Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Luisita farmers dare DAR officials: Tear down Cojuangco-Aquino landgrab walls

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura

Hacienda Luisita farmers led by AMBALA held a picket protest before the DAR Provincial Office (PARO) in Tarlac City today to condemn the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) complicity with the shameless land grab efforts of President Aquino’s family. Farmers slammed the DAR for its failure to implement a cease and desist order (CDO) to stop Cojuangco-Aquino landgrabbing in the controversial sugar estate.

“The DAR must stop the continued bulldozing and fencing of agricultural lands by the Cojuangco-Aquino owned Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC) and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT),” said Christopher Garcia, spokesperson of Luista farmworkers alliance AMBALA.

AMBALA filed an urgent cease and desist petition against TADECO eviction, 27 December 2013. TADECO continues to evict farmers from their lots despite a notice of land reform coverage issued by the DAR for the disputed area in Barangay (village) Balete, 17 December 2013. Local courts have also dismissed ejectment charges filed by TADECO against hundreds of farmers in the said areas.

Until now, the DAR has done nothing to stop aggressive landgrabbing efforts by the Cojuangco-Aquino family, which has now covered several Luisita villages aside from Balete – Lourdes, Cutcut, Central and Mapalacsiao in Tarlac City and parts of Parang village in Concepcion town. The village center of Barangay Balete is now literally surrounded by concrete fences on all directions except its side facing the Luisita Access Road infront of the Las Haciendas Subdivision and CAT.

The CAT is bulldozing and fencing off 214 more hectares of agricultural lands in Mapalacsiao. AMBALA asserts that parcels of agricultural land which the DAR should have included for distribution may reach around a thousand hectares.

Instead of stopping the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ landgrab spree, the DAR recently announced that it is now accepting lot applications for would-be “farmer –beneficiaries” in contested TADECO property in Hacienda Luisita.  Today is the first day of lot application for 100 hectares of land in barangay Cutcut, while applications for the 258-hectare property in barangay Balete will commence on April 1st.

“If they are indeed serious in implementing land reform, these DAR officials must be the ones to tear down the concrete walls installed by this insatiable landlord family, and let farmers till their land in peace,” said Florida Sibayan, AMBALA Chairperson.

Sibayan’s hut and crops were among those destroyed by Cojuangco-hired thugs last 8 February, President Aquino’s birthday. Twelve farmers including Sibayan’s husband Willy, filed new complaints of malicious mischief, grave coercion, illegal detention before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last Thursday. The DAR and the DOJ have yet to act on petitions and complaints filed by hundreds of farmers against TADECO.

These contested lands, Ambala has been consistently asserting, have been excluded from the total area of distributable Hacienda Luisita lands through the cunning manoeuvres of the Cojuangco-Aquino’s and with the complicity of the DAR. According to Sibayan, these lands must be covered by the DAR for distribution as per the explicit provision of the Supreme Court ruling of 24 April 2012 which instructs the DAR to find and award to the farmers all other agricultural lands besides the 4,915 hectares officially declared distributable. AMBALA filed a motion in last January to cite the DAR and TADECO in contempt of the SC decision.

The lands meanwhile which have been supposedly included in the land distribution process, according to Ambala, have not yet been physically awarded to the Luisita farm worker beneficiaries. These lands are instead being usurped and controlled by sugar cane production financiers who are Cojuangco-Aquino dummies and direct agents of the CAT.

“The DAR makes it appear that making farmers fight each other over farmlots is the normal course of land reform in Hacienda Luisita. These lot applications for the TADECO areas will sow more confusion and chaos among so-called ‘farmworker-beneficiaries. Disunity among farmers serves the interests of the Cojuangcos,’” said Sibayan.

New press statements from the (DAR) promise yet again that the so-called “installation of farmworker-beneficiaries” (FWBs) in Hacienda Luisita will be complete this May. The DAR report however, cites actual conflicts between farmers due to the chaotic land distribution process via lottery drum raffle, where the farmlots tilled by farmers for nearly a decade via the bungkalan initiative were allocated to new “beneficiaries.”

Ranmil Echanis, secretary general of UMA and one of the convenors of the Luisita Watch network, said that “the land distribution farce in Luisita and the unchecked violent bullying of the Cojuango-Aquino’s only prove the bankruptcy of the CARPER and thus the need to finally enact the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, a progressive legislation which landlord dynasties in Congress have long been opposing.”

Gi Estrada
media officer

Christopher Garcia
AMBALA spokesperson

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
(Agricultural Workers Union)

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