‘It’s better for DAR to stop lying and prove through actions their claims of implementing the law in Luisita. It should first stop the bulldozers of Cojuangcos in destroying our livelihood and property before they flaunt their fake accomplishments.’
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – As tension intensifies in Hacienda Luisita, farmers called on the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to act on their petition to issue a cease-and-desist order against the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco).
Some 50 armed personnel of the Tadeco bulldozed a hectare of rice field in Cutcut village inside the Hacienda Luisita yesterday, according to the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala). Farmers who rushed to the scene managed to stop the Tadeco guards from destroying further the agricultural lands in the said village. Ambala insisted the farmlands in Cutcut are within the notice of land reform coverage by the DAR.
The Tadeco, owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos, has been claiming hundreds of hectares of land in Cutcut, Balete and Central villages. Since November, the company has destroyed palay and other crops in Balete village. The 268-hectare land fenced off by the Tadeco in Balete is included in the notice of coverage issued by DAR on December 17, 2013 and published via the Philippine Star.
“This incident [bulldozing activities in Cutcut] boosts our assertion that the DAR and its top officials are in collusion with the Cojuangco-Aquinos and Tadeco,” Christopher Garcia, Ambala spokesman, said.
The farmers alliance filed their urgent petition for issuance of cease and desist order before DAR’s regional office in San Fernando, Pampanga on Dec. 26, 2013, five days after the Tadeco destroyed rice fields in Balete village. The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma), of which Ambala is a member organization, immediately furnished the DAR main office in Quezon City copies of the urgent petition.
On Dec. 27, 2013, the DAR issued a “show cause order” to the Tadeco via courier service. Almost a month later, in a dialogue with Ambala on January 21, low-ranking officials of the DAR said they cannot do anything about the petition because the Cojuangco-Aquinos refused to receive the show cause order. Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Anthony Parungao and other key DAR officials failed to attend the dialogue last January 21 at the DAR main office despite an urgent plea from Luisita farmers.
The Ambala scored Parungao for denying any knowledge of harassment perpetrated by the Tadeco against farmers. Parungao was quoted in a news article (01/30/14, Business Mirror) as saying that the DAR has received no report of alleged harassment. Ambala said that when the DAR released a Notice of Coverage (NOC) on December 17, 2013, it used as basis the titles submitted by Tadeco in court.
Ambala said further that Parungao himself signed an official correspondence addressed to the DAR regional director, and dated January 8, asking updates on the farmers’ petition for issuance of cease and desist order. A copy of the said letter was furnished to Florida Sibayan, chairwoman of Ambala, which the latter received only last week. A copy of Parungao’s letter was sent to Bulatlat.com by Ambala.
“It’s better for DAR to stop lying and prove through actions their claims of implementing the law in Lusita. It should first stop the bulldozers of Cojuangcos in destroying our livelihood and property before they flaunt their fake accomplishments,” Sibayan said, referring to the DAR’s accomplishment report on agrarian refom coverage.
Ambala reported that to this day, the fenced off area in Balete village is heavily guarded by armed Tadeco guards and by a company of soldiers belonging to the 3rd Mechanized Battalion. This army unit’s headquarters is located inside the fenced area, where the Cojuangco’s bulldozers are parked.
Ambala also accused DAR personnel of openly conniving with “Cojuangco dummies” such as ex-Land Transportation Office chief Virgie Torres to reclaim vast agricultural lands from farmworker-beneficiaries through the illicit “aryendo” or lease system.
The farmers also called on the Department of Justice to create a special panel for Luisita human rights cases. The farmers have filed criminal charges against the Tadeco, the security guards and the police last month.
Ambala also filed a motion to cite the DAR in contempt for undermining the 2012 Supreme Court ruling to distribute Luisita to farmworkers.