Friday, December 14, 2007

Update on Sumilao Farmers

Here is another update from Balaod Mindanao. Please help us spread the information so the public may know.


Walk for Sumilao Land, Walk for Justice

13/14 December 2007

Today (Dec. 14), the farmers had a 'sit down rally", again in protest of the one sided order of Pangandaman issued last Dec. 12. The farmers, joined by the other peoples organizations like UPAL, SAMBA, UNORKA, and other peasant groups sit in the entrance and exit gates of the DAR.

This morning, the police, army and security guards attempted to disperse the farmers. Rep. Risa Hontiveros helped in negotiating with the police not to disperse the farmers. Fortunately, they were not dispersed.

At around 12:00pm, a mass was celebrated for the farmers who are sitting at the exit gate. Another mass was celebrated at around 2:00 pm at the entrance gate.

13 December

"Respondent SMFI is hereby directed to refrain from further undertaking development activities other than those presently ongoing."

The quotation above is the content of the order of Secretary Pangandaman issued on December 12 as regards the petition of the Sumilao farmers for the cancellation/revocation of the conversion order over the 144 hectares.

Said order was received by the farmers at around 12:30 pm yesterday, while a press conference of priests in the encampment of the farmers was ongoing. The priests in said press conference expressed to support and join the farmers' march on Monday (Dec. 17) to Malacanang for a dialogue with Pres. Arroyo.

Upon receiving the order, the farmers felt disgusted and insulted. Instead of being gratified, the order only raised more anger and frustration from the farmers.

As worded, the "order" does not command SMFI to cease and desist from undertaking any development in the subject property, because it clearly allows SMFI to continue its ongoing development in the area.

At around 2pm, the farmers together with their lawyers called for a press briefing to explain that the order of Pangandaman is not a cease and desist order.

The farmers condemned the order. Mr. Rene Penas, one of the Sumilao farmers, even burned the document. Mr. Penas, as with the other farmers, feel that the order was one sided and favors SMFI. Further, their anger was further aggravated with the provision of the order commanding them to "respect SMFI's ownernship and possession of the property."

In continuing their indignation against said order, the farmers made a "noise barrage" for more than 20 minutes. After the noise barrage, they chanted their call for the issuance of a genuine cease and desist order, which was subsequently followed by a community prayer and lighting of candles.

At around 7:30 pm, Rock Ed Philippines offered the Sumilao farmers a mini-concert. Among the performers are Tribu, Noel Cabangon, Rico Blanco, Village Idiot, and Vin Dancel. The farmers also sang a song by Buklod, "Buhay at Bukid" together with Pilipinas Palma of BALAOD Mindanaw and their lawyer (Atty. Bag-ao).

It was not until 10pm that they felt their hunger. But while they were eating their dinner, songs of support and sympathy from the artists continued to echo in the night.



Preliminary Issues

The Instant Case Is Different From The Supreme Court Case Of Fortich Vs. Corona

The instant Petition involves a new case with a totally different cause of action from the first Office of the President (OP) case with No. 96-C-6424, issued by then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres, granting NQSRMDC's application for the conversion order . The first OP case pertains to the approval of the conversion order of the subject land which was affirmed by the Supreme Court in the case of Fortich vs. Corona.

It is important to clarify that the instant case does not seek to assail the abovementioned Decision of the Office of the President. Rather, this Petition is a separate though related remedy provided under the law; revocation of the conversion order because NQSRMDC and/or SMFI failed and continues to fail compliance with the conditions in the conversion order, both those NQSRMDC itself has enumerated in its approved application and those legal provisions and administrative issuances necessarily attached to said conversion order.

That matter being clarified, petitioners hereby assert that the Supreme Court case Fortich vs. Corona does not serve as an obstacle to the determination of this petition, as opposed to the assertion of the respondent SMFI based on the following reasons:

1. The petition for revocation is not barred by res judicata because the Fortich vs. Corona decision was not an adjudication on the merits;

2. There is no identity between the causes of action in the said case and in the instant Petition for Cancellation of the Conversion Order;

3. The Petition for Cancellation is not barred by conclusiveness of judgment; and

4. The petitioners have legal standing in the instant case.

The Petition for Cancellation is not

barred by Res Judicata

For res judicata to serve as an absolute bar to a subsequent action, the following requisites must concur: (1) there must be a final judgment or order; (2) the court rendering it must have jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties; (3) it must be a judgment or order on the merits; and (4) there must be between the two cases identity of parties, subject matter and causes of action . Applying the foregoing requisites to the present petition, it is apparent requisites are absent.

