HARASSMENT & INTIMIDATION
JULY-OCTOBER 2013 – The Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) lot allocation activities were held in all ten villages of Hacienda Luisita with the heavy, intimidating presence of regional police, SWAT and the military. Hundreds of armed personnel, jail buses and firetrucks were on standby as DAR officials practically coerced farmworker-beneficiaries to sign the promissory note Application to Purchase and Farmers’ Undertaking (APFU), a legal document binding the beneficiary to pay the 30-year amortization for the farmlot allocated by DAR via lottery drum (tambiolo) raffle.
Simultaneous with the DAR’s activities is Cojuangco-Aquino firm Tarlac Development Corporation’s (TADECO) deployment of armed security guards and outposts around choice agricultural lots in Barangays Balete and Cutcut. Hundreds of farmers were sent eviction letters signed by TADECO counsel Atty. Eufrocinio dela Merced. The 3rd Mechanized Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) began construction of company headquarters right beside ricefields of AMBALA leaders in Barangay Balete.
OCTOBER – After Typhoon Santi hit Central Luzon, farmers’ homes and foodcrops in Hacienda Luisita were severely devastated. When farmers tried to rebuild their homes within the contested property claimed by TADECO in Bgy. Balete, armed security guards threatened farmers and barred them from saving or repairing their homes and property. Some farmhuts repaired by their owners were eventually destroyed by TADECO thugs, compelling farmers to abandon their homes out of fear.
NOVEMBER 12 – TADECO personnel with the help of hundreds of Tarlac police attempt to bulldoze ricefields in Barangay Balete. Farmers hold their ground. Hurt during the confrontation were AMBALA Acting Chair Florida Sibayan (in photo, in pink pants), her 76-year old mother, Maria Versola, and her sister, Ermisa Baldeviano, 46.
NOVEMBER 15 – The tree-planting activity and cultural night held by AMBALA to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre was marred by harassment by shotgun-toting TADECO personnel, patrols by the Tarlac PNP in an official vehicle without plate numbers and the presence of police armed with high-powered rifles loitering in the barangay’s basketball court.
DECEMBER 2013 – JANUARY 2014 – TADECO representatives Villamor Lagunero, Jr. of the Jose Cojuangco & Sons Security Agency, Mauro dela Cruz of Great Star Security, Buena Timbol of the Luisita Estate Management & Central Azucarera de Tarlac and their armed minions consistently impose the Cojuangco-Aquino clan’s illegal and immoral authority and claim over Hacienda Luisita agricultural lands by constantly warning farmers to leave their farmlots in Barangay Balete, or else they will be arrested and charged.
NOVEMBER 1, 2013 – Farmer Dennis dela Cruz of AMBALA has been the target of TADECO armed thugs’ warnings and death threats since September. He was found dead near AMBALA’s bungkalan farm in Barangay Balete, his head pinned by a concrete electrical post. Police authorities did not bother to conduct an autopsy and immediately ruled the incident to be a “freak accident.” The area where his body was found is now fenced with concrete and heavily guarded by TADECO armed men and the 3rd Mechanized Battalion of the AFP.
ILLEGAL ARREST & DETENTION
FEBRUARY 28, 2013 – Farmers Renato Mendoza, Wilson Duque & Jay Parazo of AMBALA, nabbed during AMBALA & DAR dialogue in La Majarica Hotel, Tarlac City. Charged with ROBBERY by Tarlac PNP. Released after three months, when fabricated complaint was dropped.
SEPTEMBER – AMBALA member Rico Tabago nabbed by Tarlac police for an old arson complaint filed by HLI when Tabago was only 15 years old. He was released after posting bail.
SEPTEMBER 17 – Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap and 10 other delegates to a fact-finding mission – Anakpawis staff members Danilo Ramos, Karl Mae San Juan, Rene Blasan & Kerima Acosta, Sister Patricia Fox of Tanggol Magsasaka, KARAPATAN paralegal Ronald Gustilo, cultural worker Ericson Acosta, AMBALA acting chair Florida Sibayan and members Luz Versola and Angelina Nunag — violently nabbed by Tarlac City PNP led by Chief Bayani Razalan. All except Hicap and Fox were charged with malicious mischief & direct assault by Cojuangco firm TADECO and Tarlac PNP to justify the unlawful arrest.
