#SONA2015 | Agriworkers slam gov’t solar projects in disputed lands in Luisita, Negros

PR SOLAR HL Negros

JULY 25, 2015  |  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer, 0916.611.4181

“Kung solar, paano kung makulimlim?”

As peasants and agricultural workers recall this absurd remark made by President Benigno Aquino III in one State of the Nation Address (SONA), the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) questions government’s motives in its sudden drive to build solar power plant projects.

A number of the solar plants, incidentally, are to be constructed in highly-controversial areas mired in agrarian dispute.

UMA Deputy Secretary General Ranmil Echanis remarked that “Solar power is now suddenly in vogue for this foolish president, because landlords like Aquino has made this supposedly noble and environment-friendly cause a justification and facade for landgrabbing, (Biglang nauso para sa ignoranteng presidente ang solar power, dahil ang isang layunin na dapat sana’y marangal at para sa pangangalaga ng kalikasan ay ginawa pang dahilan at pagtatakip sa pangangamkam ng mga panginoong maylupa na gaya ni Aquino.)”  

According to reports received by UMA, agricultural workers and supposed land reform beneficiaries will be affected and displaced by solar power plants to be built in disputed areas in Hacienda Luisita and Victorias City, Negros Occidental. Another solar project in Capas, Tarlac will further affect indigenous peoples and peasants currently embroiled in struggle against the lavish “development project,” Clark Green City.

UMA has earlier exposed that a public-private partnership (PPP) project between the Department of Energy (DoE) and PetroGreen Energy Corporation (PGEC) reported to be implemented “near Hacienda Luisita” is to be located right smack in a 50-hectare disputed agricultural area in barangays Balete and Lourdes (Texas) inside Hacienda Luisita.

The area is part of the 500-hectare property ceded by Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) to Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC) and Luisita Industrial Park, Co. (LIPCO) approved for land-use conversion by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) way back in 1996.

The Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita or AMBALA, UMA’s local affiliate in Tarlac, has a pending petition to revoke DAR’s conversion order.

Echanis said that “The PPP deal is highly-questionable since PetroGreen and RCBC are both under the majority ownership of the Yuchengcos, who are known business partners of the Aquino-Cojuangco family (Ang PPP na ito ay napaka-kwestyonable dahil ang PetroGreen at RCBC ay parehong pag-aari ng mga Yuchengo, na kilalang kasosyo ng mga Aquino-Cojuangco.)”

AMBALA’s petition reads: “HLI and its successors-in-interest (RCBC, LRC, LIPCO) violated the terms and conditions of the order for conversion order and the rules and regulations on conversion. The land remained agricultural in use and therefore should be placed under the coverage of the agrarian reform program.” According to DAR rules, land conversion must transpire within 5 years of the order. Even with an extension of another five years, the area remained idle and fit for agricultural use almost two decades after the DAR issued the permit to HLI.

A second solar plant will be constructed by SunAsia Energy Inc. in a 51.5495 hectare sugarcane plantation in Barangay 12, Victorias, Negros Occidental, in landholdings of the Maria C. Benedicto Agricultural Corporation.  On April 2014, the DAR issued a notice of coverage (NOC), meaning that the said area must be distributed to farmworker-beneficiaries.

Last July 16, thirty-seven (37) farmworker-families and actual occupants of the said land filed an opposition paper against land use conversion before the DAR’s Regional VI office in Jaro, Iloilo. The farmworkers are members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), UMA’s local affiliate in Negros.

UMA Acting Chairperson John Milton Lozande added that the government’s plans to build solar power plants in supposed land reform areas further highlight the uselessness of extending the land acquisition and distribution component of the pro-landlord Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“The Victorias solar project shows that NOCs and other land reform documents are but mere pieces of paper that government, landlords and private businesses can ignore anytime they wish, (Pinapatunayan lang ng solar project sa Victorias na ang mga NOC at iba pang dokumento ng CARP ay mga piraso lang ng papel na pwedeng isantabi ng gubyerno, mga panginoong maylupa at pribadong negosyo kailanman nila gustuhin.)

Lozande added that “Under bogus land reform of this landlord president, traditional bastions of feudalism like Hacienda Luisita and Negros remain landlord strongholds where injustice and impunity reign, (Sa ilalim ng pekeng reporma sa lupa ng hacienderong pangulo, ang mga tradisyunal na balwarte ng pyudalismo gaya ng Hacienda Luisita at Negros ay kontrolado pa rin ng mga panginoong maylupa, at nangingibabaw pa rin dito ang kawalan ng katarungan at pananagutan.)” Lozande is also the secretary-general of NFSW.

