Luisita farmers hold vigil to stop destruction of farms, huts

MANILA — The rumbling sound of bulldozers roused Hacienda Luisita farmers from sleep past 10 pm, April 18, when Aquino-Cojuangco aides reportedly ordered the complete demolition of collective farms and huts run by a farmworkers organization in barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac.

According to reports from the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), goons under the orders of Arsenio Valentino, a known Aquino-Cojuangco aide and farm administrator were set to demolish Ambala’s kubol (headquarters) in barangay Mapalacsiao. Several women farmers held vigil to stop the bulldozing.

Florida Sibayan, Ambala chairperson, said, “Hindi natuloy ang pagbuldos ng kubol sa Mapalacsiao, sa pagkakaisa ng mga kababaihan na ipaglaban ang lupa. Kahit gabi na, hindi sila natakot na ipagtabuyan ang mga magbubuldos.” (The bulldozing of our hut in Mapalacsiao was averted by the women’s unity to fight for the land. It was very late, but they were not afraid to drive away the goons)

However, Ambala also reported that the bulldozers are now on standby and demolition can continue any time. Gravel and sand has been delivered to the area where a workers’ barracks has been set up for the construction of a new structure in the said disputed area.

The Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) noted that this new threat coincides with the fourth anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision for total land distribution in Hacienda Luisita which was promulgated on April 24, 2012.

Only last month, more than 20 hectares planted mostly to monggo (mung bean) and other food crops in the same area have been destroyed by eight tractors manned by goons reportedly hired by Valentino, and another known Cojuangco-Aquino aide, Buena Timbol.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos lamented that “President Aquino does not give a damn about these illegal activities in his own backyard.”

“Two Cojuangco-Aquinos have won the presidency with the promise to distribute Hacienda Luisita to us farmworkers. But look at what’s happening to us here now,” Sibayan said.

Anakpawis lawmaker Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap revived his call to investigate the bogus land distribution implemented by Aquino and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Hacienda Luisita. As early as August 2013, Anakpawis authored House Resolution No. 163, directing the House Committee on Agriculture to conduct an inquiry, after reports of fraudulent processes and harassment of farmers hit the news. In October 2103, Anakpawis, Rep. Neri Colmenares and the rest of the Makabayan bloc in Congress also introduced House Resolution 417 to hold investigations regarding the highly questionable land survey of Hacienda Luisita.

“The DAR’s dubious land survey and mode of distribution via tambiolo raffle draws in highly militarized ceremonies laid the basis for the swindle of supposed beneficiaries and the shameless landgrabbing and eviction happening now in Hacienda Luisita,” Ramos said.

Other than this incident, on June 25, 2014, the DAR itself through its Provincial Agrarian Reform Office led by Atty. Jose Eduardo Narcisco, with assistance from fully-armed policemen, led the destruction of food crops and fruit trees in the same area in Hacienda Luisita.

The UMA said DAR is also instrumental in the illegal arrest, smear campaign and filing of trumped-up charges against Hacienda Luisita farmers who were slapped with violation of RA 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law – for cultivating the land promised by agrarian reform.

In 2014, complaints or countercharges were filed by farmers at the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the perpetrators and other members of the President’s family. Up to now, no action has been taken by authorities.

“Now they are wooing us to vote for someone who will continue their ‘Daang Matuwid.’ Are they referring to a ‘straight path’ where farmers are run over by rumbling bulldozers?” Sibayan said. ()

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