By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
TARLAC — At around 11:40 a.m. today, more than 20 members of the Tarlac police arrested 11 farmworkers and their supporters in Balete village, Tarlac City.
The 11 are part of a fact-finding mission organized by the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) to investigate cases of militarization and land grabbing inside the Hacienda Luisita, a vast plantation owned and controlled by President Benigno Aquino III and his family for more than 50 years.
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, Sister Pat Fox of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and former political prisoners Ericson Acosta and Kerima Tariman were among those arrested.
Also nabbed were Florida Sibayan, chairwoman of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and farm worker Luz Versola. Other supporters who were arrested were Danilo Ramos, former secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Hicap’s driver Rene Blasan and Ronald Matthew Gustillo, a volunteer for Karapatan and Angelina Nunag of UMA.
Sibayan, Versola, Nunag and Blasan were injured during the arrest but were not given medical attention.
As of this writing, the other members of the fact-finding mission are on their way to PNP-Tarlac station.
In a text message, Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, condemned the “illegal arrest and detention” and called for the immediate release of the farmworkers and their supporters.
“Their arrest is illegal and is violative of their right to assembly, free expression and to conduct independent investigations on human rights violations,” Palabay said. “No less than President Benigno Aquio III and his private armies in the police and military in Tarlac should be made accountable to this.” (By J. Ellao and R. Olea /Bulatlat.com)