May 23, 2024

■  Ofelia C. Empian 

The barangay council of Wangal in La Trinidad, Benguet is appealing to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to issue an order that will ensure transparency in the selection of beneficiaries over public lands in the barangay. 

In a resolution, the barangay council together with the indigenous peoples of Wangal urged the President to issue an order mandating the Department of Agrarian Reform and Benguet State University to adopt transparent rules in the implementation of Executive Order 75, s. of 2019 in the selection of beneficiaries and award of lots under the program.

EO 75-2019 directs all “departments, bureaus, offices and and instrumentalities of the government to identify lands owned by the government devoted to or suitable for agriculture for distribution to qualified beneficiaries.”

The issuance of the EO was earlier welcomed by the IPs of Wangal, who for a long time have been asking the government for the portion of land being managed by the BSU as a school reservation.

Since the 1950s, the indigenous cultural communities of Wangal have been voicing out their concerns regarding land ownership over portions of the BSU reservations.

In 1955, President Ramon Magsaysay ordered Proclamation 209 which decrees the release of lands from the school reservations to the native occupants.  

But due to the strong opposition from school authorities, Proclamation 209 was never implemented.

The resolution alleged that instead of the IPs, “several high ranking school authorities and other high ranking government officials obtained land titles for themselves from portions of the school reservations using Proclamation 209.” 

“The natives’ eager expectation turned into frustration because of lack of transparency and public consultation. The manner of identifying the beneficiaries and the areas to be awarded were not done through the adoption of implementing rules that should have been published after consultations with stakeholders,” it stated.

It added the selection of beneficiaries and the identification of areas to be awarded were conducted by BSU personnel and DAR without validation by the parties.

This resulted in DAR reserving 11 hectares of lands for BSU and another two hectares for a cooperative.

The council stated the IPs feared that the 11 hectares reserved as certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) for BSU might be distributed “to the personnel of BSU and DAR or to their agents or dummies to be divided between and among themselves.”

As for the two hectares, the IPs alleged that this was reserved to a non-existing cooperative, which might end up to select individuals. 

It added that DAR and BSU should also conduct a public consultation with all stakeholders to explain the mechanism for the selection of beneficiaries and award of CLOAs in the implementation of the EO 75-2019.

Copies of the resolution were also forwarded to the office of the municipal mayor, municipal council of La Trinidad, Office of the Governor, provincial board, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera, DAR and BSU, Usec. Napoleon Galit of the Legal Affairs and concurrent Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance director, and Usec. for Field Operations Kazel Celeste of the Kagawaran ng Repormang Pansakahan.