“…Even when the Honorable Court has specifically ordered the DAR to cover all other agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita, it did not immediately do so.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – For sins of commission and omission, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is being charged with contempt by farmers of Hacienda Luisita.
The Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) trooped to the Supreme Court, Jan. 16, seeking to cite in direct and indirect contempt the DAR. In its April 24, 2012 decision, the high court mandated DAR to implement the distribution of all agricultural lands in the vast plantation controlled by President Benigno Aquino III and family for more than five decades.
To this day, however, not a hectare of land has been distributed to more than 4,000 farmworker-beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita.
In its petition, a copy of which was sent to Bulatlat.com by Ambala’s lawyer Jobert Pahilga, Ambala asserted that the DAR committed direct contempt in submitting a false report to the high court.
In its third compliance report dated July 12, 2013, DAR stated that only 4,099 hectares of Hacienda Luisita Incorporated’s agricultural land is subject for distribution to the farmworker-beneficiaries.
The DAR arrived at the total land area of only 4,099 hectares as it excluded from distribution residential areas, canals, roads, firebreaks, a cemetery, buffer zones, lagoons, fishponds, eroded areas, and legal easements.
“DAR is fooling the high court,” Pahilga told Bulatlat.com in an interview. The land for distribution, Pahilga said, should be 4,915 hectares minus 580.15 hectares or 4335.60.
Pahilga explained that the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) stated in its 1989 proposal for stock distribution option that the total agricultural land is 4,915 hectares. Ambala asserts that in 1989, residential areas, canals, roads etc. have already been excluded from the total agricultural land.
Pahilga said further that the July 5, 2011 decision of the Supreme Court also states that the total agricultural land s 4,915 hectares minus the 580.15 hectares of land converted for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTex) and for other purposes.
“…clearly, the DAR was submitting a false report to the Honorable Court. For such act, it committed direct contempt of court and must be punished accordingly,” the petition read.
Ambalam also said that DAR is guilty of indirect contempt for not placing other agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita under agrarian reform coverage.
From the very beginning, Ambala said, they wanted to participate in the survey of the land but the DAR pushed through with it without informing them.
This resulted in the ejectment of farmers, Ambala said. Cojuangco-owned corporation Tarlac Development Corporation, which is claiming ownership over at least 461 hectares of land, filed charges of unlawful detainer against 102 farmers in Balete and Cutcut villages.
“…Even when the Honorable Court has specifically ordered the DAR to cover all other agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita, it did not immediately do so,” the petition read.
Pahilga noted that it was only on December 17, 2013, after farmlands were already bulldozed, that the DAR issued through publication via the Philippine Star a Notice of Coverage (NOC) of parcels of agricultural lands located at Balete and Cutcut villages in Tarlac City.
Ambala said Tadeco destroyed the plants and crops of the farmworkers and the agricultural character of the land. On December 26, 2013, Ambala filed an urgent petition for the issuance of cease and desist order before the DAR but the latter has not acted on it until now.
“It should have been simple. When DAR officials went to Balete village and saw bulldozers there, they should have immediately issued a cease and desist order against Tadeco but they did not,” Pahilga said. “Are they waiting for all the farmlands to disappear?”
“The omission of the DAR to immediately cover all other agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita and to issue a Cease and Desist Order is an affront to the order of the Honorable Court. It constitutes indirect contempt of the Honorable Court,” Ambala said in its petition.
Ambala stated that Tadeco is continuously committing illegal acts of bulldozing their farmlands and prevented the farmworkers from tending their farmlots.
“To those acts, the DAR is doing nothing. They are acting as mere by-standers. They have allowed Tadeco to commit with impunity those illegal acts,” Ambala said.
“We are calling on the Supreme Court to hear our plea,” Florida Sibayan, acting chairwoman of Ambala, said in Filipino. “The Cojuangco-Aquinos continue to deny us of our right to our land. We hope the Supreme Court will act on our petitions immediately.”