Hacienda Luisita farmers disenfranchised anew by DAR in TADECO land reform coverage

After hoax land distribution, unjust compensation and the recent disqualification of hundreds of land reform beneficiaries, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) rubs salt on Hacienda Luisita farmers’ wounds in its new land reform policy covering hundreds of hectares of agricultural land excluded by the DAR in its earlier land distribution activities in Hacienda Luisita.

In a meeting held today in Barangays Balete and Cutcut in Hacienda Luisita, officials said that the DAR will not recognize the claim of more than 200 Hacienda Luisita farm workers cultivating agricultural lands since 2005. Around 400 hectares of land in these areas are aggressively claimed by the Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) despite a Notice of Coverage (NOC) issued by the DAR last December.

Hundreds of farm worker families embarked on the breakthrough “bungkalan” land cultivation initiative since 2005, when the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) ruled that Hacienda Luisita must be distributed to farmers. The Supreme Court (SC) issued a final and executory decision upholding the PARC ruling in 2012. Today, the DAR is practically aiding the Cojuangco-Aquino clan to once again dodge land reform by issuing statements and policy declaring that “TADECO areas are separate from Hacienda Luisita.”

“TADECO is the mother company of the Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated (HLI). Disputes concerning TADECO lands involve Luisita farm workers and the same Cojuangco-Aquino landlords. The DAR sows more tension and confusion by declaring that TADECO issues must be treated separately from the SC ruling on Hacienda Luisita.”

DAR Tarlac Chief Ileona Pangilinan and his assistant Mike Acosta stated that they only wanted to discuss how the farm workers can become beneficiaries, even as farmers under the alliance AMBALA, through their legal counsel Atty. Jobert Pahilga of SENTRA already delivered a petition for allocation dated December 27, 2013 for the subject lands in the two barangays.

When AMBALA official Renato Mendoza and other members in Cutcut raised other pressing concerns such as the status of their urgent petition for the DAR to issue a cease and desist order (CDO) against TADECO’s land grabbing, Ms. Pangilinan told them to raise these concerns before the DAR national and regional offices respectively. However, officials from the DAR main office in Quezon City told AMBALA that the DAR will act on the petition before February 10.

DAR likewise refused to give a definitive answer when asked by the farm workers regarding the bulldozing of a one hectare agricultural land in Cutcut, the bulldozing of more than 200 hectares of lands in Balete, and the subsequent filing of cases by TADECO against farm workers and their advocates.

TADECO hired thugs proceeded to burn farmers’ huts and bulldoze more crops in Barangay Balete on February 8 without any intervention from the DAR until now.

Christopher Garcia of AMBALA observes: “It is very clear that DAR has no intention to recognize legitimate concerns and issues of the farm workers. The DAR has been undermining our bungkalan.” TADECO’s violent bulldozing of crops and fencing of the disputed lands are primarily aimed at AMBALA’s land cultivation areas called “bungkalan.”

“Their Notice of Coverage is useless as DAR not only tolerates but encourages the violent eviction done against the farm workers by thugs of TADECO and with the assistance of police and military units,” said Mendoza. “It is only through maintaining and regaining our bungkalan areas will farm workers be ensured of our right to the land,” he added.

March 4, 2014  |  UMA  |  AMBALA

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