UMA and its member-organizations fully support the call to immediately enact House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) authored by Anakpawis Partylist.

Hacienda Luisita farmers led by AMBALA and other agriworkers groups under UMA will join nationwide protests on July 27, Aquino’s last State of the Nationa Address (SONA).

#SONA2015 | Hacienda Luisita Under Aquino

Hacienda Luisita sa ilalim ng hacienderong pangulo — puro panloloko, pandarahas at pangangamkam!

FACT SHEET ICONPuro Panloloko, Pandarahas at Pangangamkam (full of deception, violence and landgrabbing) – this is how Hacienda Luisita farmworkers under the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), the local affiliate of the national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)characterize the State of Hacienda Luisita under President BS Aquino. The president’s  Cojuangco-Aquino clan still controls the 6,453 hectare sugar estate.

Like his mother Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, President BS Aquino promised social justice and land reform in Hacienda Luisita as part of his electoral campaign. But Aquino’s actions speak differently. The Luisita Watch network was formed in 2014 to document government’s sham land distribution and the worsening human rights situation in Hacienda Luisita. Will these be mentioned in Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address on July 27?

champoTHE LANDMARK SUPREME COURT DECISION

After years of struggle, Hacienda Luisita farmers were favoured finally by the Supreme…

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Int’l Peoples’ Tribunal 2015: A victory of the Filipino People

INTERNATIONAL RELEASE | 19 JULY 2015

NEWS

post-verdict

The Philippines Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils) hails the conclusion of the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT 2015) in Washington, D.C. as it finds the US and Aquino governments guilty beyond doubt of rights violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The 32 witnesses and several experts braved all odds amid the intensifying crisis and political repression in the Philippines to testify on record before the tribunal.

The wealth of data, information, facts, analyses and other evidence clearly established the factual basis of the indictment, and the culpability of respondents Defendant Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Defendant Government of the United States of America.

We laud the panel of international jurors, prosecutors and staff of the tribunal as well as the militant and progressive peoples of the world who showed solidarity with the Filipino people in the fight for righteousness, justice and freedom.

The blood of our martyrs and victims of rights violations in the Philippines are not lost with the resounding success of the tribunal.

The guilty verdict on Pres. Aquino and the US government goes into the annals of the historic fight of the Filipino people against US imperialism and local reaction.

We are one with the IPT 2015 in calling “to seek redress, to pursue justice, and to transform this oppressive, exploitative and repressive global state of affairs exemplified by the experience and plight of the Filipino people, to challenge the international “rule of law”, and to construct a global order founded on full respect for the rights of all peoples, everywhere.”

We intend to pursue cases of rights abuses and violations as copies of the verdict reach the Prosecutor´s Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Inter-American, European, African, and Asian regional courts or systems, as well as lawyers associations, human rights defenders, law schools, and human rights programs of study throughout the world.

A significant stride has been made with IPT 2015 as we march forward ever more resolutely to punish the perpetrators, render justice for the victims and end impunity in the country.###

Visit the IPT website

Download evidence submitted

One hurt in frustrated extra-judicial killing of sugar workers in Negros Occidental

PR FEJK NEGROS

JULY 19, 2015 | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer, 0916.611.4181

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Download factsheet here

BACOLOD CITY — A farmer was wounded in an ambush allegedly perpetrated by goons of a local landlord in Salvador Benedicto town, Negros Occidental last Friday, July 17.

Reports received by the national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) stated that the victim, Ronel Bariga, was aboard a jeepney when two armed assailants in bonnets peppered the vehicle with caliber 9mm bullets. The driver, Ariel Ceballos, was left unharmed.

The attack left the jeepney with seven (7) bullet holes, grazing Bariga in the right side of his body while hitting only Ceballos’s shirt. The incident happened at around 3:00 pm of July 17, while the victims were on their way to Barangay Igmaya-an to gather wood in a property sold by ex-Mayor Nehemias de la Cruz to notorious landlord Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.

The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), UMA’s local affiliate in Negros, strongly condemned the attempted extra-judicial killing (EJK). UMA and NFSW believe that its local coordinator in Salvador Benedicto town, Alexander Ceballos, Ariel’s father and brother-in-law of Bariga, could be the original target of the said ambush allegedly perpetrated by goons of former Salvador Benedicto town mayor Nehemias de la Cruz.

