Huts or kubol used as headquarters of the local farmworkers’ organization Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) in Barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita were reportedly demolished around noon today. Monggo crops were also reportedly destroyed.
The huts are located within AMBALA’s bungkalan or land cultivation area in Barangay Mapalacsiao, the same village where around a thousand sakadas or migratory sugar workers from Mindanao were kept by Cojuangco firm, Agrikulto, Inc.
Reports from AMBALA say that the ongoing forcible eviction of farmers in Mapalacsiao was initiated by Brgy. Captain Edison Diaz of nearby village Lourdes, with assistance from local police led by a certain Sgt. Banaga.
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Secretary General Daniol Ramos said that Diaz has been using the claim of farmworker-beneficiaries from his barangay, Lourdes, who were awarded farmlots in Mapalacsiao through the anomalous ‘tambiolo’ system implemented by the previous haciendero administration of BS Aquino.
Diaz is a rabid Cojuangco-Aquino aide and broker of the illicit aryendo or leaseback scheme effected by Agrikulto, Inc. and other prominent ‘aryendadors’ engaged in maintaining sugarcane farms in supposed land reform areas.
“Diaz, the PNP and the Cojuangco-Aquinos cannot use land reform as an excuse for their atrocities. The dislocation and destruction of property of the organized ranks of farmworkers who fought so hard for land distribution is definitely not land reform,” said Ramos, who said that AMBALA was one of the original petitioners who called for land distribution and revocation of the oppressive stock distribution option (SDO) land reform scheme.
The petition led to the historic Supreme Court decision for land distribution in 2012 – but AMBALA laments that its implementation by the previous Aquino administration – done through a lottery raffle or ‘tambiolo’ – was designed to dismantle their land cultivation areas and cause chaos among the farmworkers.
The unannounced attack against AMBALA comes at a time when “rescued” sakadas have filed labor complaints against Agrikulto, Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) and are also mulling to file criminal cases for massive-scale human trafficking of sakadas from Mindanao.
AMBALA’s bungkalan area and the sakada bunkhouse are both located in barangay Mapalacsiao.
Fifty-two sakadas from Bukidnon were “rescued” through the efforts of national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and its Bukidnon affiliate, OGYON or Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa. AMBALA is UMA’s local affiliate in Hacienda Luisita.
“It is the haciendero’s bitter reprisal,” said Ramos.
The dismantling of the bungkalan and exploitation of sacadas in Hacienda Luisita are both intended to ensure the continued production and profitability of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) sugar mill which is now jointly-owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos with Martin Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo landlord family of Mindanao. Agrikulto, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CAT.
“Agrikulto’s aryendo actively targets to dismantle AMBALA’s bungkalan areas while brokers like Diaz swindle land reform beneficiaries into these illicit lease deals. Farmers who dare till the land through the bungkalan become targets of harassment,”
“The aryendo enables Agrikulto to maintain and control vast tracts of sugarlands for CAT but they can no longer get manpower from defiant local farmworkers, thus the need to ‘import’ sakadas from far-off places like Mindanao,” explained Ramos.
“This cycle of brutal oppression must stop. The hacienderos and their minions must be punished. We demand a full-blown investigation on the atrocities against farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita,” said Ramos.
Reference: Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General, Contact # 09994363493