Tension and terror arise anew in the Tarlac hacienda.
MANILA – Hacienda Luisita farm workers in Tarlac province are bracing themselves to resist another round of attacks today, Dec. 5, following more than a week of harassment by armed men of the powerful Cojuangco-Aquino clan.
The Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said farm workers led by the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) will mobilize inside the hacienda today to protest the attacks.
UMA reported that at 9 p.m. last night, Dec. 4, dozens of drunken armed men fired shots, as they forced residents led by peasant leader Gerry Catalan out of Ambala’s hut in sitio (sub-village) Silangan, Mapalacsiao village in Tarlac City. Some 100 armed men now occupy the said hut, as well as other farm sheds in the bungkalan (cultivation) areas in the village, UMA said.
UMA secretary general Danilo Ramos decried that Ambala members have sought police assistance, but in vain, since Nov. 25 when “bolo-wielding thugs” sent by Lourdes village chief Edison Diaz started harassing farm workers and constructing “security outposts” around the bungkalan area in Mapalacsiao. Lourdes, also known as Texas village, is two kilometers from Mapalacsiao.
It was also in Mapalacsiao, on July 1, where men aided by Tarlac police bulldozed some 30 hectares of rice and vegetables ready for harvest, reportedly upon orders of Buena Timbol of the Cojuangco-Aquino-owned Luisita Estate Management (LEM) and Villamor Lagunero, Chief Security officer of Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco).
“The Timbol-Diaz group along with other Cojuangco minions have been mobilizing thugs and local constituents from Brgy. Lourdes to create chaos, discredit AMBALA and dismantle the bungkalan, particularly in Mapalacsiao,” Ramos said.
“The Cojuangco-Aquinos still reign in Hacienda Luisita. With this incident, Diaz and his thugs are openly defying the DAR’s status quo order issued by DAR Sec. Rafael Mariano on July 8,” said Ramos. Mariano issued the status quo order following the July 1 bulldozing of crops in Mapalacsiao.
On Oct. 1, Mariano announced an investigation into the “tambiolo system” (raffle) implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in the hacienda, and said no beneficiary will be disqualified by the tambiolo.
Meanwhile, Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao condemned the latest attack against Luisita farm workers.
“We condemn this warlord act by the Cojuangco-Aquinos against the farm workers, while their allies are yelling for democracy in Metro Manila, their lackeys are wreaking havoc in the hacienda, acting like a dictator that they could do anything they wish, similar to martial law,” Casilao said.
In 2005, Ambala started the bungkalan, or land initiative campaign in several of the 10 villages of Hacienda Luisita, to assert the farm workers’ right to the land and to help feed their families, in the aftermath of their strike which resulted to the Hacienda Luisita massacre. The farm workers have been harvesting organic crops, fruits and vegetables, as they persisted in the campaign, in spite of repeated attacks, which include demolition and burning of their huts and destruction of their crops.