Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano ordered the distribution of the lands being controlled by the Cojuangco family through Tadeco.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Hacienda Luisita farmers hailed the recent ruling of the Department of Agrarian Reform, ordering the distribution of 358 hectares of Hacienda Luisita that are controlled by the Cojuangco family through the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO).
“Our kasamas (comrades) are in tears. They were very emotional when they heard our recent victory. This is a result of our struggle – our fellow farmers sacrificed their lives for this,” Florida Sibayan, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita Ambala) chairperson, told Bulatlat.
In its ruling, Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano ordered the distribution of the lands being controlled by the Cojuangco family through Tadeco. The decision was in response to a petition filed by the Ambala, seeking for the coverage of the land and in effect, denied Tadeco’s protest and supplemental protest for lack of merit.
Hacienda Luisita covers some 5,000 hectares, which has been the seat of a half-a-century bloody conflict between the powerful Cojuangco-Aquino clan and peasants and farm workers. In a historic ruling in 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of its 4,916 hectares to its 4,296 original farm workers.
Cojuangcos continue to evade land distribution
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Joseph Canlas said the DAR ruling is “an added weapon for the farmworkers against the Cojuangco family’s continuing scheme to evade land distribution.”
Canlas said the Cojuangcos consciously concealed the 358-hectare Tadeco land located in the villages of Balete and Cutcut from the Stock Distribution Option, which was implemented in 1989. In December 2013, the DAR notice of coverage included the land. But Canlas said the Cojuangcos opposed this and claimed that the lands are no longer suitable for agriculture.
However, DAR, in a press release, described the Tadeco-controlled lands as “prime agricultural lands.”
Apart from the Tadeco-controlled land, Sibayan said the Cojuangcos and big businesses continue to evade land distribution and maneuver their way out of the Supreme Court ruling in 2012, as in the case of the fenced lands being claimed by the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC).
Sibayan said there is currently an ongoing construction in the fenced RCBC lands in partnership with the Luisita Estate Management, owned by the Cojuangcos.
“We cannot see what they are doing there. There were no announcements on what it is. But the people have seen bulldozers there,” she said.
Sibayan said these lands must also be distributed to the farmers of Hacienda Luisita.
Increased presence of military and Tadeco guards
While Luisita farmers welcome the distribution of Tadeco-controlled lands, Sibayan also expressed worries over the increased presence of military and private security guards who have been sowing terror in their villages.
Last Aug. 25, at least 16 soldiers in full battle gear were seen roaming Balete village at around 8 p.m.
“It is not even. They are armed and the farmers are not,” Sibayan quipped, adding, “They are terrorizing the people. It is as if there is war here. Ang tindi.”
In recent years, Luisita farmers have implicated Tadeco and their private security guards in various rights violations and in destroying their crops.