#LupaHindiBala | Lapanday must pay for Tagum violence – UMA

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Delegates of the fact-finding and solidarity mission led by Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao (second from left) and UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos (4th from left) hold a press conference in Madaum, Tagum City last Friday. (Photo by Anakpawis Partylist)

National agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said that the Lorenzo-owned Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) must immediately be held accountable for violence in Madaum, Tagum City which left at least 10 farmers wounded in consecutive attacks by armed LFC security men since December 9.

UMA said that the suggestion of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) for a ‘peaceful mediation’ this Christmas cannot possibly be fruitful, with Lapanday consistently denying its hand in landgrabbing, harassment and the frustrated killing of agrarian reform beneficiaries and their supporters.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos said that the PBGEA, in keeping silent about the shooting incidents, is practically absolving Lapanday of any wrongdoing.

“Lapanday and PBGEA are pushing the ‘divide-and-rule’ and ‘blame-the victim’ tact by making the public believe that the ‘root cause’ of the violence is merely the disagreements between farmers’cooperatives in Madaum,” said Ramos.

UMA and militant peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) organized a national fact-finding and solidarity mission (NFFSM) to Madaum, Tagum City from December 15 -16 and confirmed that Lapanday has encroached on property already awarded by government land reform to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI).

A summary of the NFFSM report was released to the press last Friday.

Aside from three reported shooting incidents in Madaum, the mission also confirmed accounts that Lapanday deliberately conducted aerial spraying of poisonous chemicals over the banana plantation on December 12, while protesting farmworkers were camped-out in the area and having breakfast. The victims were forced to dispose of the contaminated food and water and seek refuge in a nearby chapel.

“PBGEA is also practically insinuating that it was okay for Lapanday security guards to shoot farmers reclaiming their land in Madaum, just because Lapanday insists that farmers did not comply with their contracts,” said Ramos.

UMA stressed that MARBAI as a legal entity was never a party to the onerous and exploitative Agribusiness Venture Agreement (AVA) that Lapanday inked with the original landowner Hijo Plantations, Inc (HPI) and the cooperative Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperation 1 (HEARBCO1).

According to the NFFSM report, HEARBCO1 entered into a growership contract with Lapanday and Global Foods Corp in 1999. After a decade, HEARBCO1 incurred debts amounting to P1 M. A majority of HEARBCO 1 farmworkers rejected the renegotiated contract with Lapanday because it was “highly disadvantageous” to the land reform beneficiaries.

“AVAs are among non-land transfer schemes allowed by the pro-landlord Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Beneficiaries are awarded farmlots in paper but control over land use and production remains with big landlords and companies such as Lapanday,” said Ramos.

Workers organized and formed MARBAI and filed for a petition to reinstate them to their land. A compromise agreement was reached in 2011, reducing the farmworkers’ debt to P800,000. On December 2015, the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board issued a final and executory order reinstating MARBAI farmworkers to a 145-hectare area. The current DAR under Secretary Rafael Mariano, started the installation process last October.

Despite the DAR ruling, LFC continues to encroach on land rightfully-owned by MARBAI. MARBAI and the UMA-affiliated local union, UGMAD-TRA led farmworkers in reclaiming their land in a daring land occupation initiative which commenced on December 9. Shooting and harassment of protesters have left 10 wounded by LFC security guards.

The DAR has already issued a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) against Lapanday. DAR regional and provincial offices are also ordered to provide assistance to MARBAI, including filing cases against LFC and its security guards.

“As in Hacienda Luisita where farmworkers rejected the oppressive stock distribution option (SDO) scheme in a massive strike in 2004, those who choose to bolt out of the onerous AVA with Lapanday earn the wrath of these greedy hacienderos,”

“Shooting farmers like rats seems to be mere impulse for these notorious landgrabbers,” added Ramos.

The Lorenzos who own Lapanday, are now also part-owners of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac in Hacienda Luisita with the Cojuangco-Aquino family.

 

Groups slam Lapanday: “Stop shooting farmers!”

Militant groups held a picket in front of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) main office in Makati City today to demand justice for farmer-victims of consecutive shooting incidents involving alleged LFC security men in Madaum, Tagum City.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said that there are already 10 individuals reportedly wounded in two separate shooting incidents in Madaum on December 12 and 14.