According to UMA Acting Chairperson John Milton Lozande, sugar workers engaged in NFSW’s land cultivation campaign are constant targets of threats, intimidation and violent attacks by landlords with private armies and in cahoots with armed state forces.

“Alexander Ceballos, who actively leads the land cultivation campaign in Barangay Igmaya-an, has been receiving death threats from ex-Mayor dela Cruz’s camp. Dela Cruz is behind landgrabbing attempts involving a 25-hectare area made productive through the efforts of around 50 members of NFSW since 2013. The area is now planted to rice, corn, cassava, and bananas,” Lozande said. Lozande is also the secretary-general of NFSW.

On June 16, 2015, Jigger Costan, a bodyguard of dela Cruz threatened to kill Alexander and 11 other sugar workers. A few days before the incident, on July 14, Alexander and Ariel Ceballos received yet another threat from JR dela Cruz, the ex-Mayor’s son and active Sangguniang Bayan official. In a confrontation at the Bacolod office of the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO), the younger dela Cruz arrogantly told NFSW chairperson Rolando O. Rillo that they would file charges against Alexander and Ariel and vowed to seize NFSW’s land cultivation areas “no matter what.” PARO head Emily Vergara was present during the confrontation.

The disputed property used to be under the care of the late Eusebio Ginson, who acquired a free patent from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) but failed to develop the property continuously. De la Cruz, meanwhile, is said to have accumulated through intimidation, killings and illegal means, around 771 hectares of land seized from peasants during his and his family’s reign as local officials.

Lozande urged authorities to investigate and prosecute de la Cruz and his minions and to end the reign of terror inflicted upon farm workers and peasants in Salvador Benedicto. “Hundreds, even tens of thousands of hectares acquired by landlords like dela Cruz through violence and intimidation reflect the bogus land reform policy of the landlord President BS Aquino. The attempt to kill farmers in Salvador Benedicto is testament to the dismal failure of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), especially in Negros Occidental and Negros island, where landlordism still holds sway,” Lozande said.

Lozande added: “Land cultivation is not a crime. Land reform must provide land to the tiller. Aquino must be held accountable for bogus land reform and grave human rights violations against peasants in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27.”

Aside from investigations on the incident, UMA and NFSW also urge Congress to immediately pass House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB). ###

State of Luisita, videos, songs & champorado at Luisita Watch pre-SONA activity on July 20

champo

JULY 20, 2015, Monday, 4-6pm
UP College of Mass Communication Auditorium
Diliman, Quezon City

A week before President Benigno S. Aquino III’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA), Luisita Watch will mount a solidarity event and media conference on the state of agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita on July 20 (Monday), 4-6pm at the UP College of Mass Communication Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City.

To speak on the conditions of agricultural workers in Hacienda Luisita are resource persons from the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Dean Roland Tolentino of the UP College of Mass Communication and Ronalyn Olea of Bulatlat.com will also share their thoughts on the state of Hacienda Luisita under Aquino.

Short videos from Tudla Productions, Bulatlat.com and Molotov Pilipinas, and performances from the KM 64 Poetry Collective, General…

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Pahayag ng UMA sa Huling SONA ni BS Aquino

Sigaw ng mga manggagawa sa agrikultura: TAMA NA! TAPUSIN NA! TUWID NA DAAN NG HACIENDERONG PANGULO, PUNO NG PANGANGAMKAM, PANDARAHAS AT PANLOLOKO!

pahayag

Huling SONA – o State of the Nation Address – na ng hacienderong pangulong BS Aquino ngayong Hulyo 27. Aasahang uulanin na naman ang sambayanan ng pambobola at panloloko.

Ang Hacienda Luisita ang pinakamatingkad na patunay ng pagiging kontra-magsasaka ni Aquino. Sa loob ng limang taong panunungkulan, ginamit niya ang lahat ng rekurso ng gobyerno upang patuloy na ipagkait ang lupang makatarungang para sa magbubukid. Sa kabila ng utos ng Korte Suprema na ipamahagi na ang lupa at ipawalang-bisa ang bulok at mapanlinlang na Stock Distribution Option o SDO na ipinatupad dito, pinasahol na panloloko, pandarahas at pangangamkam ang naranasan ng manggagawang-bukid sa ilalim ni BS Aquino.

