After three decades: Tinang farmers get 68 hectares of land

This article is available in Pilipino

The reactionary government has officially recognized the ownership of 90 farmer-members of the Independent Farmers’ Association of Tinang (Makisama-Tinang) in 68 hectares of land in Hacienda Tinang in Concepcion, Tarlac. The recognition was done in a ceremony on May 8. This is the result of a three-decade struggle for the land and the relaunching of their land recovery campaign in the form of bungkalan (land occupation and cultivation) in June 2022.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) awarded the Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) to the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) of Makisama-Tinang after several delays due to the collusion of the land grabber family Villanueva, and of DAR-Tarlac. The farmers won after many protests, dialogues and camps in Hacienda Tinang.

“We succeeded because of our collective actions to advance our rights and justice. Without our unity and assertion, our right will not be given voluntarily despite the justness of our demand. We really have to fight for it,” according to Alvin Dimarucut, chairman of Makisama-Tinang.

The farmers dedicated their victory to their late chairman, Felino Cunanan Jr, and to all struggling farmers across the country.

Along with the full awarding of land titles to the 90 Makisama-Tinang farmers, they also demanded the dismissal of all cases filed against Tinang 83 such as obstruction of justice, usurpation of property rights, human trafficking, and child exploitation. The Tinang 83 are farmers and their supporters who were arrested while launching a bungkalan in June 2022.

The farmers are very pleased to get their own land. However, according to Makisama-Tinang leaders, their fight is not yet over.

They said that they should strengthen their ranks and continue united in demanding the necessary support from the government so that they can cultivate and develop their land. These include their demand for irrigation, subsidies for food or sugarcane production, and opposition to the reconcentration of land to monopolists such as the landgrabber Concepcion Mayor Noel Villanueva.

History of resistance

Hacienda Tinang consists of 1,200 hectares of sugarcane fields originally owned by the Aquino family. Part of it (200 hectares) that was supposed to be fall under land reform was sold by the family to a private company. The said company sold the land back to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). On September 26, 1995, the agency released a list of 236 prospective land beneficiaries in the hacienda.

For more than two decades, the Villanueva family deliberately hid from the farmers the papers stating that the farmers collectively owned the land. The farmers found out only in 2016 that they had the right to the hacienda’s land. That same year, they petitioned the DAR to fix the distribution of the land among the beneficiaries. The agency issued final orders in 2018 and 2019.

Because they had power over the local barangay council, the Villanuevas denied the farmers their rights. In 1995, Vernon Villanueva was captain of Barangay Tinang. As captain, he was a powerful member of the Barangay Agrarian Reform Council that ensured the list of beneficiaries. His brother, Jojo, managed a farmers’ cooperative that was part of the 200-hectare Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP. His son Norman Villanueva is the current captain of barangay Tinang while also sitting councilor of Concepcion.

Makisama-Tinang says the Villanuevas played a big role in blocking their land recovery especially after their brother Noel Villanueva won as mayor in the last election. This mayor himself even accompanied the police to dismantle the bungkalan and arrest its participants in June 2022.

With the collusion of the Villanuevas and the local DAR office, despite having a final order, DAR still allowed the cooperative operated by the Villanuevas to petition in April 2021. Because of this, the list of beneficiaries was re-validated.

Despite many obstacles, the farmers succeeded in their land struggle.

AB: Tinang farmers get 68 hectares of land