The victims belong to organizations affiliated with UMA and the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) – the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Incorporated (MARBAI) and the Unyon sa mga Mag-Uuma Alang Sa Tinood Nga Repormang Agraryo (UGMAD –TRA or Farmers’ Union For Genuine Agrarian Reform).

MARBAI and UGMAD-TRA led a daring land occupation initiative and protest camp-out to counter massive landrabbing perpetrated by Lapanday. Agriworkers who launched the protest are also legitimate agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) of the 145-hectare portion of a banana plantation.

Today’s protest action in Makati coincides with a 2-day solidarity mission to Tagum City, also led by UMA and KMP. UMA Secretary General Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, Antonio “Ka Tunying” Flores, KMP Secretary General, and Anakpawis Partylist Representative Ariel Casilao took early morning flights to Davao City to lead the mission to be participated in by national and international land reform advocates and human rights groups Tanggol Magsasaka, Karapatan, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific (PAN-AP) and other peasant support groups.

“There had been three consecutive gun attacks against the agriworkers reclaiming their land, but elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) have not arrested any security guard of the Lorenzo-owned LFC. Are they immune from arrest?” asked Ramos. Nobody was reported injured during the first incident which occurred on day one of the camp-out on December 9.

Seven were wounded in the second incident, December 12. Victims were identified as Jose Balucos, Emanuel Buladaco, Abelardo Francisco, Jojo Gomez, Rico Saladaga, Joseph Bertulfo and 16-year old Talban Miparanun. Two of the victims remain in critical condition.

In the latest incident yesterday, December 14, three more were reportedly wounded while five farmers were held hostage by LFC guards. They victims were only attended to and released when Tagum Mayor Allan Rellon arrived around 10 am, and ordered police to intervene. However, police did not arrest the guards who merely walked away from the scene. Police reportedly claimed that they “cannot do anything because the shootings occurred on private land.”

The solidarity mission aims to confirm all these reports.

“Lapanday even has the gall to claim that these shooting incidents are merely internal disputes between feuding farmer cooperatives. If this was true then why are the guards seemingly untouchable? Are farmers in Tagum now fully-armed and influential like the Lorenzos?”

UMA said that this divide-and-rule tact is also used to fuel tension among beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita. Incidentally, the Lorenzos are also connected to Luisita, where violence also erupted due to land disputes last week. Martin Lorenzo, brother of Lapanday’s CEO Regina Lorenzo, is a top executive and active partner of the Cojuangco-Aquinos in running the Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

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Onerous, oppresive AVAs also slammed

Lapanday Foods Corp. describes itself as an integrated grower, packer, and shipper of premium-quality tropical fresh produce. LFC claims to have 19 banana farms in Davao del Norte, Davao City, North and South Cotabato with a total land area of 6,000 hectares yielding 20 million boxes a year. Tagum City is the capital of Davao del Norte.

LFC controls thousands of hectares of land in Mindanao for plantation-scale fruit production through agribusiness ventures agreements (AVAs) with agrarian reform beneficiaries. UMA slams these AVAs as onerous, exploitative and oppressive schemes allowed by the anti-peasant CARP law.

“AVAs essentially legitimize reconcentration of lands back to the control of landlords and companies like LFC. Meanwhile, the supposed beneficiaries who are deemed ‘partners’ continue their toil as low-earning agriworkers without any benefits,” said Ramos.

In 1998, LFC entered into a banana sales and marketing agreement with ARBs through the original plantation owner, Hijo Plantations, Inc (HPI). With MARBAI, the AVA stipulates, among others that: the LFC set the buying price for bananas produced for the Japan market at U.S. $ 2.10 per 13 kilograms (kg) net box; LFC shall have the right to handle the operation of the cooperatives’ farms if in LFC’s “opinion” that the “success of the crop is endangered” due to the cooperatives’ failure to follow LFC “prescribed cultural practices.”

The first provision is too low a price which resulted in a measly P2,000/month for a typical ARB. ARBs also incurred a debt to LFC which according to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) ballooned more or less to a billion pesos.

MARBAI bolted out from its original cooperative and formed a new legal entity. The DAR awarded 145 hectares to 159 MARBAI members but they were charged with “violation” of contract by the LFC. Using the onerous provisions of the AVA, LFC took over also the land intended for MARBAI – a sinister scheme of landgrabbing. In effect, MARBAI was dispossessed by LFC of their land even though it is no longer a party to the AVA.