Ginunita ang sampung taon ng masaker sa Hacienda Luisita, ngunit mailap pa rin ang lupa at hustisya. Sa ilalim ni BS Aquino, dalawang beses binasura ang kaso laban sa pulis, militar at iba pang sangkot dito. Sa halip na maparusahan, promosyon ang iginawad ni BS Aquino sa mga berdugong opisyal na nanguna sa pagpaslang sa mga magsasaka, gaya ni Gen. Ricardo Visaya na hepe ng SOLCOM at ni AFP Chief Gregorio Catapang na kareretiro lang. Samantala, tuluy-tuloy ang paglabag sa karapatan ng mga magbubukid – pananakot, pagpatay, pagbuldoser sa mga pananim, panununog ng mga kubo, pananakit at ilegal na pag-aresto.

Korupsyon at panunuhol sa pamamagitan ng ilegal na Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) ang ginamit ng rehimen upang patalsikin ang dating punong mahistrado ng Korte Suprema na si Corona, para makontrol ang korte at muling makapagmaniobra sa Luisita ang kanyang pamilya at mga kasosyo. DAP din ang ginamit para bayaran ang pamilya Aquino-Cojuangco ng tumataginting na P471.5 milyon para sa lupaing patuloy na ipinagkakait sa mga magbubukid.

Samantala, iniraratsada na sa Luisita ang mga “proyektong pangkaunlaran” gaya ng solar project, pagpapalit-gamit ng lupa at pagbabalasa sa mga ari-arian ng mga Aquino-Cojuangco — na nagresulta na sa malawakang tanggalan ng trabaho sa asukarera, at maaaring humantong sa malawakang dislokasyon at pagpapalayas sa mga komunidad ng mga magbubukid. Ginigisa sa sariling mantika ang mga magbubukid na nawalan na ng trabaho, kabuhayan, at kontrol sa lupa dahil sa aryendo at rekonsentrasyon ng mga ito pabalik sa mga panginoong-maylupa.

Ang talamak na paglabag sa karapatang-pantao na kakambal ng huwad na reporma sa lupa sa Luisita ay salamin ng sitwasyon ng daan-libong manggagawang-bukid at manggagawa sa agrikultura sa buong bansa.

Tuta ng imperyalismo ang hacienderong pangulo, sunud-sunuran ito sa mga patakarang neoliberal na nagsusubasta ng ating likas-yaman at kalupaan para sa mga dayuhan. Pinirmahan kamakailan ni BS Aquino ang Sugar Industry Development Act o SIDA, na bagong gatasan ng kurakot ng mga haciendero, habang tinutugunan ng pamahalaan ang mga imperyalistang preskripsyon sa pagbaba ng taripa na papatay sa industriya ng asukal at may malaking epekto sa mga manggagawang-bukid sa tubuhan. Bukod sa pagpapalawig ng huwad na reporma sa lupa sa ilalim ng CARP, tinatangka ni BS Aquino na mailusot ang Charter Change o Cha-Cha upang bigyang daan ang 100% dayuhang pagmamay-ari sa mga agrikultural na lupain.

Palalalain ng Cha-Cha ang mga iskemang gaya ng SDO at Agribusiness Venture Arrangement o AVA. Sa ilalim ng AVA, legal na kinakamkam ng mga multinasyunal at transnayunal na kumpanya ang malalawak na lupaing agrikultural sa pamamagitan ng mga di-pantay na kasunduan at “sosyohan.” Sa AVA, ipinagkakait sa mga manggagawang-bukid ang lupain at kontrol sa malalawak na plantasyon ng produktong pang-eksport gaya ng pinya, saging at oil palm.

Nagreresulta rin ang AVA sa mas masahol na pagsasamantala sa mga manggagawa sa plantasyon, gaya ng napakababang pasahod, kontrakwalisasyon at kawalan ng benepisyo at seguridad sa trabaho. Patunay din ang AVA na tuluyan nang inabandona ng estado ang mga magsasaka at manggagawa sa agrikultura, dahil ibinubuyangyang nito sa mga dayuhang kapitalista ang pandarambong sa ating mga likas na rekurso at lakas-paggawa, at ang buong kontrol at pagtatakda sa gamit sa lupa, pananim, halaga at merkado ng mga produkto.