DECEMBER 21 – Five farmers – Jose Baldiviano, Rod Acosta, Mamerto Mandigma, Ronald Sakay and Vicente Sambu – detained by Tarlac PNP after mauling and arbitrary arrest in Barangay Balete. The PNP, led on ground command by the highest local officials Provincial Director Alex Sintin and City Chief of Police Bayani Razalan, assisted TADECO security in the violent eviction of farmers — bulldozing of ricefields and crops and destruction of huts, conspicuously after the DAR declared the contested property to be under land reform coverage. The farmers were released before Christmas after the physical injury complaint was junked. They now however face charges of direct assault filed by the Tarlac PNP.
FEBRUARY 8, 2014 – Young farmer Jerome “Rey” Flores, 16, tried to video TADECO guards destroying their farmhut through his cellphone camera. He was held at gunpoint and nabbed by the guards for turn-over to local police. He was released to the custody of Tarlac City Councilor Emily Ladera-Facunla and DSWD representatives.
To further its aggressive claim over choice agricultural lands, TADECO representatives, with the active assistance of the Tarlac PNP and some local prosecutors in Tarlac City, work like efficient harassment suit mills instantly churning out criminal charges without conducting any preliminary investigation against farmers and their supporters almost every week since December.
SEPTEMBER 2013 – Nine out of the 10 companions of Anakpawis Rep. Hicap arrested by the Tarlac PNP whilst on a fact-finding mission were to be charged with ROBBERY (supposedly because PNP City Chief Bayani Razalan lost two of his cellular phones during the violent arrest), if not for the intervention of SENTRA lawyer Atty. Jobert Pahilga. MALICIOUS MISCHIEF and DIRECT ASSAULT charges were still filed by TADECO and Tarlac PNP against the victims to justify the unlawful arrest.
OCTOBER-NOVEMBER – TADECO, through its representative Villamor Lagunero, Jr. filed UNLAWFUL DETAINER (ejectment) charges against 81 farmers in Bgy. Cutcut. After a few weeks, TADECO filed four more cases of the same complaint against more than 20 farmers in Bgy. Balete.
Clearly because TADECO’s revival is related to agrarian disputes and the Supreme Court decision on Hacienda Luisita, AMBALA counsel SENTRA filed motions to dismiss the cases for lack of jurisdiction. However, bulldozing of crops and eviction of farmers commenced in Bgy. Balete without any court order as these cases were still pending before the local courts.
DECEMBER – Five farmers mauled and arrested by Tarlac PNP charged with PHYSICAL INJURY based on a complaint by a lone TADECO security guard. Charges were dropped after local prosecutor rued that the respondents also suffered injuries.
JANUARY 2014 – Five farmers mauled in the December bulldozing incident were charged instead with DIRECT ASSAULT by the Tarlac PNP.
AMBALA Chairperson Florida Sibayan, who was among the September fact-finding delegates hurt, arrested and charged by TADECO and police, was informed in January that she was also being charged of THREAT by a TADECO security guard, along with another farmer, Julius Loveland.
FEBRUARY – Tarlac City Councilor Emily Ladera-Facunla, who as a public servant and Luisita resident tried to intervene to prevent bloodshed during the tense December bulldozing incident, was informed in February that she is also being charged with TRESSPASSING and COERCION by TADECO. No preliminary investigation was conducted. Facunla is the sister of Abelardo Ladera, also a Tarlac City Councilor, who fell victim to extra-judicial killing in 2005.
After a week, TADECO forwarded complaints of MALICIOUS MISCHIEF and USURPATION OF PROPERTY against Councilor Facunla, Bgy. Balete Councilor Chris Viadan and 48 other farmers from Balete and Cutcut. The complaint refers to AMBALA’s collective effort to repair a farmhut destroyed by TADECO guards in December. The attached photo of farmer Raymund Alcaide’s hut destroyed by TADECO guards was cited as evidence of “a TADECO security outpost destroyed by farmers.”
