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