The failure of government’s agrarian reform manifests in various haciendas across the country, such as in Hacienda Dolores in Pampanga
By Xandra Bisenio
Hacienda Luisita, owned by Pres. Benigno Aquino’s family, has become the prime example of prevailing landlessness and landlord resistance to land distribution in the Philippines. But the failure of government’s agrarian reform also manifests in various haciendas across the country. For instance, in Hacienda Dolores in Pampanga, attempts at land-grabbing, deception and land-use conversion of agricultural lands by high-profile private corporations continue, with government acting as middleman.
Born and raised in Hacienda Dolores, 60-year-old Lourdes Ignacio has been farming her whole life. Her family lived on their fruit harvests at Balukbok, Purok 8 of the once-idyllic hacienda. They grew a variety of fruit-bearing trees in less than an hectare of land, which she inherited from her father: pomelo, santol, mangoes, avocados. But the most plentiful harvest came from their guava trees, reaching 18 crates per day on the peak months of July, August and September. In fact, Hacienda Dolores would yield an average of 2,400 kilos daily for an entire quarter, earning farmers more than a million per month collectively from guavas alone.
Nanay Lourdes now wonders why the hacienda is being taken over by big companies, namely the Leonardo-Lachenal-Leonio Holdings Inc. (LHI) and FL Properties and Management Corporation (FL Corp), which are both in a joint venture with Ayala Land. The tie-up aims to build what it has started to advertise as a 1,125-hectare commercial, academic, recreational and residential district called Alviera, projected to be twice the size of the Makati business district and six times the Bonifacio Global City.
Many have claimed ownership of Hacienda Dolores in the past, from Gregorio Mapinlac in the 1800s and the Champourchins beyond the 1900s and the Puyats and Dayrits until the late 1990s. But according to hacienda workers, it is only with the entry of the Ayalas and their partners did they experience being violently harassed, persecuted, and fenced-off the land that their families have tilled since their ancestors.
The case of Hacienda Dolores has been featured online and in dailies especially early this year when three farmers who attempted to work at their land were repeatedly shot at by LHI and FL Corp security, killing Arman Padino and injuring the others. Just last month, Hacienda Dolores barangay kagawad and Aniban ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan sa Hacienda Dolores (ANIBAN) peasant leader Menelao “Ka Melon” Barcia was also killed when he and his wife were ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen.
“Dating napakaunlad ng Hacienda Dolores, bakit ganito ang nangyayari sa amin ngayon (Hacienda Dolores used to be very productive, why is this happening to us now)?” asks Nanay Lourdes. Aside from fencing them off from their productive farms since early last year, LHI and FL Corp security have also been confiscating their poultry and taking from their produce.
Meanwhile, another farmer, Peling Santiago said that the fences set up by LHI and FL Corp even barred water passages from the hills to make sure that no farmer fits through and gets to enter. In May 2013, Nanay Peling’s hut in the farm was among the huts and fruit-bearing trees bulldozed then burned by LHI and FL Corp security.
“Bakit nila ginagawa yon, nagbabayad naman kami (Why did they do that while we were religiously paying our dues),” Nanay Peling said. Bearing a certificate of land transfer (CLT) and certificate of land ownership award (CLOA), it should be Nanay Peling’s fourth year of paying her Php97,000 land amortization on a Php6,000/ year installment basis. “Dahil hindi na kami makapagpitas, wala na kaming kita, wala na ring pambayad (Because we can no longer pick fruits, we no longer earn anything, we have nothing to pay with),” she said. Mothers have had to resort to odd jobs like doing laundry and retail selling, which barely made up for lost income since they were barred from entering their farms.
Like Nanay Peling, farmer Manny Santiago bears a certificate of land transfer (CLT), a certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) and even an emancipation patent (EP). He has been farming in Hacienda Dolores for 40 years now but has also been unable to farm since LHI and FL Corp declared about 700 hectares of productive land off limits to the farmers. When he attempted to voice out his frustration to the company security, he was told to file his complaint in Makati, Metro Manila where the companies hold office. “Bakit ako pupunta ng Makati tungkol sa lupang binubungkal ko? Nagpupunta naman ako sa mga tamang opisina gaya ng munisipyo at Land Bank para magbayad ng aking obligasyon (Why should I go to Makati about the land that I till? I go to the right offices such as the municipal hall and Land Bank where I pay my dues),” Tatay Manny lamented.
Such is the plight of over 700 peasant families in Hacienda Dolores who are being convinced by other so-called concerned organizations to give up their parcels of productive land for a fair amount of money. Other families have been paid Php500-800,000 each to leave the hacienda and to live by the river, far from their fruit-bearing trees and rice fields or from any viable means of living.
The experience of Hacienda Dolores farmers also mirrors the failure of past and present agrarian reform programs to genuinely distribute land, for farmers to make productive towards a dynamic agriculture that can be the foundation of Filipino-owned industries. Due to expire this month, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and its extension (CARPER) has been criticized for being riddled with loopholes that favored landowners and developers. Farmers question the veracity of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) claim that 84% of more than 5 million hectares targeted for distribution has been awarded to farmer beneficiaries, on the ground of so many cases of CLOA, CLT and EP cancellations. On the other hand, government has paid landowners Php82.85 billion from 1988 to 2012 in compensation.
According to Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) data, only 9.7% of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries awarded lands for amortization have already paid for their lands in full; only 14.5% are paying. Leasehold farmers have increased from 555,232 in 1988 to 1,216,430 in 2012; some 1.2 million hectares are under agribusiness contracts where farmers are under contract agreements onerous to their interests.
Finally, Hacienda Dolores, 465 hectares of which are agriculturally productive and 200 hectares of which are in fact the ancestral domains of Aetas, is a classic example of land-use conversion of productive lands into business-oriented centers pushed by the country’s wealthiest. No less than the DAR-Region III filed an exemption order declassifying Hacienda Dolores as agricultural. No less than the Office of the President received the counter-petition filed by LHI and FL Corp contesting the cease and desist order filed by the farmers with regard to such exemption. Contrary to government’s inaction on the lament of Hacienda Dolores farmers, the Office of the President has immediately summoned for all relevant documents to study the case filed by Ayala Land’s partner companies.
Like Nanay Lourdes, Nanay Peling and Tatay Manny, those who continue to resist land-grabbing face continued intimidation by the companies’ goons. In a recent barangay assembly, Nanay Lourdes said, “Kailangan lang magpatatag tayong lahat (We all just have to be strong)”.
“Ayaw namin ng pera nila—mauubos din iyon, hindi pangmatagalan tulad ng mga prutas mula sa puno namin, at di namin maipapamana sa’ming mga anak tulad ng lupang binubungkal namin (We don’t want their money—it will eventually run out, it can’t last like the fruits from our trees can, nor can it become a legacy such as the land that we are tilling)” Nanay Lourdes concluded.