“Agriworkers are now aware that these devious AVAs or ‘non-land transfer’ schemes of the CARP have been exploiting them for years. The public must support agriworkers who decide to bolt out of these arrangements and carry out their own land occupation and cultivation initiatives,” ended Ramos.

#LupaHindiBala | Solidarity Mission to Madaum, Tagum City

lapanday-smDecember 15-16,2016

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)

Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission on the Ongoing Armed Attacks and Harassment Against Agriworkers and Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries in Madaum, Tagum City, Allegedly Perpetrated by Security Guards of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC)

DOWNLOAD LAPANDAY ISSUE PROFILE PDF HERE.

RATIONALE:

There is a need to immediately document and expose the ongoing attacks against the agricultural workers and agrarian reform beneficiaries in Madaum, Tagum City allegedly perpetrated by security guards of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC). Various sectors, agrarian reform advocates and the general public must be made aware of the situation in Madaum and lend solidarity to the struggle of farmers and agricultural workers.

Three separate incidents of shooting by armed security of Lapanday Foods have been reported since December 9, the first day of a protest camp-out and land occupation organized and led by the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc (MARBAI) and the Unyon sa mga Mag-Uuma Alang Sa Tinood Nga Repormang Agraryo (UGMAD –TRA) or Farmers’ Union For Genuine Agrarian Reform) with the support of the Hugpong sa mga Mag-Uuma sa Walog Compostela  (HUMAWAC). The organizations are affiliated with the militant peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

Landgabbing by the LFC is the subject of the agriworkers’ protest. The current protest camp-out is within the 145-hectare banana plantation that has been awarded by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to 159 Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) in Madaum, Tagum City.

Farmers and agricultural workers had been picketing in front of the Lapanday gate for the past seven months, but decided to reclaim the land with support from other farmers’ groups on December 9. They successfully set up their camp-out despite harassment. A shooting incident occurred, where at least 31 shots were fired by armed security guards belonging to Lapanday’s hired security agency ACDISA.

Past 7:00 am, on December 12, around 20 armed guards barged into the protest camp. While protest leaders were holding a dialogue with the guards’ leader, they were indiscriminately shot at resulting in the wounding of 7 protesters, including a 16-year old minor.

The latest shooting incident occurred this morning, December 14. Three more protesters were wounded. A hostage-taking incident involving five farmers is also reported. Judith Lisao, Chairperson of ALMASID, a local KMP chapter,  is reportedly among those held hostage by Lapanday security guards.

Background of the land dispute

The current DAR administration has been meeting with the farmers for their installation to the 145-hectare land as ordered by Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano in a December 15, 2015 decision, which has long been final and executory.

According to Mely Yu, president of MARBAI, they were forced to enter a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement with the LFC which buys their produce for export. They were tricked into selling high-grade bananas which were classified as poor for a lower price, thus resulting to a measly Php 2,000 monthly income. Because of this Agribusiness Venture Agreement (AVA), an oppresive and onerous scheme allowed by the DAR through its administrative orders, the farmer-beneficiaries became indebted to LFC for more or less a billion pesos.

Their lands were forcibly taken over by Lapanday in 2011 following a 2010 DAR decision upholding their right to the land parcel ceded by the mother cooperative. Despite their legal victories, the beneficiaries were kept out of their lands for the next six years. The agrarian reform beneficiaries were preparing to till the land after victory when 300 Lapanday guards and goons reportedly attacked the ARBs in 2011.

In the ten years from 1998 to 2008, clashes between restive beneficiaries and guards cost two lives and injured several from both sides of the conflict. Farmer leaders were also booted out of work and reinstated only after years of legal battle.

When the contract with Lapanday expired in 2009, the beneficiaries undertook a referendum for future plans. Majority voted to extend the contract, while 159 voted No. The nay-voters eventually reached an agreement with the mother cooperative, which allowed them to leave, ceding over 145 hectares covered by a document.

