The last time armored personnel carriers (APCs) or war tanks were deployed in Hacienda Luisita, at least seven protesters were killed and more than a hundred were left wounded.
Yesterday, December 6, around 4 in the afternoon, farmworkers reported that two APCs and two truckloads full of soldiers in full battle gear entered Barangay Balete in Hacienda Luisita, apparently deployed to provide security to PetroSolar, the firm tasked by government to implement the Tarlac Solar Power project (TSPP), a public-private partnership project opposed by Hacienda Luisita farmers.
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Secretary General Ranmil Echanis said that: “We condemn President BS Aquino for allowing renewed militarization and harassment of farmers in Hacienda Luisita. Why did Aquino, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, allow heavy troop deployment just to protect this controversial project?”
“Is Aquino openly declaring war against Luisita farmers? The troops and war tanks must immediately be pulled-out of the area before another massacre ensues,” said Echanis.
The last time such personnel and equipment were deployed in Hacienda Luisita these were used to disperse the historic People’s Strike 11 years ago, which resulted in a massacre on November 16, 2004. During that time it was the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which authorized the deployment of soldiers in the Hacienda.
“Top officials and alter-egos of BS Aquino in other government agencies found responsible for such troop deployment like the Department of Energy (DoE), which implements the PPP projects along with PetroSolar, or the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), which holds jurisdiction over these disputed agricultural areas, must be equally liable for this atrocious move to silence the community and preempt any kind of protest against this new landgrabbing modus,” said UMA.
UMA added that state troopers and military logistics can easily be deployed in and out of Hacienda Luisita because of its proximity to the AFP Northern Luzon (NOLCOM) Command Headquarters, right across the McArthur Highway entrance of Hacienda Luisita in San Miguel, Tarlac City; and the Training and Doctrine Command HQ of the Philippine Army (PA) in Camp O’ Donnell next town, in Capas, Tarlac.
Deployment of soldiers in the disputed agricultural area where the PPP project is to be constructed started on November 26, according to the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), UMA’s local affiliate in Tarlac. More than a thousand farmers and residents signed a petition to stop the TSPP which AMBALA already submitted to the DAR and local government units a few months back.
The area in which the electrical posts would be set up was issued a Notice of Coverage (NOC) by DAR in 2013. Farmers decried that the NOC was practically useless as this did not prevent the Cojuangco-Aquino firm TADECO from using local police, private security guards and goons to violently eject farm worker beneficiaries (FWBs) who have been tilling the lands since 2005. A company headquarters of the 31st Infantry Battalion PA, 3rd Mechanized Battalion is located right smack in this disputed agricultural area in Balete.
The actual solar power plant, meanwhile, is planned to be constructed in a 500-hectare area claimed by RCBC in Barangay Lourdes (Texas) and Balete, where the gate of the idle Luisita Industrial Park 2 (LIP2) Complex is located. AMBALA through its counsels from the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA), still has a pending petition to revoke the DAR conversion order issued way back in 1996. RCBC, the LIP Corporation and the Cojuangco-Aquino firm Luisita Realty Corporation failed to abide by the terms of the conversion order as the area remained idle and fit for agricultural use nearly two decades after the DAR issued the said order.
Barbed wires and concrete barriers have also been set-up in front of the LIP2 gate. Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap has earlier called for the cancellation of this controversial PPP project in Hacienda Luisita.
“The TSPP is the latest in the list of BS Aquino’s atrocities against Hacienda Luisita farmers under his term. The Supreme Court already ruled for total land distribution in 2012, but Aquino is clearly doing everything in his power – from brute force to hiding behind a supposed “environment-friendly” project to undermine the farmers’ legitimate demands for land and justice,” said UMA.