DAR should get Binay 'Hacienda' in Batangas - Miriam Santiago

    MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a former agrarian reform secretary, said on Thursday that the controversial hacienda belonging either to vice-president Jejomar Binay or his friend Antonio Tiu indicates illegality by its size alone.

    350-ha Hacienda Binay in Batangas
    Alleged Hacienda Binay in Rosario, Batangas | Photo Credit: PhilStar.com

    "Whether the hacienda is 145 or 350 hectares, it is in violation of the agrarian reform law, which limits land ownership to only five hectares," she said. "The legality of the existence of an hacienda which, by definition, is a huge tract of land, is deeply suspicious, and may have involved the crimes of falsification of public documents, and of illegal conversion of agricultural land," she said.

    "The size of the hacienda alone indicates non-compliance with the intent of the agrarian reform law, which was to break up haciendas and sell them to the farmers. Normally, nobody in Rosario, Batangas where the hacienda is located, should own more than five hectares of land," Santiago said.

    Tiu has claimed ownership of the hacienda, by invoking an alleged one-page memorandum of agreement - not notarized - between himself and the alleged owner Laureano Gregorio.

    However, Santiago said that the DAR has no record that Gregorio is a landowner in that area. "The alleged original landowner is not a landowner in the DAR records. If so, then he could only have been a farmer. But again, the DAR records show that it has never issued any document to Gregorio as a farmer," Santiago said.

    Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the DAR has to issue a CLOA (Certificate of Land Ownership Award) or EP (Emancipation Patent) before a person can claim ownership of agricultural land.

    "If Gregorio was not an owner or a farmer-beneficiary, presumably he is a poseur or a fraud. And Tiu is lying when he claims that he bought the land from this poseur. Thus, Tiu is liable for contempt for telling fairy tales," the senator said.

    Santiago said that even assuming Gregorio is a landowner or a farmer-beneficiary, he could not have sold the property within ten years from registration without DAR approval.

    She added that neither could Gregorio lease the property because it requires prior clearance from the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC).

    The only exception for sale of agricultural land under agrarian reform is that land was converted in its classification from agricultural to commercial or residential land. But this needs DAR approval, and the DAR has no conversion application on record filed by Gregorio.

    "When I was agrarian reform secretary, the most scandalous source of corruption in the DAR was the rampant illegal conversion of agricultural land to residential or commercial land. Hence, after reading about the humongous size of the land, my eyebrows rose up to my hairline," the senator said.

    Santiago also pointed out that according to records DAR has approved the conversion of only 87 hectares in Rosario town.

    "How can an hacienda of 145 or 350 hectares be consolidated in Rosario, when only 87 hectares have been approved for conversion? Originally, land in Rosario was agricultural. How could it have been converted for an alleged agri-tourism business? Under the agrarian reform program, this mess stinks," Santiago said.

    The senator urged the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee to investigate both DAR officials and other persons for failure to place the alleged Tiu property under agrarian reform.

    She also urged an investigation of DAR officials and other persons responsible for what appears to be the conversion of the classification of land from agricultural to commercial in Rosario, Batangas.
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