OBJECTIVES:

  1. Establish concrete facts on the shooting incidents against farmers and agriworkers
  2. Lend solidarity support for the members of MARBAI and UGMAD –TRA
  3. Document the onerous and exploitative Agribusiness Ventures Agreement (AVA) of MARBAI & LFC
  4. Work for ensuring justice for the victims of the attacks

 

EXPECTED RESULTS AND OUTCOME:

  1. Document and publish a report of the Fact Finding Mission for submission to pertinent government institutions to ensure justice for victims of the attacks
  2. Publicize the results of the FFM through the media
  3. Develop a publicity campaign on the issue in national and international levels

 

ITINERARY

December 15

  • Trip to Tagum
  • Ocular inspection of the picket area
  • Interview with MARBAI and UGMAD-TRA Officers and Members
  • Interview with victims of shooting and hostage-taking incidents
  • Interview with Security Guards (If possible)
  • Interview with Lapanday Management (If possible)
  • Consolidation of reports

December 16

  • Press Conference
  • Engagement with LGU and DAR
  • Media Interviews

#LupaHindiBala | Agriworkers condemn Lapanday shooting incident

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Barely two days after International Human Rights Day, seven banana workers were reportedly wounded from gunshots fired by security guards of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) in Madaum, Tagum City.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) condemns this latest atrocity against the banana workers who are also agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) connected with the  Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc (MARBAI) and the Unyon sa mga Mag-Uuma Alang Sa Tinood Nga Repormang Agraryo (UGMAD –TRA) or Farmers’ Union For Genuine Agrarian Reform), an affiliate of UMA in Tagum City.

According to Kilab Multimedia, the wounded are Jose Balucos, 42; Rico Saladaga; Jojo Gomez; Belardo Francisco; Emanuel Buladaco, 46; Joseph Bertulfo, 58; and a minor, Taldan Miparanun, 16. They are now at the Davao Regional Medical Center at Tagum City seeking treatment. At least 10 guards fired indiscriminately at the protesters. The victims were also reportedly sprayed with chemicals.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos said that the Duterte government must immediately investigate the incident and punish the security guards and management  Lapanday, which is owned by the Lorenzos.

The Lorenzo landlord family is also connected to Hacienda Luisita, where violence also erupted due to land disputes last week. Martin Lorenzo, brother of Lapanday’s CEO Regina Lorenzo, is a top executive and active partner of the Cojuangco-Aquinos in running the Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

Three days ago, around a thousand members of MARBAI and UGMAD –TRA  stormed the gates of LFC in Madaum, Tagum City to protest against the onerous agribusiness venture arrangement or AVA implemented between the ARBs and various banana plantations. The beneficiaries launched a land occupation campaign to reclaim their land.

Alternative media group Kilab Multimedia posted on social media exclusive photos and footage of the banana workers’ protest.

During one confrontation, workers took off their shirts to show the guards that they are unarmed. Despite this, a shooting incident still occurred on Dec. 9 when at least 31 shots were fired by fully-armed and masked LFC  guards. Nobody was reported injured in that earlier incident.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) later upheld the claim of the beneficiaries as rightful owners of the land reform area grabbed by Lapanday.

REFERENCES:
Antonio Tuyak, MARBAI, 09067033086
Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 09166114181

 

Gunshots fired to supress banana workers’ protest in Tagum

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Photo by Kilab Multimedia

Supposed land reform beneficiaries are yet again beleaguered by a shooting incident involving minions of despotic landlords. This time, banana workers in Madaum, Tagum City affiliated with the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) were reportedly shot at, at least 31 times, by fully-armed and masked security guards of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC).

Banana workers belonging to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc. and the Unyon Sa Mga Mag-Uuma Alang Sa Tinood Nga Repormang Agraryo (Farmers’ Union For Genuine Agrarian Reform) stormed the gates of LFC in Madaum, Tagum City, yesterday to reclaim their land.

An alternative media group, Kilab Multimedia based in Davao City, reported that various banana plantations failed to deliver wages and benefits to the worker-beneficiaries engaged in onerous and oppressive agribusiness venture arrangements (AVAs). Kilab shot exclusive footage and photos of the incident.

UMA said that the incident in Tagum City comes after thugs connected to the Cojuangco-Aquinos forcibly evicted tillers and caused tension to rise between farmworker-beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac a few days ago.

Incidentally, both Lapanday and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) sugar mill in Hacienda Luisita are now connected to the Lorenzo landlord family.  Siblings Regina and Martin Lorenzo are top executives of Lapanday and CAT respectively.