Another Balete farmer, Marlon Cunan was informed in February that he was being charged by a TADECO guard with SLIGHT PHYSICAL INJURY, also related to the December incident. Cunan recently offered his property to become the new site of AMBALA’s local headquarters in Balete, after the group’s bungkalan farmlots and huts were destroyed by TADECO.
DESTRUCTION OF CROPS & PROPERTY
BULLDOZING OF RICEFIELDS & CROPS commenced in Bgy. Balete in November 2013. Several vegetable plots were destroyed before AMBALA members managed to stop TADECO guards. With the help of fully-armed SWAT teams and hundreds of police personnel, however, from December 12-21, 2013, more than a hundred hectares of agricultural land in Balete were bulldozed, destroying farmhuts, water systems and ricefields with newly-planted and ready to harvest palay. Many farmers also complain that their farm animals, tools and other implements were stolen by TADECO guards.
By January, TADECO had the 260-hectare area in Balete fenced with concrete and barbed wires. Farmers who still had crops and farmhuts within the area were practically made “prisoners” to be able to tend to their crops.
In Bgy. Cutcut, TADECO guards bulldozed around a hectare of a ricefield before AMBALA members managed to stop further destruction. TADECO is claiming more than a hundred hectares in this area.
From February 8-11, TADECO guards destroyed crops, dismantled and razed several farmhuts in the contested 260-hectare area. Without any government action in their favor, farmers who wish to keep their crops and few property are compelled to be under TADECO’s immoral authority, making them promise to leave their farmlots after harvest of crops.
There is excessive deployment of police, military and paramilitary groups within Hacienda Luisita to “secure” supposed farmworker-beneficiaries. Barangay Balete, for example is host to a “Community Police Precinct” where SWAT teams and hundreds of police regularly converge to harass and preempt AMBALA activities. The company headquarters of the 3rd Mechanized Battalion is located within the fenced TADECO contested area, where the ricefields of AMBALA leaders Rene Galang and Florida Sibayan used to exist before these were destroyed by TADECO’s bulldozing sorties. Regular patrols are conducted by the military.
Pfc. Roderick U. Dela Cruz, main suspect in the October 2005 killing of Ricardo Ramos, village chair of Bgy. Mapalacsiao and Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) president, was acquitted in December 2013, around the same time when TADECO began its violent bulldozing sortie in Bgy. Balete.
AMBALA filed a CEASE AND DESIST petition against TADECO bulldozing and eviction before the DAR Regional Office, December 26, 2013. The DAR has yet to act on this urgent appeal.
The DAR has instead DISQUALIFIED more than a hundred farmworker-beneficiaries, most of them active AMBALA members who have voiced out their defiance against signing the prommisory note APFU. AMBALA has a pending motion before the Supreme Court questioning the DAR’s hoax land distribution scheme.
AMBALA and individual victims of bulldozing of crops, illegal arrest, threats, coercion, physical injury and other rights violations trooped to the Department of Justice (DOJ) main office, January 16, 2014. In a dialogue, DOJ Undersecretary Francicso Baraan promised the farmers that they will form a special panel for Luisita cases. There is still no update on this from the DOJ.
UNLAWFUL DETAINER charges against Balete farmers were DISMISSED by MTC Judge Eleanor de Jesus in January 2014, but TADECO proceeded to burn farmers’ huts and crops last February 8, after the farmers’ received copies of the local court’s decision.
In official response to a December 22, 2013 letter of concern sent by Rev. Barry Naylor, a London-based rights advocate, on the violent December incident in Hacienda Luisita, the PNP Region IIII represented by Police Superintendent Raul Delfin Petrasanta said that “there is no such incident of harassment nor any misconduct on the part of the police force.” The PNP attached barangay certifications signed by village chiefs from five other barangays of Hacienda Luisita –- but not including Bgy. Balete where the mauling and arbitrary arrests occurred.