DAR chief, 8 others face contempt charges

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
Last updated 09:45pm (Mla time) 07/18/2007

BACOLOD CITY — Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and eight others are facing contempt charges before the Supreme Court in relation to the installation of Task Force Mapalad (TFM) beneficiaries at a sugar farm in Negros Occidental.


The Supreme Court ordered Pangandaman and others to explain why they should not be cited in contempt of court for installing TFM beneficiaries in Hacienda Velez Malaga in La Castellana, Negros Occidental despite a pending case.


Mario Diaz, lawyer of landowner Roberto Cuenca, said he received on Friday a copy of the Supreme Court en banc resolution dated June 5.


The Supreme Court issued the order to Pangandaman and to Department of Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Narciso Nieto, Undersecretary Jeffrey Galan, regional director Alexis Arsenal, and provincial agrarian reform officer Stephen Leonidas.


Also told by the court to explain why they should not be cited in contempt are Philippine National Police regional director Superintendent Reynaldo Rafal, 11th Infantry Battalion commander Colonel Jess Manangquil, 6th Regional Mobile Group commander Senior Superintendent Pedro Merced, and La Castellana police chief Senior Inspector Regidor Alvarado.


Diaz said Cuenca’s camp urged the DAR to wait for the resolution of a pending case involving Hacienda Velez Malaga but their appeal to hold off the installation of TFM beneficiaries fell on deaf ears.


The Supreme Court, taking cognizance of their motion for contempt, affirmed Cuenca’s position for DAR to wait for the court’s final decision before taking any action in Hacienda Velez Malaga, Diaz added.


However, Pangandaman said on Wednesday that DAR is not a party to the case pending before the Supreme Court as it was the TFM that went to the high tribunal to question the Court of Appeals ruling on Velez Malaga.


But Diaz said that while TFM intervened in the case and filed a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court, DAR remained the main party in the case.


Cuenca filed a complaint before the La Carlota Regional Trial Court against DAR after it cancelled Cuenca’s title of ownership and issued a certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) in the names of the TFM members, Diaz said.


In his complaint filed against DAR, Cuenca sought to annul the land reform coverage of Hacienda Velez Malaga on the ground that it was beyond the four-year-period prescribed by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, Diaz said.


The La Carlota court cancelled the CLOA issued for Velez- Malaga in 2002 because it violated the writ of preliminary injunction issued earlier by the RTC, he added.


DAR questioned the order before the Court of Appeals but the appellate court sustained the RTC decision, Diaz said.


“In effect, the writ of preliminary injunction on DAR’s action in Velez Malaga still exists,” he said.


Pangandaman, however, said there were no grounds to charge them in contempt of the Supreme Court when they installed the beneficiaries.


He said the Supreme Court previously ruled that the courts have no jurisdiction over agrarian reform cases. Hence, he said, the cancellation of the CLOA for Velez Malaga was not valid.


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