MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte had a dialogue with picketing farmers at the foot of Mendiola bridge Tuesday.
The farmers, who belonged to peasant organizations from Tagum, Davao del Norte and other parts of the Davao region, wanted to reclaim the lands that had already been awarded to them but are still controlled by wealthy landowners.
The President expressed his disappointment over the courts’ usual practice of issuing temporary restraining orders (TROs) that affect the government’s administrative powers.
“Nandiyan iyan palagi iyang TRO, TRO ninyo, hindi nakagalaw ang gobyerno. ‘Wag ninyo gawin ‘yan, kasi mabaho na style ‘yan (These TROs are always there, restraining the government),” he said.
He said he is against exerting undue influence that oppresses poor people, stressing he won the presidency through the support of the masses.
“Ibalik ninyo sa tao ‘yung lupa nila. Ipagbili ko kasi kailangan ko pang magpagawa ng ospital, magpagawa ng eskwelahan, magpagawa ng bahay kasi nag-agawan na nga itong mga sundalo natin (Return the land to the people. I still need to build hospitals, schools, housing for the military),” he said, referring to controversial properties that remain in the hands of the rich and influential.
The President instructed the Department of Agrarian Reform to distribute lands intended for farmers, so long as the properties comply with the requirements of the law.
On May 1, 200 banana plantation farm workers belonging to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. (MARBAI) in Tagum, Davao del Norte set up a picket in Mendiola, demanding the return of land previously awarded to them.
They want President Duterte to intervene and direct Lapanday Food Corp. to turn over the lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries, end violent attacks against the farmers, and implement a genuine land reform program.
The farmers of MARBAI became the beneficiaries of the government’s land reform program in 1996.