Farm workers of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) said today that Kris Aquino, like the rest of the members of the board of directors of the Cojuangco-Aquino-controlled Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), should be liable for any criminal infringement related to the ongoing violent bulldozing and fencing off of 214 hectares of agricultural lands in barangays Mapalacsiao and Parang in Hacienda Luisita.
The Presidential sister successfully pursued a seat on the CAT board just last October, a move many perceived not only as palpable consolidation of Cojuangco-Aquino influence in Hacienda Luisita but also as preperation for the media celebrity’s gubernatorial bid in Tarlac for the coming 2016 elections.
“The continued aggressive claim of CAT and other corporate avatars of the Cojuangco-Aquinos on the lands that supposedly belong to the actual tillers speaks much of the Presidential family’s anti-peasant practices and could in fact gravely affect Kris Aquino’s political ambitions in Tarlac,”said AMBALA chairperson Florida Sibayan.
The bulldozing and fencing efforts of armed CAT security personnel in Mapalacsiao and Parang have been intermitently causing tension in the area since March 5 and are believed to be part of a larger land-grabbing scheme by the poweful Cojuangco-Aquino clan involving around a thousand hectares. Several hundreds of hectares in fact have alrady been secured by another Cojuangco-Aquino company, the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), in barangay Balete after a series of violent attacks by TADECO guards and Tarlac PNP men against Balete farm workers which started last December.
These lands, AMBALA has been consistently asserting, have been excluded from the total area of distributable Hacienda Luisita lands through the cunning manuevers of the Cojuangco-Aquino and with the complicity of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). According to Sibayan, these lands must be covered by the DAR for distribution as per the explicit provision of the Hacienda Luisita Supreme Court ruling of April 24, 2012 which instructs the DAR to find all other agricultural lands besides the 4,915 hectares officially declared distributable.
The lands meanwhile which has been supposedly included in the land distribution process, according to AMBALA, have not yet been physically awarded to the so-called Luisita farm worker beneficiaries. These lands are instead being usurped and controlled by sugar cane production financiers who are said to be mere pawns themselves of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
“The unabated agrarian unrest in Hacienda Luisita is escalating in a pace comparable to that of the tension which led to the tragic Hacienda Luisita massacre ten years ago, the main perpetrators of which, the family of Kris Aquino and the Philippine president himself, have yet to be prosecuted much less punished,” said Sibayan.
Ranmil Echanis, secretary general of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and one of the convenors of the Luisita Watch network, said that “the land distribution farce in Luisita and the unchecked violent bullying of the Cojuango-Aquinos only prove the bankruptcy of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms and thus the need to finally enact the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, a progressive legislation which landlord dynasties in Congress have long been opposing.”
Francisco Dizon, AMBALA-Mapalacsiao, Contact No. 09096645941