“Days before his death, Dennis [Dela Cruz] told us he was afraid to stay at the hut because Tadeco security guards would come to him in the wee hours of the night. Still, he continued to stay there for the bungkalan [cultivation].”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — A farmer was found dead in the morning of November 1 at Balete village in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, Tarlac.
The body of Dennis dela Cruz, a member of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita, was found at the Ambala’s pilot area of its bungkalan (cultivation) program in Balete village.
Florida Sibayan, Ambala chairwoman, told Bulatlat.com in a phone interview that Dela Cruz sustained head concussions from a heavy wooden post. Ambala suspects foul play.
“Days before the incident, security guards of Tadeco [Tarlac Development Corporation] went to the hut three times and threatened Dennis [Dela Cruz] against rebuilding the Ambala’s hut,” Sibayan said.
Tadeco, a corporation owned by Cojuangco-Aquinos, has been claiming ownership of some 800 hectares of land in Balete, Cutcut and Mapalacsiao villages. Ambala’s cultivation site is located within the land being claimed by Tadeco.
Dela Cruz had been repairing the hut at the cultivation site, which was damaged by typhoon Santi.
According to Sibayan, Dela Cruz spent the night at the Ambala’s hut on October 31. “Days before his death, Dennis [Dela Cruz] told us he was afraid to stay at the hut because Tadeco security guards would come to him in the wee hours of the night. Still, he continued to stay there for the bungkalan [cultivation].”
Sibayan said they have yet to investigate further the death of Dela Cruz. Asked whether the local police investigated the incident, Sibayan said, “They came but instead of investigating, they accused Dennis [Dela Cruz] of stealing nuts and bolts of the electric post. We know Dennis. He would not do such a thing.”
“Who would benefit from his death?” Sibayan said.
Ambala said that since October, Tadeco and another Cojuangco-Aquino corporation, Luisita Realty Corporation, have put up fences in Cutcut and Balete villages. The company guards have also put up several “No trespassing” signs around agricultural lots tilled by farmers since 2005.
Tadeco recently filed trespassing charges against 81 farmers in Cutcut village.
Tadeco guards have also occupied four houses in Balete village and prevented its owners from repairing their homes damaged by the typhoon, according to Ambala. In Mapalacsiao village, Tadeco personnel threatened residents against planting rice and vegetables.
The company also issued eviction notices to hundreds of farmers who are supposed to be beneficiaries of the 2012 Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of land in Hacienda Luisita.
Ambala said the hundreds of hectares cordoned off by Tadeco are all prime agricultural lands, with the area in Cutcut near the newly-opened Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) while the rest are all near the Sublic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).
The Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) deemed that the Cojuangco-Aquino family is doing everything to keep their control over the vast lands of Hacienda Luisita as it would bring about billions of pesos in profits. “Land valuation around the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) ranges from P1 million to P6 million per hectare or P100 per square meter to P600 per square meter. Thus, reclassifying these lands would obviously bring in unimaginable amounts of profits,” the AMGL said.
Ambala said the 811.28 hectares of land being claimed by Tadeco should be included in areas for distribution to the farmers.
Ambala has called on the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to investigate Tadeco for its “landgrabbing” efforts.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes said the SC decision does not include Tadeco’s land.
Ambala noted however that Delos Reyes himself affirmed that it is the DAR’s duty to send out a notice of coverage for land distribution once they confirm that these Tadeco lands are indeed agricultural in nature.
“All that DAR needs to do is a simple ocular inspection to see for themselves that these vast tracts of land are mostly planted to sugarcane, and not only to palay by Ambala members. Why should the DAR wait until December to finish their research on Tadeco? All sugarcane crops would have been harvested by then. The ‘kabyawan’ or sugar cane harvest in the hacienda usually starts in October and ends in November,” Ambala said.
“It is clear that the DAR is colluding with the Cojuango-Aquinos in grabbing our land,” Sibayan said.
Last month, the DAR declared that the land distribution in Hacienda Luisits is complete. The DAR distributed copies of Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) to farmworker-beneficiaries in all ten villages.
“DAR said the land is ours; that our misery has ended. Why is it that we are now being evicted by the family of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III?” Sibayan said.
“Distribution of photocopied titles is not equal to physical land distribution. That is a mere paper, not land. This means that farmers must pay for the amortization even though they have yet to see where their land is,” Sibayan said.
The AMGL condemned the “reign of terror” in the hacienda controlled by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan for more than 50 years.
“The Cojuangco-Aquinos are notorious in violently attacking the farm workers. It was under martial law during the Marcos dictatorship, de-facto martial law during Hacienda Luisita massacre and Oplan Bantay Laya, they are now again waging terror against the farm workers,” Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairman, said.
“Hacienda Luisita is in a time-space warp. You would think that it is still under the Spanish colonization where hacienderos rule with iron-fist, slaughtering those who oppose them. The Cojuangco-Aquinos are social parasites fed by the sweat and blood of the farm workers. It is long overdue to overthrow their feudal control over the land,” Canlas said.