“Police, armed men and other agents of the Cojuangco-Aquino family who are responsible for the destruction of our crops, homes and livelihood run free despite our formal complaints before several government agencies… We farmers, however, who have not committed any wrongdoing were quickly imprisoned.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Sixteen-year-old Jason (not his real name) just came home from school on February 8 when 12 security guards of the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) arrived and destroyed their hut at Balete village inside the Hacienda Luisita.
Using his cellphone, Jason took a video of the incident. When he was about to leave, three Tadeco guards grabbed him and confiscated his cellphone. He was eventually surrendered to the local police and was detained overnight at the Balete police station.
“They (security guards) told me taking a video is forbidden,” Jason told Bulatlat.com in an interview. He was released the following day, after the intervention of Tarlac City Councilor Emily Ladera-Facunla.
Yesterday, March 20, Jason went with his father Ricky Flores to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and filed charges of malicious mischief, grave coercion and physical injury against Tadeco, a corporation owned by the clan of President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, and its security guards. Eleven other farmers filed their complaint-affidavits for the destruction of their huts and crops on February 8, the birthday of President Aquino. State Prosecutor Rodan Parrocha received their complaints.
Tadeco and another corporation owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos, the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, are claiming ownership over a thousand hectares of land in Hacienda Luisita.
The Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said that the evicted farmers lost crops with an estimated P2.1 million, their huts and other belongings.
Gary Gonzales, one of the complainants, told Bulatlat.com that he saw Tadeco security guards harvest their produce last week. “They were the ones who benefitted from our palay, mongo and banana. I did not get to taste even one seed of mongo,” Gonzales said in Filipino. Gonzales, like his fellow farmers, was evicted from his four-hectare farmland and was never allowed to tend to his crops since Feb. 8.
Christopher Garcia, Ambala spokesman, lamented that the DOJ has not acted yet on their complaints. This is the second time that farmers of the Hacienda Luisita went to the DOJ.
On January 16, some 30 farmers also filed criminal charges against Tadeco. In a dialogue on the same day, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III told the farmers the DOJ would form a special panel to handle the case. Until now, however, no such panel has been formed.
Asked about the complaints filed by Hacienda Luisita farmers, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told Bulatlat.com in an ambush interview that she has yet to check the status with Baraan.
Ambala’s chairwoman Florida Sibayan, who was not able to join her colleagues today because she was detained, wrote a letter to De Lima.
“Police, armed men and other agents of the Cojuangco-Aquino family who are responsible for the destruction of our crops, homes and livelihood run free despite our formal complaints before several government agencies including your good office. We farmers, however, who have not committed any wrongdoing were quickly imprisoned,” Sibayan said in her letter.
Sibayan and another farmer Julius Loveland were arrested by authorities yesterday for charges of threat filed by a Tadeco security guard. This afternoon, Sibayan and Loveland were released from detention after posting bail.
“The crimes of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan are unspeakable, not only against the farmers of Hacienda Luisita but against the Filipino people,” Garcia said.
According to Ambala, the sugar mill of the president’s family, the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), has commenced the clearing of hundreds of hectares in Mapalacsiao village, affecting 50 farmer families in Sitio Maligaya. President Aquino’s sister Kris Aquino is a board member of CAT.