, JANUARY 22, 2007 (STAR) By Katherine Adraneda - San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI) has contested the revocation order of the Office of President (OP) reverting the classification of the disputed 144-hectare property in Sumilao, Bukidnon to agricultural use.

It also accused the OP of violating a cardinal principle of due process when it issued the directive last Dec. 18.

In its 30-page motion for reconsideration filed before the OP last Jan. 18, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, the SMFI questioned the authority of the OP to reclassify the controversial property, which the company bought from the Norberto Quisumbing SR Management and Development Corp. (NQSRMDC) in 2002, from the current agro-industrial use to agricultural use.

According to SMFI, a critical component of due process is a hearing before an impartial and disinterested tribunal. It also noted that the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the revocation order by the OP showed that its right to due process was “blatantly violated.”

It also pointed out that prior to the issuance of the revocation order, President Arroyo, along with a few of her government officials, met twice with the Sumilao farmers, their counsels and supporters without any representative from the company.

It noted that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), to which the OP remanded the Sumilao case, has yet to submit its recommendations to the OP when Mrs. Arroyo and her government officials were reported to have “outlined a decision” in order to resolve the request of the farmers.

The SMFI claimed that the DAR recommendation was submitted only to the OP on Dec. 18, 2007.

The SMFI said the DAR recommendation and the OP’s revocation order were issued on the same day, as both were dated Dec. 18, 2007.

“Since the DAR recommendation has not yet been submitted during this time, this means the outcome thereof had been pre-determined,” the SMFI explained.

“The foregoing circumstances clearly show that this Honorable Office has become totally biased towards the petitioners (farmers). It has lost the cold neutrality of an impartial judge, the bedrock of the right to due process,” it also said.

Moreover, the SMFI said: “(The) revocation order disregarded one of the cardinal principles of administrative due process, i.e., ‘in arriving at a decision, the tribunal must have acted on its own consideration of the law and the facts of the controversy and must not have simply accepted the views of a subordinate.”

In the same motion for reconsideration (MR), the SMFI argued that the annulment of the conversion order for the 144-hectare land, which was issued in March 1996 by the OP through then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres, could not be allowable since the Supreme Court had already ruled in August 1999 that the so-called Torres order is final and executory.

Torres’ order allowed the conversion of the disputed 144-hectare property from agricultural to agro-industrial use.

The Dec. 18 order aimed to revoke the Torres order, reverting the land’s classification to agricultural use, and pave the way for the distribution of the land to the Sumilao farmers.

Meanwhile, Palace officials, without giving details of the appeal, said that SMFI can again appeal, if necessary, the President’s decision on the motion for reconsideration within 15 days before the court.

“We will act on this with dispatch and observe due process as well,” Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite said, adding the matter would be elevated to the office of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita after processing.

He said the OP would make official statements on the matter when warranted.

Another Palace official, however, said there is no strict rule on how long the OP should act on the MR. The official noted that the matter was an administrative case, adding the lower courts are normally enjoined to act on cases within 90 days.

Ermita earlier said Mrs. Arroyo has already done everything she could to help the farmers reclaim the land. – With Paolo Romero

Sumilao farmers hit Quisumbing petition By Katherine Adraneda Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A simple dirty, dilatory tactic.

This was how Sumilao farmers dismissed the petition filed by the Norberto Qui­sumbing SR Management and Development Corp. before the Supreme Court, even as they expressed suspicions over the “abrupt” interest of the Qui­sumbing family in the case involving the controversial 144-hectare property in Bukidnon.

Lawyer Arlene Bag-ao, legal counsel of the farmers, said it was strange that after “years of silence” the Quisumbing family suddenly entered the scene “at the very last moment.”

The NQSRMDC last week filed a petition, asking the SC for a restraining order against the Dec. 18-order of President Arroyo that revoked the conversion order issued to the property by former Executive Secretary Ruben Torres.

Mrs. Arroyo’s order, in effect, reverted the classification of the land from agro-industrial to agricultural and should pave the way for the distribution of the 144-hectare land to the farmers.

The NQCRMDC is the former landowner of the contested estate, which is now being developed by the San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI), a subsidiary of food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. (SMC).

“We have filed the petition to revoke the conversion order as early as 2004 when the five-year period for the completion of the compliance of the conversion order expired. We heard nothing from Quisum­bing for three long years. He did not intervene in our case in the DAR and neither did he intervene when the petition was filed in the Office of the President,” Bag-ao said.

“Then, all of a sudden he questions the Dec. 18 (Office of the President) order. This is clearly an attempt to delay the distribution of the land and he (Quisumbing) does not even have a legal standing in the case pending in the Office of the President,” she also said.

Bag-ao, however, noted that the case in the Office of the President is not yet over because the petition of the Sumilao farmers for the issuance of a cease-and-desist order has not yet been resolved.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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