“The DAR must stop the continued bulldozing and fencing of agricultural lands by the Cojuangco-Aquino owned Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC) and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT).”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Farmers of Hacienda Luisita held a picket protest in front of the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (Paro) in Tarlac City this morning to protest the government agency’s inaction on their petition against the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
It has been almost three months since the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) filed a petition for the issuance of an urgent cease-and-desist order against the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), a firm owned by the clan of President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III. At that time, Tadeco started bulldozing agricultural lands in Balete village, Tarlac City despite a notice of land reform coverage issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on December 17, 2013.
“Until now, the DAR has done nothing to stop the aggressive landgrabbing efforts by the Cojuangco-Aquino family, which has now covered several Luisita villages aside from Balete – Lourdes, Cutcut, Central and Mapalacsiao in Tarlac City and parts of Parang village in Concepcion town,” Christopher Garcia, Ambala spokesman, said in a statement. Hacienda Luisita covers ten villages in the towns of Tarlac, La Paz and Concepcion.
The Ambala slammed the DAR for its failure to implement a cease and desist order to stop Cojuangco-Aquino landgrabbing in the controversial sugar estate.
“The DAR must stop the continued bulldozing and fencing of agricultural lands by the Cojuangco-Aquino owned Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC) and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT),” Garcia said.
Paro chief Ileona Pangilinan told the Hacienda Luisita farmers that their office would forward the petition to the DAR main office in Manila.
When Sibayan told Pangilinan that they are being routinely beaten up, their crops and huts destroyed and they are being detained by the Cojuangco-Aquinos, Pangilinan said she does not heard of any of those incidents.
Ambala said the CAT is bulldozing and fencing off 214 more hectares of agricultural lands in Mapalacsiao village. The group estimated that parcels of agricultural land being claimed by Cojuangco-Aquino’s corporations, which the DAR should have included for distribution, might reach a thousand hectares.
“Instead of stopping the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ landgrabbing spree, the DAR recently announced that it is now accepting lot applications for would-be ‘farmer –beneficiaries’ in contested Tadeco property in Hacienda Luisita,” the group said.
Today is the first day of lot application for 100 hectares of land in Cutcut village, while applications for the 258-hectare property in Balete village will commence on April 1.
“If they are indeed serious in implementing land reform, these DAR officials must be the ones to tear down the concrete walls installed by this insatiable landlord family and let farmers till their land in peace,” Florida Sibayan, Ambala chairwoman, said.
Sibayan’s hut and crops were among those destroyed by Cojuangco-hired security guards last February 8.
Twelve farmers including Sibayan’s husband, Willy, filed new complaints of malicious mischief, grave coercion, and illegal detention before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last week. The DAR and the DOJ have yet to act on petitions and complaints filed by the farmers against Tadeco.
According to Ambala, the parcels of land being claimed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos must be distributed to the farmers as per the explicit provision of the Supreme Court ruling of April 24, 2012, which instructs the DAR to find and award to the farmers all other agricultural lands besides the 4,915 hectares officially declared under agrarian reform coverage. In January, Ambala filed a petition before the Suprme Court to cite the DAR in contempt.
Ambala added that the portions of land supposedly included in the land distribution process have not yet been physically awarded to the farm worker beneficiaries. “These lands are instead being usurped and controlled by sugar cane production financiers who are Cojuangco-Aquino dummies and direct agents of the CAT,” the group said.
Ranmil Echanis, secretary general of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) and one of the conveners of the Luisita Watch network, said that “the land distribution farce in Luisita and the unchecked violent bullying of the Cojuango-Aquino’s only prove the bankruptcy of the CARPER [Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms] and thus the need to finally enact the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, a progressive legislation which landlord dynasties in Congress have long been opposing.”