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.