According to Danilo Ramos, brutal suppression of the rights of agricultural workers is rampant in the countryside, especially since state forces are also practically deployed to serve the interests of landlords.

“The AFP has been ignoring and violating its own unilateral ceasefire declaration. The continued presence of armed state troops embolden the thugs and security personnel of landlords to do their usual business of harassing defiant farmers,” said Ramos.

In Hacienda Luisita, local officials like barangay captain Edison Diaz of Lourdes violate laws with impunity because he has the support of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, the local police, and even hold-over DAR Regional and Provincial officials Arnel Dizon and Ileona Pangilinan.

“The presence of military and paramilitary detachments and headquarters around these plantations and haciendas ensure the continued reign of terror of these landlords and their minions,” added Ramos. This includes outright political repression and militarization when farmworkers assert their right to organize, strike, or reclaim back their lands through the bungkalan or land cultivation areas.

The National Federation of Sugar Workers or NFSW, whose members are now in Manila with contingents from different Visayan regions to protest against militarization, say that army detachments also occupy Hacienda Ilimnan, and many other such contested landholdings in Negros Occidental.

“There are also numerous cases of agricultural workers being charged with trumped-up cases. All these are part of the military’s counter-insurgency program called Oplan Bayanihan, which armed troops are still actively pursuing despite the peace talks,”

A number of agricultural workers including UMA organizer and national staff member Felicidad Caparal remain detained as political prisoners. President Duterte’s recent announcement of using them as “bargaining chips” in the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is unjust and cruel.

“They should not have been arrested and imprisoned in the first place. They are people, not mere playing cards.” said Ramos.

On the Inquirer story “Tension rises as farmers claim Luisita land”

READ ALSO: Timeline of the violence in Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita on LUISITA WATCH

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This pertains to an article entitled “Tension rises as farmers claim Luisita land” which appeared on the Philippine Daily Inquirer. (PDI, 12/06/2016).

Indeed, Hacienda Luisita farmers have been fiercely reclaiming their lands from the murderous Cojuangco-Aquino landlord clan. The Inquirer’s reporting on the ongoing tension in Luisita, however, seems to pin blame once again on the farmers themselves and their allied progressive organizations and personalities particularly AMBALA, UMA, KMP and the current DAR Sec. Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, a seasoned militant peasant leader.

The article’s kicker unduly emphasizes Mariano’s supposed failure to resolve the enormous mess left behind by the former Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) administration controlled by no less than Luisita’s own haciendero, BS Aquino. In truth, Mariano is “blamed” only by Cojuangco-Aquino minions who are causing the attacks against farmers. Mariano and progressive organizations have long been targets of these smear campaigns because of their firm commitment to the cause of Luisita farmers and the Filipino peasantry.

The article’s main reference, Barangay Captain Edison Diaz, a local official from Barangay Lourdes also in Hacienda Luisita, is a rabid Cojuangco aide and broker of the illicit aryendo or leaseback scheme, which aims to reconcentrate land back to landlord control by replanting sugarcane in these supposed land reform areas.

Diaz has so many pending complaints and cases filed by farmers against him. One is a malicious mischief complaint filed by farmer Charlito “Tatang Gerry” Catalan. Diaz, then assisted by local Tarlac police and DAR officials, personally drove the tractor that destroyed Catalan’s crops worth P200,000 on June 25, 2014. AMBALA’s collective farms or bungkalan in Mapalacsiao were also destroyed that day, while most of its members marched to Manila to join a nationwide Lakbayan protest against the anti-peasant CARP law.

A case against Diaz was also filed by Catalan’s wife, Bernardina, at the local Tarlac courts for another incident, the demolition of a portion of their home last May 30. Mrs. Catalan stated in her complaint that Diaz also led the destruction of 20 hectares of farmland in Mapalacsiao, which also covers AMBALA’s bungkalan from March 15-17, 2016.

Diaz also led the destruction of crops in Mapalacsiao on July 1, 2016, the very first day of the Duterte administration. Sec. Mariano issued a Status Quo Ante order to prevent the dislocation of farmers. Needless to say, it was also Diaz who led the siege on AMBALA’s bungkalan starting Nov. 25 which culminated in a shooting incident and forcible occupation of farm huts by over 100 men on December 4.

