The Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corporation started bulldozing farmlands and evicting farmers in Balete village in November last year.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Leonora Layco, 67, has been farming a 0.7-hectare land in Balete village since 2005. On Dec. 23, 2013, she was heartbroken to see her crops destroyed, her farm gone. Security guards of Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) bulldozed hundreds of hectares of agricultural land.
“All we wanted is a piece of land to till,” Layco told Bulatlat.com in Filipino. “Since I was 14 years old, I was a farm worker in the sugar plantation.”
Layco is one of the 30 farmers from Hacienda Luisita, along with their supporters, who filed criminal charges against Tadeco and elements of the police before the Department of Justice (DOJ), Jan. 16.
Tadeco is claiming ownership over at least 461 hectares of land in the villages of Balete, Cutcut and Central. The corporation started bulldozing farmlands and evicting farmers in Balete village in November last year. The Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) reported that Tadeco also started putting up fences and security outposts in Cutcut village today.
“For destroying crops, bulldozing and fencing off farmlands and driving the farmers away, we are filing charges of malicious mischief, grave coercion and physical injury against Tadeco’s board of directors and their security guards,” Jobert Pahilga, counsel for the Ambala and executive director of Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra) told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
Ambala filed December 26, 2013 an urgent petition before the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for the issuance of a cease-and-desist order against Tadeco. The petition sought to (1) restrain and prevent Tadeco, or any of the persons under its employ, from bulldozing and/or conducting earth-moving activities of the said parcels of land; (2) order Tadeco to pull out the armed security guards it has deployed from the area; (3) order Tadeco to respect the rights of the members of the petitioners to peaceful possession, occupation and cultivation of the subject land. As of this writing, however, the DAR has not acted on the petition. Ambala filed contempt charges against DAR, Jan. 16. (See related story: Luisita farmers file contempt charges vs agrarian reform department)
“We also filed charges of physical injury and illegal arrest and detention against Tarlac City and provincial police in relation to the incidents on Dec. 21, 2013 and on Sept. 17, 2013,” Pahilga said.
On Dec. 21 last year, policemen under the command of Provincial Director Alex Sintin, Tarlac City Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Bayani Razalan, chief of Great Star Security Agency, Mauro dela Cruz and Tadeco representative Villamor Lagunero arrested Hacienda Luisita farmers Vicente Sambo, Rod and his mother Eufemia Acosta, Ronald Sakay, husband and wife Jose and Elsa Baldiviano, and Manuel and Mamerto Mandigma.
Three of them were eventually released but five were detained at Camp Macabulos, headquarters of PNP-Tarlac. Tadeco filed charges of physical injury against the farmers but the complaint was eventually dismissed for lack of probable cause. Tarlac City Prosecutor Hermo Manglicmot, in his resolution, noted that the farmers were the ones who suffered injuries.
Meanwhile, on Sept. 17, 2013, eleven farmers and their supporters, including Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, were arrested by Tarlac City police in Balete village while conducting a fact-finding mission.Hicap and Catholic nun Sister Pat Fox were released. The others were charged with illegal Assembly, malicious mischief, illegal trespass, and direct assault
Tadeco also filed charges of unlawful detainer against 102 farmers in Balete and Cutcut villages.