Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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BS Aquino, DAR should be held accountable for continued agrarian unrest in Hacienda Luisita

Cojuangcos wreak renewed land grab, terror with impunity

“Noong Oktubre, nagdeklara ang DAR na ‘tapos na ang pagdurusa’ ng mga magbubukid sa Hacienda Luisita dahil namigay na sila ng kopya ng mga CLOA. Pero ano’ng nangyayari ngayon? Pinabuldoser ng mga Cojuangco ang mga palay, kinasuhan at pinapalayas ang daan-daang magsasaka. Ito ba ang pinagmamalaki nilang reporma sa lupa?” [Back in October, the Department of Agrarian Reform declared that the sufferings of the peasants of the Hacienda Luisita are over, since they have already distributed copies of the Certificates of Land Ownership Award. But what is happening right now? The Cojuancos have ordered the bulldozing of our rice fields, hundreds of peasants are mercilessly evicted from their lands. Is this the land reform program they are so proud of?”], said Christopher Garcia, spokesperson of Hacienda Luisita farm workers alliance AMBALA.

The CLOA certificate copies only serve as amortization notices, which run counter to farmers’ demands for free land distribution in Hacienda Luisita.

Since 12 December, hirelings of the Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) have ruthlessly cleared more than 30 hectares of ricelands and other foodcrop plantations by farmers in Barangay (village) Balete. TADECO and DAR both claim that some hundreds of hectares of agricultural lands in Tarlac City villages are not covered by the historic 2012 Supreme Court ruling to distribute Hacienda Luisita to farm worker beneficiaries (FWBs).

“This is a total lie,” said Garcia. The DAR’s own records attest that agricultural lands under TADECO’s name were already up for distribution to land reform beneficiaries through a notice of coverage (NOC) the DAR issued in 2 January 2006. This notice is based on the resolution of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) under former Pres. Arroyo to revoke the Stock Distribution Option land reform scheme and finally distribute Hacienda Luisita to farmworkers. This same PARC resolution was halted through a temporary restraining order filed by the Cojuangcos before the Supreme Court. This eventually led to the historic SC ruling in 2011 and 2012, in favor of farmworkers.

TADECO’s aggressive claims on vast agricultural lands coincided with the DAR’s land distribution activities in Hacienda Luisita starting last July. While the DAR enforced land allocation to thousands of farmworkers beneficiaries through anomalous lottery raffles in all barangays,  TADECO conspicuously set up outposts and armed security guards around choice agricultural lots in Barangays Balete and Cutcut. Hundreds of farmers were sent eviction letters by TADECO and are now facing unlawful detainer charges before local courts. Meanwhile, more than half of farmworker beneficiaries in Tarlac City are to face grave inconveniences and dislocation due to the distant location of the 0.66 hectare farmlots allocated to them by the DAR.

“During a dialogue in October, DAR officials promised us that they would release a report on TADECO by December. The DAR led by BS Aquino’s alter-ego, Sec. delos Reyes, should halt its charade of so-called research and verification of the agricultural nature of these contested lands because the naked eye can see that aside from sugarcane, these lands are obviously planted to palay, fruit trees and vegetables. The DAR’s promise to send out a new notice of coverage only aims to cover up its criminal collusion with the Cojuangco-Aquino family to subvert and sabotage the SC’s historic ruling on Hacienda Luisita,” said Ranmil Echanis, deputy secretary general of  Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA, Agricultural Workers Union).

“President Aquino is only quick to respond when it comes to interests of big business and the landlord class. He can be so hands-on and personally inspect police operations in places like Serendra or SM North Edsa for the Henry Sy and Ayala types. In Hacienda Luisita, he can only tolerate the heavy deployment of police and military personnel in full battle gear and army tanks to assist his relatives’ renewed land grabbing efforts. Hacienda Luisita farmers are now real beneficiaries, not of land reform but of state terror and ruthless impunity under this landlord president,” said Echanis.

A 40-page fact-finding report released by UMA last November further recommends a stop to all development projects in Hacienda Luisita pending the resolution of continued agrarian disputes between the Cojuangcos and farmers. “Hundreds of farmers are now being driven away from their farmlands to give way to “soon-to rise” projects, but all 10 barangays of Hacienda Luisita could be totally wiped out in favor of malls and parking lots if the Cojuangcos had their way.”

Source Verification:
Christopher Garcia
Spokesperson – AMBALA
CP # 09293200615

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