PHILIPPINES: COJUANCO - AQUINO’S GUARDS DESTROY FARMLOTS IN LUISITA

Monday 6 January 2014

Date: 13 December Type: News Source: Bulatlat Keywords: farmers, hacienda luisita, state, fascism

MANILA — Newly-planted palay, banana and other fruit-bearing trees were destroyed yesterday by Cojuangco-Aquino-owned Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco).

About a hundred police, soldiers and security guards of Tadeco bulldozed the farm lots of seven farmers in Balate village, Hacienda Luisita, according to Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) and the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala).

Farmers Manuel Suarez, Nenita Galang, Lita Dulay, Ernesto Lopez, Abelardo Mallari and Domingo Garcia have been tending the farm lots since 2005 as part of Ambala’s bungkalan (tillage) campaign.

“The Cojuangco-Aquino family has no right to drive us away, especially with the Supreme Court ruling ordering them to distribute these lands to us farmworkers,” Florida Sibayan, acting chairwoman of Ambala said in a statement.

Tadeco and another Cojuangco-Aquino-owned corporation, Luisita Realty Corporation, are claiming ownership of some 880 hectares of land in Balete, Cutcut and Central villages inside the hacienda.

In its April 24, 2012 decision, the Supreme Court mandated the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to implement the land distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmworker-beneficiaries. It was only in July this year that Ambala learned of Tadeco’s claims over hundreds of hectares of land.

Earlier this month, Tadeco filed unlawful detainer cases against 21 farmers in Balete village. Last month, the same charges were filed against 81 farmers in Cutcut village before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) Branch 1 in Tarlac City.

“The charges are meant to harass and silence us,” Sibayan said.

The farmers charged by Tadeco, represented by the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra), filed motions before the MTC to dismiss the cases for lack of jurisdiction. They asserted that the charges sprung from an agrarian dispute and should be resolved by the DAR.

In its complaint against the farmers, Tadeco said that the subject lands are intended for future expansion for commercial and industrial use but it also acknowledged that the lands are actually agricultural in use at present.

“Essentially, Tadeco admitted in the complaint that agrarian unrest still exists in Hacienda Luisita,” Uma and Ambala said.

The DAR had earlier stated that it would verify if the disputed lands are agricultural in nature and that it would come out with a report by December. Uma said, “The DAR has tolerated and justified TADECO’s violent steps against farmers.”

“In October, DAR declared that ‘the farmworkers’ sufferings are over’ with the distribution of photocopies of land reform certificates to thousands of farm worker beneficiaries (FWBs) in the plantation. However, not an inch of land has been physically distributed to FWBs until now,” the groups said.

“Noynoy Aquino’s hands are bloodied with the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004. Today, supposed land reform beneficiaries are treated like criminals and scum with the heavy deployment of police, military and demolition teams in Hacienda Luisisita. Does the President want more blood to be spilled in his own backyard?” Ambala and Uma said.

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