There is no final judgment or order in the instant Petition for Cancellation

As stated above, the instant petition is an original action which seeks the cancellation of the conversion order issued to NQSRMDC and its successor-in-interest SMFI. There is no final judgment on the matter. The petition should not be confused with the Fortich case since the crux of the controversy in the latter case was whether the OP can still modify its own decision which had already attained finality. On the other hand, the instant petition seeks the cancellation of the approved conversion order for non-compliance with its conditions.

The Fortich v. Corona Decision was not an adjudication on the merits

An adjudication on the merits is a decision on a controversy or a determination of the rights and liabilities of the parties in a given case. The Fortich v. Corona decision is not an adjudication on the merits because:

  1. The case did not determine the substantial issues since the Supreme Court ruled that the DAR failed to file its Motion for Reconsideration on time, thereby allowing the Conversion Order issued by then Executive Secretary Torres to lapse into finality;
  2. The petition filed therein was one for certiorari under under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court against then Deputy Executive Secretary Renato C. Corona and DAR Secretary Ernesto D. Garilao and not an appeal or review of the DAR decision/ruling;

  1. The ground invoked was grave abuse of discretion and acts beyond jurisdiction – not errors of judgment, as the Court itself declared;

  1. The certiorari petition assailed the "Win-Win" Resolution only on the ground that it was issued without or in excess of jurisdiction and merely sought the review of then Sec. Corona's disposition, and not that of DAR. The main issue before the Court was whether the final and executory Decision dated 29 March 1996 can still be substantially modified by the "Win-Win" Resolution;

  1. The Court merely stated that Sec. Corona committed grave abuse of discretion and acted beyond his jurisdiction in issuing the "Win-Win" Resolution on the ground that he has no authority to modify a final and executory decision; and

  1. It is conclusive only with respect to the lack of authority of Sec. Corona to modify a final and executory decision .

There is no identity of parties and of causes of action

Moreover, there is no identity of parties. In the Fortich case, the petitioners were Bukidnon Governor Carlos O. Fortich, Sumilao Mayor Rey B. Baula, NQSRMDC and the respondents were Deputy Executive Secretary Renato C. Corona, DAR Secretary Ernesto D. Garilao, while the MAPALAD farmers were the intervenors. In the instant Petition for Cancellation, the petitioners are the farmers, majorioty of whom belong to the Higaonon Tribe, of which 78 are memebers of the MAPALAD-MPC and 99 are members of SALFA in San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon, seeking to cancel the conversion order previously given to NQSRMDC and to enjoin SMFI from proceeding illegally with its hog farm project. There is also no identity in the causes of action in the Fortich case and the instant Petition for reasons already stated above.

Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw (BALAOD Mindanaw)
Door 3 Balay Mindanaw SIAD Peace Center
53A 12th St., zone II, Upper Bulua
9000 Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines
+63 8822 738794
+63 8822 738794 (telefax)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

JVP Dinner with the Sumilao Farmers

I am very grateful that the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines (JVP) National Office has initiated this Dinner with the Sumilao Farmers tonight.

We have shown our support by joining them in their march, spreading the information about their advocacy and now, it is more rightful to be with them in the table, knowing them and listening to their stories and struggle. This is a very worthy way to celebrate the Human Rights Day.

I was in Sumilao last week, the time when Sec. Pangandaman was there having a dialogue with the farmer's family. I saw in them the deep desire of not wanting more than anything but their piece of land, which is the source of their livelihood, the source of their identity, their source of life. The farmers are not not wanting anything else but justice delivered.

The Sumilao farmers have shown me in their Walk for Peace how it is to sacrifice and "die a little more" for a cause. I believe, as Jesuit Volunteers, we share with them when we say "magtaya at magpalaya". They have risked much. Their health, their families, their lives. I have seen the faces of their children, waiting with so much hope that their marching parents will be soon back home to be with them. At their age, they may not have totally understood by now the cause that their parents, relatives and neighbors are struggling for. But it is a cause intended for them. A dream for a future when their land is free from threats coming from the wealthy. A dream of simply living from reaping the fruits of their own land.]

The story of Sumilao Farmers has given me the opportunity to reassess my principles and the values (5s) that I have been trying to live being a former Jesuit Volunteer.

Much have been said. Much have been shown. Much more is yet to come.

May the essence of celebrating the Human Rights Day be with us all.

Monday, December 03, 2007

DAR Sec. Pangandaman visited Sumilao Community

I just came back from Sumilao just now.