Ang mga iskema at patakarang ito ay sinusuhayan ng CARP. Kahit napatunayang maka-panginoong maylupa at gatasan ng korupsyon, nais pa ng hacienderong pangulo na palawigin ang pag-iral ng hungkag na batas na ito. Nagtapos na ang CARP noong Hunyo 2014. Para sa mga magsasaka, patay na ang CARP at dapat nang tuluyang ilibing. Mariing panawagan ng mga manggagawa sa agrikultura ang pagsasabatas ng HB 252 o Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) habang patuloy ang pakikibaka para sa lupa, sahod, trabaho, benepisyo at karapatan.

Sa ilalim ni Aquino, ang mga tagumpay na nakamit – gaya ng makasaysayang desisyon ng Korte Suprema sa Hacienda Luisita – ay pilit na pinawawalang-saysay at binabaliktad. Gayunman, lalo lamang napatunayan ng lumalawak na hanay ng mga magbubukid at manggagawa sa agrikultura sa buong bansa – ang masa na patuloy na nagmamartsa, naglulunsad ng welga, kampanyang bungkalan at iba pang anyo ng pakikibaka — na ang mga tagumpay na ito ay nakakamit sa pamamagitan ng sama-sama at sustenidong pagkilos para sa tunay na reporma sa lupa at pambansang industriyalisasyon.

Kaya tama na ang boladas! Walang pag-unlad, bagkus lugmok sa hirap ang mga magbubukid sa ilalim ng rehimeng BS Aquino. Limang taong walang pagbabago, tapusin na — patalsikin ang hacienderong rehimeng US-Aquino!

UNYON NG MGA MANGGAGAWA SA AGRIKULTURA

Sumama sa mga pagkilos!

July 23
KADENANG MAGSASAKA
Pambansang Koordinadong Pagkilos ng mga Magsasaka

July 26
SOLIDARITY NIGHT
DAR, QC, Circle

July 27
MARTSA SA ARAW NG SONA
Commonwealth QC

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Pahayag ng UMA so Huling SONA ni BS Aquino 2015

Anakpawis calls for cancellation of Hacienda Luisita solar park project

NEWS

ANAKPAWIS PARTYLIST | JULY 13, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – The militant Anakpawis Party-list called for the cancellation of the 50-megawatt Solar Park project of the PetroGreen Energy Corp. (PGEC), a subsidiary of PetroEnergy Resources Corp. (PERC), in partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE) under a service contract signed last March.

The site of the  P3.9 billion and 50-hectare project is part of the 500-hectare highly-disputed tracts of land in Brgys. Balete and Lourdes (Texas) inside Hacienda Luisita that had been approved for conversion by the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 1996, but with a pending petition for its revocation filed by the farm workers under Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala).  The said area is controlled by the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) and the Luisita Industrial Park Co. (LIPCO), firms that are connected to PERC and form part of the Yuchengo Group of Companies (YGC).

Mariin naming ipanapawagan ang cancellation ng project na yan dahil historically ang lupa ay pag-aari ng mga magsasaka at may pending petition yan sa DAR kung kaya dapat lang na hindi ituloy ang conversion,” (We strongly demand the project’s cancellation as its site is historically owned by the farm workers and it is a subject of a pending petition at DAR, and so it is only just and logical that its conversion should be stopped), Anakpawis Representative Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap said in a statement.

The militant legislator added that the conversion order must be revoked and land must be distributed to the farmworkers since the Cojuangco-Aquino firm Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) clearly violated the terms of DAR’s order. The area should have been developed within five years starting in 1996, but the same land remains agricultural in nature up to now almost 20 years after HLI’s request was granted by the DAR. In addition, the HLI has continued to defy the Supreme Court (SC) order that it should remunerate the farm workers with P1.3 billion from the amount it earned from the sale of the said 500-hectare property and the 80-hectare lands used by the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) project.

Hicap was arrested inside Hacienda Luisita in September 2013 for participating in a fact-finding mission investigating the land grabbing measures of the Cojuangco-Aquino family amid the thoughtless, and chaotic “tambiolo” system implemented by the DAR in distributing certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) to farm worker beneficiaries (FWBs).

Anakpawis said that the land is rightfully owned by the farm workers who on this same estate carried out a bungkalan (cultivation) campaign from 2005. In 2011, the farm workers set up a farming camp in the area which was however violently demolished in 2013 by armed guards and goons of the RCBC and the Cojuangco-Aquino family. Two years later, the solar park project is being promoted in lign with the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, a member of the powerful landlord and political Cojuangco-Aquino clan.

