Hacienda Luisita in the News: March 8, 2014

Malacanang comments on tension in Hacienda Luisita, without any mention  of the government’s actual role in reviving peasant unrest — via the land distribution swindle implemented by Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) complemented by renewed militarization, suppression and terror wrought by the intimidating presence of the local police and military personnel actively assisting Cojuangco-Aquino hired thugs.

Luisita farmers have pending motions, petitions and criminal cases filed before local courts,  various offices of the DAR, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Supreme Court (SC). Despite the dismissal of EJECTMENT cases against farmers in local courts, Cojuangco-Aquino firm TADECO continues to bulldoze crops and even burn farmers’ huts in Hacienda Luisita. ALL OTHER GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS HAVE YET TO ACT ON LUISITA FARMERS’ PLEAS. Genuine land reform and justice for Luisita farmers NOW!

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Palace hopes for calm in Hacienda Luisita

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 03/07/2014 11:45 PM | Updated as of 03/08/2014 12:04 AM

MANILA – Malacanang is hoping for calm in Hacienda Luisita amid reports of rising tensions in the estate that previously belonged to the clan of President Aquino.

Tension has reportedly risen in the hacienda over the matter of the distribution of the property to farmer beneficiaries of the government’s comprehensive agrarian reform program.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) under Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes is continuing with the distribution.

“It began with the process of the beneficiaries, identifying because of the lapse of so much time. They had to go back to the list and re-identify; take out ones that were not supposed to be there, etcetera. And they did ask for comments as well from farmer-stakeholders when it came to the list. I will get an update for you specifically where they are at now because as I know, land — it’s already being distributed,” she said.

A total of 6,212 farmworkers have been identified as qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.

Each beneficiary is allotted 6,600 square meters of farm lot, more or less, out of the 4,099 hectares earmarked for distribution.

Data from DAR showed that as of end 2013, 5,718 Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) have been distributed to farmworker-beneficiaries out of a total of 6,189.

The DAR said the CLOAs are being registered with the Registry of Deeds.

Valte said President Aquino wants to ensure that livelihood assistance to farmer beneficiaries continues even after they receive the land.

“In his point of view, at least, government intervention should not stop after land is distributed. As such, the respective departments who have something to do with this either-I remember it was [the Department of Agriculture] that was being mentioned-should continue to provide support to the farmers who can finally till the land on their own. So I understand that he gave instructions then…He did give instructions that government programs to support farmers should continue even after land distribution,” Valte said.

The extended comprehensive agrarian reform program will lapse June 30 this year.

Tension continues to grip Hacienda Luisita

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Despite distribution of land titles to Hacienda Luisita farmer-beneficiaries in October 2013, tension has been escalating in the vast Tarlac sugar estate owned by the Cojuangco family, to which President Aquino belongs.

Reports showed that there have been bulldozing and fencing activities in the area which have been obtained by agrarian reform beneficiaries. They are worried that there would be a repeat of the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004 where at least seven protesting farmers died in a clash with the police and military.

The Supreme Court has ruled for the redistribution of the contested landholding and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has started distribution of the 4,500 hectares Hacienda Luisita to qualified farmer beneficiaries in October last year.

Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte also admitted that there was also a problem in the process of identifying qualified beneficiaries because of the lapse of so much time.

“They (Department of Agrarian Reform) had to go back to the list and re-identify, take out the ones who were not supposed to be there, and they did ask for comments as well from farmer stakeholders when it comes to the list,” she stressed.

The Palace official, however, said she has yet to give updates specifically where the distribution of land is at now.

In a bid to pacify the protesting farmers, Valte said Aquino would want to have the lands to be distributed to the farmers and that the support of the government must continue.

“I remember a particular conversation with the President on this when we were talking about a particular land distribution and he did pose some questions as to what government will do after the land is distributed,” she added.

Valte said the President would want the Department of Agriculture (DA) to also provide extension to support the farmers of the Hacienda Luisita.

“In his point of view, at least, government intervention should not stop after land is distributed. As such, the respective departments who have something to do with this, I remember it was DA that was being mentioned (that) should continue to provide support to the farmers who can finally till the land on their own,” the Palace official stressed.

Valte said Aquino even gave his instructions to the Cabinet members.

“Let me recall when this was. This was not this year nor the last. But he did give instructions that government programs to support farmers should continue even after land distribution,” she added.

Another problem the government is facing is the alleged overpayment of P167 million for the land.

But DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao has belied such allegation, saying there was no overpayment of interest whatsoever.

He stressed there is a legal basis for the payment of interest which is in Section 18 of Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) law itself.

Parungao said that in computing the compensation for Hacienda Luisita, the Land Bank of the Philippines based its valuation on the date that the Supreme Court set as date for taking of the landholding.

“In its final and executory decision on the Hacienda Luisita case, the Supreme Court decided that 1989 would be the date of taking of the landholding,” he said, “therefore that should be the reckoning point of the determination of the land’s valuation and the amount of just compensation.”

A progressive organization Luisita Watch, meanwhile, said there is a need for a broad people’s network for genuine land reform because the tyranny against farm workers in Hacienda Luisita is not being publicized.

“We want these rights violations on the farm workers to be exposed and to reach a wider audience,” said Ranmil Echanis, secretary general of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma).

Luisita Watch said the escalating unrest was caused by both the dismal failure of DAR to implement land distribution and the most often violent methods of the Cojuangco-Aquino’s Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco) in claiming the 461 hectares of agricultural land.
Farmers in Hacienda Luisita have accused Tadeco of trying to wrest some 400 hectares from them, destroying their farms and structures in preparation for a commercial project.

Currently, there are two military detachments in the Hacienda Luisita tending to pose as guards.

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