNDERPRIVILEDGED IN SOCIETY ARE PROTECTED FROM THE INTRUSIONS OF ELITE INTERESTS, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THAT THE VISION OF A JUST SOCIETY BE REALIZED.