Malaking kaso ito ni Aquino bago ang kanyang SONA dahil ito ay napakalalang conflict of interest, gamit ang rekurso ng gubyerno at pondong mula sa mamamayan, para sa pakinabangan ng kanyang pamilya at mga kasosyo niyang mayayaman, habang inaagawan ng lupa at kabuhayan ang mga magsasaka ng Hacienda Luisita,” (This is a clear case of conflict of interest involving Aquino as it appears that he has been using government resources and public funds for the benefit of his clan and corporate partners while Luisita farmers remain landless and without livelihood; this is a gross public offense that must be highlighted especially as Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address draws near), Hicap said.

Anakpawis also condemned the continued fraudulent programs of Aquino that benefit his family such as the P471.5 million compensation for the lands of Hacienda Luisita covered by the CLOA distribution which was sourced from his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).   ###

See also UMA’s news release on Luisita solar project

PR solar

Probe P3.9B solar project in disputed Luisita land, agriworkers urge lawmakers

PR solar

JULY 9, 2015 | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer, 0916.611.4181

Agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) urged lawmakers to look into a P3.9 billion public-private partnership (PPP) project involving disputed property within the controversial Hacienda Luisita estate.

The proposed Tarlac Solar Power Project entered into by the Department of Energy (DoE) with the PetroGreen Energy Corporation(PGEC)last March was earlier reported to be located in a 50-hectare area “near Hacienda Luisita.”

However, documents obtained by farmworkers reveal that the solar plant is planned to be constructed in a disputed agricultural area located in barangays Balete and Lourdes (Texas) in Hacienda Luisita, according to Ranmil Echanis, UMA deputy secretary general.

The area is part of the 500-hectare property under the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) approved for land-use conversion by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in August 1996.

Part of this property was ceded to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) a few days after the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004. Some 200 hectares remain with the Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC), another Aquino-Cojuangco firm. While the area remains agricultural and undeveloped until now, the property is generally referred to by the media as part of the Luisita Industrial Park (LIP).

In 2012, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita or AMBALA, UMA’s local affiliate in Tarlac, filed a petition to revoke DAR’s conversion order. Armed security guards and goons hired by RCBC and the Aquino-Cojuangcos figured in violent attacks against Luisita farmers tilling portions of the disputed property.

AMBALA’s petition reads: “HLI and its successors-in-interest violated the terms and conditions of the order for conversion order and the rules and regulations on conversion. The land remained agricultural in use and therefore should be placed under the coverage of the agrarian reform program.

“HLI and its successors-in-interest clearly failed to comply with their obligations mandated under the conversion order. Specifically, HLI did not pursue the proposed development plan that was contained in the application for conversion and instead disposed of the 500 hectares to other Cojuangco-owned companies and to RCBC. It also failed to implement the development plan within 5 years from 14 August 1996, the time when the Order of Conversion was granted by the DAR.”

Echanis added: “While the Supreme Court’s (SC) HLI decision excluded this 500-hectare property from land distribution, Luisita farmers believe that their petition for revocation of DAR’s conversion order remains valid and relevant as the property is still fit for agricultural use. This area should have been covered by land reform even before the SC released its final decision.” AMBALA’s petition is still pending.

PetroGreen or PGEC is under the majority ownership of the Yuchengco Group of Companies which also owns RCBC. The Yuchengcos are known business partners of the Aquino-Cojuangcos in the Luisita Industrial Park, Co.(LIPCO).

“In one state of the nation address (SONA), Aquino even questioned the feasibility of solar power projects. Paano raw kung makulimlim? Now, is he allowing this PetroGreen project to make way for the landgrabbing efforts of his family and their business partners?” asked Echanis.

Hundreds of residents in Barangay Balete are among disgruntled farmworker-beneficiaries dislocated by the Aquino-Cojuangcos’ aggressive landgrabbing complemented by the DAR’s bogus land distribution scheme. Land allocated to most Balete residents are located some 20 kilometers away in Concepcion town, making it impractical for farmers to till the farmlots.

The residential areas as well as the agricultural lots tilled by Balete and Lourdes farmers since 2005 are near the SCTEX access road where another Aquino-Cojuangco firm, Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) suddenly claimed ownership over another 258 hectares of agricultural land. TADECO ordered the eviction of hundreds of farmers and bulldozing of ready-to-harvest crops in a series of violent incidents coinciding with the DAR’s land distribution activities starting 2013.