All of this was done with impunity by Diaz because he is confident of the support of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, the local police, and even hold-over DAR Regional and Provincial officials Arnel Dizon and Ileona Pangilinan whose inaction, “tolerance” and whitewashing make them complicit in atrocities against farmers especially during the previous regime.

Police based in Mapalacsiao never intervened during various incidents starting Nov. 25 despite requests for assistance by farmers. It was only on December 5 that police from Tarlac City tried to step in, because by then AMBALA members had successfully reclaimed their huts from men led by Diaz.

The current tension or “dispute between farmworker-beneficiaries” is fueled by Cojuangco minions like Diaz to make it appear that farmers are merely fighting among themselves over lot allocations. This divide and rule ploy was precisely ensured by BS Aquino’s tambiolo (lottery) land reform scheme so that the landlords could still control prime lots for sugarcane production or for some other lucrative land use venture.

The problem in Mapalacsiao is but one among so many troubles caused by BS Aquino’s tambiolo. There are more than a hundred – and not merely 50 beneficiaries from Barangay Lourdes, as Inquirer reported – that were allocated lots in Mapalacsiao. Meanwhile, most Mapalacsiao beneficiaries – more than 600 out of the total 810 – were allocated lots in far-off Luisita barangays located in other towns, Concepcion and La Paz. Remember that Hacienda Lusita is as big as Makati and Manila combined and Mapalacsiao is a village within Tarlac City.

The Inquirer should have asked: Why did BS Aquino’s DAR try to install Barangay Lourdes beneficiaries in another barangay, Mapalacsiao (which the DAR survey for some reason labeled as “Barangay Asturias” maybe to add more to the confusion) – an area where there are already farmers who have made the land productive with rice, vegetables and fruit trees since 2005? Why would anyone want to destroy productive ricelands to revive the monocrop sugarcane?

BS Aquino’s much derided tambiolo land reform or fake land distribution was implemented with impunity along with landgrabbing, eviction and atrocities against tillers during the past six years of his haciendero regime – a farmer was found dead in a bungkalan area in Barangay Balete, hundreds of hectares of rice fields were bulldozed, farm huts were burned, tillers were assaulted and arrested by goons and police in so many violent incidents, and hundreds of farmers were slapped with various fabricated charges. This is the BS Aquino regime’s legacy in Hacienda Luisita.

A Ka Paeng within a notoriously pro-landlord, mercenary and corrupt government institution such as the DAR nurtures some hope that the atrocities masterminded by the Cojuangco-Aquinos would be diligently investigated, nullified and reversed in true favor of all farmworkers and tillers in Hacienda Luisita.

AMBALA, UMA, KMP and Ka Paeng led farmers’ struggles for so many years not for some narrow interest or favor – as mercenaries like Diaz would want to instigate – but to advance genuine land reform and social justice.

Danilo Ramos
Secretary General, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)
#56 K-9 St., West Kamias, Quezon City
Telefax (02) 799-2009

 

 

Hacienda Luisita farmers’ bungkalan under siege

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Alert posted by Tanggol Magsasaka, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)

The week-long tension between armed men of Brgy Capt. Edison Diaz and the farmer-members of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) escalated last night, when drunken thugs fired gunshots and forcibly evicted the farmers from the bungkalan or land cultivation areas in Barangay Mapalacsiao.

National agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) condemns in the strongest possible terms the ongoing reign of terror in Hacienda Luisita. UMA secretary General Danilo Ramos scored local police in Tarlac for its inaction.

“AMBALA members have been seeking assistance from police since the tension started a week ago. Bolo-wielding thugs were then sent by Diaz, who is a barangay captain in Lourdes (also known as Texas), around 2 kilometers away from Mapalacsiao. Diaz ordered the construction of farm sheds around AMBALA’s bungkalan to serve as security outposts. Drunken armed men are now manning these posts,” said Ramos.

According to the update from AMBALA Chairperson Florida Sibayan posted by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP): at around 9pm last night, the goons led by Diaz, who were all drunk, attacked and forcibly evicted AMBALA members from their huts in Sitio Silangan, Brgy. Mapalacsiao. During the altercation, the armed men fired gunshots. AMBALA members led by farmer Gerry Catalan, scrambled to escape. The goons are now occupying the huts.