With some other support groups from CDO and other farmer organizations from Bukidnon, we join the families of the marching farmers to face Sec. Pangandaman as he visited the community few hours ago. A dialogue was initiated and an investigation on the proposed Monterey piggery was conducted by the DAR Team. It was the position presented by the Sumilao farmers that there was a violation on the conversion order on the land since five years have already passed and the development plan was not implemented.

During the dialogue, the Secretary emphasized that they are not there to discuss the merits of the case but to check on the violations that were possibly committed by the meat company. He also promised that they will resolve the issue the soonest time possible but he did not give details on how much time needed before the issue is resolved.

Some people, who were said to be farmers and IPs coming from nearby communities also picketed in front of the Monterey gate showing their support to the piggery project. The people, showing their tarpaulin streamers did not intimidate the "trapal" streamers of the Sumilao Farmers as the two groups were separated by the concrete road. Ration of bottled water were given to the Monterey supporters compared to the ration of cooked cassava prepared by the Sumilao farmers.Near noontime, the rain poured prompting the two groups to disperse, both groups equally wet. Some media groups were also present to cover the event.

Two of the community elders flew to Manila this afternoon to join their members and to offer a traditional ritual for the group.

Let us continue showing our support to the Sumilao Farmers.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Letter of Solidarity to the Sumialo Farmers from the Bishop of Bukidnon

Here is a Letter of Support from the Bishop of Bukidnon in solidarity with the Sumilao farmers. This letter is supported by 133 religious priests,nuns and brothers during their recent gathering last month.

Here is the letter from the Bishop: ( as forwarded by a contact from Balaod)

Seiptember 20, 2007

Her Excellency



Republic of the Philippines

MalacaƱang Palace

Your Excellency: Peace!

I am writing to you to highly endorse the petition of the SUMILAO FARMERS (their letter to me enclosed) to reclaim their land covering a total of 144 hectares located in San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon. Here is the summary of their decade-long struggles.

Their struggles to reclaim their ancestral land dated back to year January 1990 when the DAR issued a Notice of Coverage over the 144 hectare of land owned by Norberto Quisumbing Sr. Instead of respecting the Rule of Law, the latter applied for land conversion from agricultural to non-agricultural classification. In 1994, DAR Secretary Ernesto Garilao denied the conversion and finally awarded the land to the SUMILAO FARMERS. But the Quisumbings brought the case to the Office of the President and the ruling was reversed by then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres, validating the conversion of land from agricultural to non-agricultural classification. The Sumilao Farmers brought the case to the Street of Quezon City, went on hunger strike for 28 days until President Ramos came up with a "Win-win Resolution". 100 hectares were awarded to the SUMILAO FARMERS and the 44 hectares to the Quisumbings. But that was not the end of it. The Quisumbings brought the case to the Supreme Court, which resulted to the reinstatement of the Torres Resolution and the invalidation of the Ramos Resolution. The year was 1999. Since then the land remains idle; no structural development as promised by the Quisumbings. Then, in 2002, the Quisumbings sold the land to the San Miguel Foods, Inc. That was a direct violation to the Torres Resolution because the San Miguel Foods, Inc. plans to put up a piggery farm on the 144 hectares ancestral land. Because of this, the SUMILAO FARMERS filed a Petition for the Cancellation of the Conversion Order dated November 3, 2004. Until today there are still waiting for your final decision.

Madam President, your kind attention to this concern is highly appreciated by all concerned. A solution to this problem will surely bring light and abundance not only to the SUMILAO FARMERS' families but also to their children and their children's children.

Here is hoping for the peaceful and fruitful resolution of this almost two (2) decades old struggle of our indigenous sisters and brothers.

In Our Lord,


Bishop of Malaybalay


This is one thing to be grateful for. The Sumilao march has indeed gathered support from the different walks of life, from fellow farmers, popular commentators, the academe etc.

i hope your organization can also present a letter of solidarity. If you can, please direct it to:

you can also sign the online petition through:

Padayon mga Kauban!

The Sumilao March is already in Manila!

The Sumilao March is now already in Manila. The march is close to its end but it is actually a beginning to a new future for the Sumilao Farmers.

Sec. Pangandaman of DAR is going to visit Sumilao, Bukidnon tomorrow (Dec 4) to investigate and meet families of the marchers. Hope the visit will turn positive in favor for the farmers.

Let us all join them in their struggle by showing our support in the upcoming activities in the next few days.

To view the some video footages of the march, please follow the link below.

More other videos are available at youtube. Please forward this video to all of your contacts and friends,so we can spread the Sumilao Struggle.

Mabuhay ang mga Mag-uuma!
Mabuhay ang Sumilao Farmers!