More than a hundred Hacienda Luisita farmers met Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano today to demand the nullification of fake land distribution implemented under former President BS Aquino, a scion of the landlord Cojuangco-Aquino family, through the DAR led by former secretary Virgilio de los Reyes.
The farmers from the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) said that Aquino’s bogus implementation contravened the 2012 Supreme Court decision for total land distribution in the controversial sugar estate. AMBALA is the local affiliate of the national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).
At the same time, AMBALA also sought Ka Paeng’s assistance in seeking justice for victims of fresh rights violations allegedly perpetrated under orders from the Cojuangco-Aquinos and the former DAR administration. The latest incident involving Cojuangco-Aquino personnel is the destruction of crops in collective farms in barangay Mapalacsiao which happened on July 1, the very day Sec. Mariano was installed as DAR secretary.
According to UMA Secretary General Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, AMBALA farmers petitioned the new DAR administration to pursue the following:
- Declare null and void fake land distribution implemented by DAR through “tambiolo” lottery.
- Revoke the 1996 conversion order issued by the DAR on 500 hectares of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) property eventually ceded to RCBC, CHI, LIPCO and LRC. The said property was never converted to other purposes for several years until part of which was allocated for a PPP solar power plant approved by former President BS Aquino. The solar project was built only last year by the Department of Energy via a contract with PetroGreen, a sister company of RCBC, and through force and intimidation of the farming community.
- Ensure the SC-mandated audit of the P1.33 billion share of farmworkers from the sale of HLI land assets. Ensure that the auditing firm chosen by majority of stakeholders be affirmed, instead of the wishes of the HLI and the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
- Report on the complete status of land reform in Hacienda Luisita, and cover more than 1,000 hectares of agricultural land deliberately excluded for distribution by the former administration in violation of the DAR’s mandate and the 2012 Supreme Court ruling. These areas are still under the control of the Cojuangco-Aquinos through their various corporate avatars such as TADECO, Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC), Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), etc.
- Categorize as agrarian disputes all civil and criminal cases and harassment suits filed against the farmers and their advocates.
- Pull-out all military and paramilitary troops within Hacienda Luisita, including the company headquarters of the 31st coy of the 3rd Mechanized Battalion located right smack in the disputed TADECO area in Barangay Balete. Dismantle all CAFGU detachments and units deployed in almost all Luisita barangays. Hacienda Luisita is located very near the biggest military camp in the region, Camp Aquino, the headquarters of Northen Luzon Command. Militarization has only served to coerce and intimidate farmers who continue to fight for land and justice especially after the Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004.
Mariano has publicly pronounced immediate action on Hacienda Luisita, even before his appointment as DAR secretary. On July 1, he called police officials in Tarlac to ensure that no punitive action be taken against the farm workers to ease the tension in Mapalacsiao and other Luisita barangays.
Mariano also informed the farmworkers that he had already issued a legal memorandum in Mapalacsiao for the status quo to remain and to investigate the destruction of farmers’ crops and file appropriate charges against the perpetrators.
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 09166114181