AMBALA reported that there are now more than a hundred men occupying their farm huts, which are scattered in the contested area measuring more than 200 hectares. The tension between the Cojuangco-Aquino-backed Buena Timbol-Edison Diaz group and farmer-members of AMBALA in Brgy Mapalacsiao has been ongoing since November 25.

AMBALA is the farmworkers organization which petitioned to scrap Cory Aquino’s SDO or stock distribution scheme implemented in 1989. The Supreme Court issued a final ruling for total land distribution in Hacienda Luisita in 2012.

Since 2005, AMBALA has been maintaining the bungkalan or land cultivation areas in different barangays to counter the reconcentration of lands back to landlord control. The Timbol-Diaz group along with other Cojuangco minions have been mobilizing thugs and local constituents from Brgy. Lourdes to create chaos, discredit AMBALA and dismantle the bungkalan, particularly in Mapalacsiao.

Catalan and his family already went through several incidents of harassment and actual destruction of crops and demolition of their farmhut. Catalan was once arrested and detained on orders of officials of the previous administration of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) which implemented BS Aquino’s fake land distribution via tambiolo or lottery raffle in 2013. Diaz was involved in all the violent incidents in the said contested area.

“The Cojuangco-Aquinos still reign in Hacienda Luisita. With this incident, Diaz and his thugs are openly defying the DAR’s status quo order issued by DAR Sec. Rafael Mariano on July 8,” said Ramos. Sec. Mariano’s order was made in response to the destruction of Catalan’s crops on orders of known Cojuangco people, Buena Timbol of the Luisita Estate Management (LEM) and Villamor Lagunero, Chief Security officer of TADECO, on July 1, the first day of President Duterte in office.

“The local DAR officials in Tarlac and Central Luzon are also so obviously beholden to the Cojuangco-Aquinos. The same officials who committed atrocities against farmers under the BS Aquino regime are still in power in Tarlac,” said Ramos.

UMA is also urging the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to raise the issues regarding Hacienda Luisita with the Duterte government as part of the socio-economic reforms agenda of its peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

“Outside of the talks, it is an open secret that farmers who cannot rely on the GRP and its fascist police and armed force, raise their grievances with the ‘other government’ and the peasant army in the countryside,” said Ramos.

AMBALA members will also protest the continuing violence and harassment this morning.

 

Free Felicidad Caparal! Free All Political Prisoners!

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The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today joined the sympathy fasting of farmers led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in support of the hunger strike of political prisoners nationwide.

Farmers are demanding for the unconditional release of more than 400 political prisoners in the country especially those who are sick, elderly, and the women who have spent many years in jail on fabricated charges.

These include Felicidad Caparal, an organizer and national staff member of UMA who was sentenced to life in prison at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City.

Caparal was abducted by state security forces on January 27, 2009 while on her way to Northern Samar to attend to her sick mother. She was planning to bring her to Manila for medication. Caparal was held incommunicado and missing for nine days. She was convicted last year of absurd charges for involvement in a December 2002 ambuscade by the New People’s Army (NPA). Caparal could not have been involved in the said incident as she was eight months pregnant with her first child during that time.

Majority of political prisoners are ordinary farmers. The land problem and the monopoly of lands by powerful ruling elite in the Philippines impose political repression against activists and land reform advocates like Caparal. This fundamental problem also sparks the decades-long peasant war in the countryside.

UMA Secretary General Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos stated that it is not enough that the Duterte government recently pardoned 4 political prisoners, and again promised to release dozens of others on humanitarian grounds.

“All political prisoners must be released,” said Ramos.

“The Martial Law legacy of militarization and peasant killings persist in the countryside. Until these issues are addressed, a just and lasting peace would still be elusive,” he added.

Duterte promised the release of all political prisoners as part of measures pertaining to the peace talks between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), but the majority of political prisoners are still languishing in jails nationwide.

The fasting and hunger strike of the political prisoners will peak on December 10, Human Rights Day.

 

Aquino’s “tambiolo land reform” continues to sow tension in Hacienda Luisita

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AMBALA Chairperson Florida Sibayan is confronted by masked men sent by Brgy. Capt. Edison Diaz, a rabid Cojuangco-Aquino minion in Hacienda Luisita

“Dadanak na ang dugo dito!” (There will be bloodshed here!)

