“It appears that even Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was ordered not to act on the complaints we filed against the Cojuangco-Aquinos.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Hacienda Luisita farmers travelled all the way from Tarlac to protest what they call as the “lingering agrarian unrest and impunity” three years after the landmark Supreme Court (SC) ruling on Hacienda Luisita.
The farmers picketed the Department of Justice (DOJ) for not acting on the series of criminal complaints they filed as early as January last year against the Cojuangco-Aquinos, security guards, local police and even officials from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Scores of farmers filed the charges on January 16, March 20, and October 10, 2014 for bulldozing and destruction of millions worth of their crops, burning of their homes, theft of farm tools and animals, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention including that of a minor, assault, mauling and attempted murders that took place from September 2013 until August of 2014.
Florida Sibayan, chairperson of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), said, “It seems that it was not only in Mamasapano that Aquino gave a stand down order. It appears that even Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was ordered not to act on the complaints we filed against the Cojuangco-Aquinos.”
Sibayan was referring to the bungled operations of elite police forces on January 25 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, which ended up in tragedy. Aquino himself and then suspended police chief Alan Purisima directed the operations, based on several investigations.
Sibayan said they decided to file the criminal charges with the DOJ and not with any local court in Tarlac precisely to avoid the Cojuangco-Aquinos’s political clout in the province. Sibayan said De Lima’s inaction is “very telling.”
Sibayan and Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap submitted yet another letter today to follow up on the cases. Hicap tried to request an audience with De Lima but the latter’s secretary, Lyn Atencio, said that her boss is too busy and has to leave the DOJ by noon for another appointment.
“If it’s about Hacienda Luisita, she is always busy,” Sibayan retorted after hearing Atencio’s response.
Speaking during the short program in front of the DOJ, Hicap said De Lima promised him she would provide updates on the case during the budget deliberations in Congress in August last year. “Until now, I have not heard from her office,” Hicap said.
After the last filing of complaints in October, Malacanang denied any abuses and challenged the farmers to present evidence. “We believe this is a strong signal from Aquino himself for the DOJ to ignore the cases we filed against his kin,” Sibayan said.
Meanwhile, several farmers still face what they call as fabricated charges filed by the Aquino-Cojuangcos in local courts.
Ambala and Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) said the charges are all absurd, including charges of violation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) filed against 13 farmers, direct assault filed by police against nine farmers and supporters, trespassing against Tarlac City Councilor Emily Ladera-Facunla, who was acting in her capacity as a public official to intervene in a bulldozing incident involving police and goons of the Aquino-Cojuangcos in December 2013, among others.
Farmworkers Ofelia Hernandez, Marcelino Lugay and Romeo Corpuz have been slapped with charges of physical injuries even as they were the ones who suffered near fatal injuries after a violent assault by Aquino-Cojuangco “goons” in March 2014.
Other cases against the farmers have been dismissed by local courts or reverted to the DAR due to their agrarian nature.
Ambala has pending motions with the Supreme Court. The group filed motions to cite DAR in contempt and indirect contempt of court in January last year and an omnibus motion, which includes a prayer to order the DAR to put a stop to bulldozing and destruction of farmers’ livelihood. The SC has yet to act on the farmers’ appeals.
Ambala said the Cojuangco-Aquinos have maintained control of thousands of hectares of land, while majority of beneficiaries have fallen prey to illicit lease or buy-back agreements with alleged dummies of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.