“Aquino will most likely boast of government’s so-called land reform accomplishments in his last SONA on July 27. Once sessions resume, we dare lawmakers to immediately look into this anomalous deal entered into by the Aquino government to justify corruption, violence and landgrabbing with such noble causes as protection of the environment and renewable energy,” said Echanis.

UMA will present a comprehensive report on the state of agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita in a media conference on July 20, 4pm at the UP Diliman College of Mass Communication, a week before Aquino’s last SONA. #

Agriworkers slam outgoing AFP Chief for role in Luisita massacre

PR catapang 

JULY 9, 2015 | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer, 0916.611.4181

“Under BS Aquino, perpetrators of the Hacienda Luisita massacre were never prosecuted. They are promoted instead.”

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national federation of agricultural workers, slammed outgoing AFP Chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang for recommending another “massacre general” to replace him at the helm of the country’s military establishment after his retirement on Friday.

“Gen. Catapang was appointed by Aquino precisely for his loyalty to the hacienderos of Tarlac – for his active involvement in the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre,” said Ranmil Echanis, UMA deputy secretary general.

Catapang reportedly named five generals as “worthy replacements” including Gen. Ricardo Visaya, who is widely-criticized as a human rights violator,right-hand man and protégé of “butcher” Jovito Palparan.

Visaya was the commander of the 69th Infantry Battalion, the army unit directly implicated in the massacre of striking Hacienda Luisita farmworkers in 2004. Visaya, who is currently the chief of the AFP Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), is also implicated in harassment and extra-judicial killings of indigenous peoples, peasants, agricultural workers and union leaders during his stint in Mindanao.

UMA also said that Gen. Catapang, who would retire on July 10, lied in his counter-affidavit dated January 27, 2009 when he stated that no AFP personnel fired a single shot during the Luisita massacre.

This was belied by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) report dated February 8, 2005 which cited two witnesses namely then-Department of Labor and Employment(DOLE) Sheriff Francisco Reyes and an ambulance driver, Arturo Dayrit who were quoted as saying that they saw soldiers firing their guns.

These findings were substantiated by the report made by the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)and Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) which was submitted to the to the Senate Committee on Labor on January 12, 2005.

The report concluded that “the health team finds adequate substantial evidence to state that the strikers of Hacienda Luisita were shot not ‘as a defensive stance’ or because the PNP and AFP ‘were provoked’ but rather as a direct armed offensive assault on the picket line. This assertion is supported by: a) the number and types of injuries and deaths, b) the character of the injuries and physical findings, and c) the volume and length of gunfire sustained against the strikers.”

The NBI report affirmed that the protesters’ sworn statements were more credible than those of the government personnel. The report states, among others, that “even the independent witnesses who submitted sworn statements corroborated the claims of the protesters that the government side fired their weapons directly to the position of the protesters.”

President Aquino, then-congressman and administrator of the estate, is one of the respondents in the massacre case.

“Under Aquino, court proceedings for the Luisita massacre case were ‘murdered’ twice – only a few months after Aquino held office in December 2010, when police and military respondents were allowed to go scot-free by the Ombudsman; and in October 2014, a month before the 10th anniversary of the massacre, when the Ombudsman junked the survivors’ appeal to reopen the case,” said Echanis.

UMA and its affiliate AMBALA, the local farmworkers alliance in Hacienda Luisita, are studying the possibility of filing new charges against Aquino, outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Gen. Catapang, and others involved in the Hacienda Luisita massacre.

Meanwhile, Aquino’s role in recent human rights violations in Hacienda Luisita is among the grounds for charges to be heard in the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) to be convened by human rights advocates and lawyers in Washington, DC from July 16-19. #

UMA on Hacienda Luisita in 2014 Karapatan human rights report

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DOWNLOAD KARAPATAN’S 2014 YEAR-END HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT HERE

HLHR report 2014

Tatang Gerry’s assertion best exemplifies the determination of the farm workers in Hacienda Luisita to continue with their struggle for land and human rights.

Today, despite the 2012 Supreme Court ruling on land distribution, thousands of farmworkers still struggle with landlessness, poverty and hunger. Gross human rights violations related to landgrabbing and the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ aggressive bid to retain control of the estate continue unabated, defying its own Court’s decision.

On April 3, 2014, the Philippine National Police (PNP) illegally arrested and detained Tatang Gerry or Charlito Catalan and four others, ironically for violating the land reform law or RA6657.

The “crime” stemmed from their act to approach a team of surveyors from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and ask them what they were doing in their farms.