This is the lament of Hacienda Luisita farmers while Cojuangco-Aquino minions are still currently attempting to completely dismantle the bungkalan or land cultivation areas in Barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita.

The bungkalan campaign, which started during the height of the Hacienda Luisita strike in 2005, is spearheaded by the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Asyenda Luisita or AMBALA, the same farmworkers organization which petitioned for land distribution and the revocation of the oppressive Stock Distribution Option or SDO in the controversial sugar estate. 

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos said that from November 25 up to the present, Cojuangco aides Buena Timbol and Brgy. Capt. Edison Diaz of Lourdes (Texas) have allegedly sent local constituents and thugs to Mapalacsiao to set-up farm sheds and threaten Mapalacsiao farmers that their crops would soon be destroyed.

As local government official, Diaz has been using the claims of farmworker-beneficiaries (FWBs) in his barangay to justify the clearing and demolition of huts in the bungkalan areas in Mapalacsiao. The FWBs in both Lourdes and Mapalacsiao were dislocated and disenfranchised by BS Aquino’s fake land distribution via tambiolo and the rampant aryendo or illicit leaseback agreements.

“These ploys ultimately seek to create an atmosphere of chaos among farmworkers, discredit AMBALA, and to justify and effect the reconcentration of lands back to the control of landlords,” emphasized Ramos.

Diaz, Timbol and other known Cojuangco minions such as former Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) supervisor Arsenio Valentino, Tarlac Development Corp. (TADECO) Chief Security Villamor Lagunero and “kabarilan” Virginia Torres (now deceased) have been involved in the violent eviction of farmers and destruction of crops in Hacienda Luisita since 2013, coinciding with BS Aquino’s bogus land distribution scheme implemented via tambiolo or lottery raffle.

Today, AMBALA reported that Diaz is mobilizing masked goons armed with bolos to forcibly claim lands awarded to Lourdes FWBs by the former Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) leadership. AMBALA says that Diaz is eager to claim the area to replant sugarcane for the Cojuangcos and honor the illicit lease agreements he brokered with financiers. This is not for the benefit of disenfranchised FWBs, some of whom they have coerced to fight with AMBALA members, but to cater to economic interests of the Cojuangco-Aquinos and other land speculators.

Diaz has been involved in all violent incidents in the contested area since 2014. This is the second time that they have caused tension under Duterte. Previously, last July 1, or on the first day of the Duterte administration,  Cojuangco-Aquino goons led by Lagunero destroyed crops of farmer Gerry Catalan, supposedly to prove to farmers that “the Cojuangcos are still the boss.” 

Several violent incidents have been reported in the same area from 2014 up till the last part of the BS Aquino administration in 2016. These include illegal arrests and detention of farmers and destruction of crops and property. Aggrieved farmers were then slapped with trumped-up criminal charges in local courts and complaints before the Aquino-controlled DAR. All these harassment suits, however, have since been junked by the respective government institutions.

While there are no longer any fabricated cases against AMBALA members in Mapalacsiao, it is worthy to note that the rabid Cojuangco aide Diaz has a pending criminal case for  destruction of crops and property before the local Regional Trial Court. It is also worth mentioning that AMBALA members and victims have filed complaints against perpetrators of these atrocities at the Department of Justice (DOJ) main office in Manila in October 2014. These complaints however have been gathering dust at the DOJ.

AMBALA also fears that the local police force based in Tarlac City and with a community precinct in Mapalacsiao, will still work in favor of the Cojuangcos, since they have been traditionally deployed in the area to quell farmworkers’ protests against the landlords. 

“This is why we are calling on the Duterte administration to take concrete action in Hacienda Luisita. The extent of BS Aquino’s atrocities should be thoroughly investigated so that the bogus tambiolo land distribution scheme implemented by the previous DAR would be nullified and rectified. The rampant aryendo and sale of farmlots should also be stopped. The Cojuangco-Aquinos and their minions must pay for all their crimes,” said Ramos.

“Luisita should no longer be used in the murderous political squabbles of the ruling elite. This is not about the Marcoses or the Aquinos – this is about the welfare and interests of farmworkers long-oppressed by oligarchs since the Spanish colonial period. There can be no peace without justice,” ended Ramos.