TRINIDAD, Bohol, April 19 (PIA) -- With clenched fists and pieces of paper raised, a group of farmer members of the Trinidad Talibon Integrated Farmers Association (TTIFA) shouted "Mabuhay ang mga Mag-uuma!"
The farmers, 66 of them wearing white T-shirts and waving their Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), have reasons to be jubilant.
The government has finally given them the legal proof that the land they are now tilling is theirs, and nobody can take it away from them.
"Kapin sa trainta ka tuig jud, daghan na ang nagtuo nga di jud matuman sa goberno ang iyang gisaad, kay mao man pud ang gisulti kanunay sa Humabol," said a beneficiary.
In that span of 30 years, TTIFA, under their mother organization Hugpong sa mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon (HUMABOL), has been claiming that communism works with a communal farm they illegally tilled, their dissent against the government also a fertile ground for fighters in the underground movement.
Before, most of them were activists openly protesting against the government's program, they can no longer be accused of rebellion or siding with the communist terrorists after they realized they have been taken for a ride as the promises of the rebel group have remained empty after three decades.
No less than Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Sec. John Castriciones personally turned over to the 66 beneficiaries their land titles which give them their lands as part of the more than 111 hectares which the government cleared for distribution from the government sequestered properties of the Bohol Cattle Corporation.
"Dugay gyud namo nga agwanta, kombinse sa mga tawo nga makig-uban sa kagamhanan ug talikdan na ang kagubot (We have long been trying to convince the people to cooperate with the government)," said TTIFA Chairperson Rowena Eronico.
"It was hard to get the sympathy of the people, as they have been indoctrinated to go against the land reform project. But slowly and consistently convincing them of the earnest government efforts, we regained the majority eventually, to process on the claims," she added.
Together with Castriciones was a full force of DAR with Undersecretaries Virginia Orogo, Atty. Emily Padilla, Regional Director Resty Osias and regional support staff, DAR Provincial Officer Eddie Manginsay, and Bohol officials led by Gov. Arthur Yap, Mayor Judith Cajes, Philippine Army Commanding Officer Col. Alan Tabudlo, Bohol Police Chief Osmundo Salibo, and mayors from neighboring towns.
On April 17, Castriciones and government officials braved the long and bumpy ride to Sitio Panaghiusa of Brgy. San Vicente in Trinidad town, over 100 kilometers away from Tagbilaran City, and into the nest of the most vocal farmers organization under HUMABOL, to deliver the land titles which the farmers have long been waiting for.
"The most important part of the lives of farmers is when they get the land they can call their own," Castricciones said.
"Yesterday, we were in Catigbian for the 'DAR to Door,' the department personally delivers the land titles to the owners right at their doorstep," he shared.
"That is why, we have to exert efforts for our farmers to receive their own piece of land and start helping the country in food production," the secretary stressed.
"During the pandemic, we have recognized the importance of agriculture. The pandemic has made us realize how compromised our status is (in food production). That is why I always say, farmers are true heroes," he said.
To the DAR personnel, he said "we all need to work to elevate the economic status of our people, and we do not stop in giving lands, we also have to give them support."
The activity, according to Castriciones, is in line with the President's mandate to finish distributing lands eligible for award before Pres. Rodrigo Duterte's term ends in July 2022. (rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)