Cojuangco-Aquinos fencing off prime lots in Hacienda Luisita

Florida Sibayan of AMBALA- Hacienda Luisita. Photo by Kiri Dalena

Florida Sibayan of AMBALA- Hacienda Luisita. Photo by Kiri Dalena

Tadeco and CAT, both owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan, are claiming ownership over 258 hectares of land in Balete, 374 hectares in Mapalacsiao and 104 hectares in Cutcut.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – This morning, security guards of the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), a Cojuangco-Aquino-owned firm, started fencing off some 241 hectares of land in Mapalacsiao village, Tarlac City inside the Hacienda Luisita.

In a phone interview with Bulatlat.com, Florida Sibayan, chairwoman of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), said that another Cojuangco-Aquino-controlled corporation, the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), is claiming ownership of the land. Sibayan said at least a hundred peasant families would be evicted in the said village.

“After fencing off some 258 agricultural lands and evicting farmers in Balete village, the Cojuangco-Aquinos are poised to grab more areas in Mapalacsiao and Cutcut villages,” Sibayan said.

“In the April 24, 2012 decision of the Supreme Court, it is clear that all agricultural lands must be distributed,” Sibayan said. “Unfortunately, the Cojuangco-Aquinos are colluding with DAR [Department of Agrarian Reform] to evade distribution.”

In its final decision on the five-decade-old land dispute in Hacienda Luisita, the high court has ordered the distribution of 4,915.75 hectares and all other agricultural lands to 6,296 farmworker- beneficiaries. The DAR has been mandated to implement the SC decision.

From the start, Ambala has been complaining of the reduced land size for distribution. In its omnibus petition filed before the high court, Ambala said at least 1,000 hectares of land have been excluded from distribution.

In a previous Bulatlat.com story, the DAR did not include for distribution large tracts of land in some villages of Hacienda Luisita. The hacienda covers ten villages.

In Mapalacsiao village, the biggest in Hacienda Luisita, the DAR said it would distribute only 95.04 hectares of land to 780 beneficiaries. In Balete village, only 77.2 hectares of land were included in the distribution process. In Cutcut, at least 100 hectares were not included in the distribution.

Ambala said that so far, Tadeco and CAT are claiming ownership of 258 hectares in Balete, 374 hectares in Mapalacsiao and 104 hectares in Cutcut. The group said they are expecting more areas to be claimed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos.

“These are all prime lots, and intersecting with the SCTEX [Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway]” Sibayan said. “The DAR apparently knew of the plan of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan to convert these areas into commercial and industrial use.”

Sibayan maintained that at present, these lands are agricultural and should therefore be distributed to them. “Our colleagues have cultivated these lands since 2005. Tadeco and CAT have no right to claim these lands.”

“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,” Sibayan said.

Kris, a TV personality, is the sister President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III and a member of the board of directors of the CAT. According to reports, Kris plans to run as governor of Tarlac in the coming 2016 elections.

String of criminal charges

This morning, too, a warrant of arrest was issued against Sibayan for charges of threat.

A certain Bartolome Rufino, one of the security guards of Tadeco, filed the complaint against Sibayan and another Ambala member Julius Loveland.

“Rufino alleged that I threatened to kill him during the commemoration of the Hacienda Luisita massacre last November,” Sibayan said.

For opposing the maneuvers of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan in Hacienda Luisita, Sibayan is also slapped with malicious mischief, direct assault and grave coercion.

Other Ambala members, and supporters have also been charged with criminal offenses. Facing charges of trespassing, usurpation of property and coercion is Tarlac City Councilor Emily Ladera-Facunla who responded to the farmers during the bulldozing of crops in Balete village on Dec. 21, 2013.

Nine members of a fact-finding team that went to investigate the human rights violations and landgrabbing in Hacienda Luisita were also charged with direct assault and malicious mischief.

Ninety-nine farmers in Balete and Cutcut villages have also been charged with unlawful detainer by Tadeco. On January 24, the charges against the Balete farmers have been dismissed.

No actions from DAR, DOJ

“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,” Sibayan said.

As early as December 26, 2013, five days after the destruction of crops in Balete village, Ambala filed an urgent petition for issuance of cease-and-desist order before DAR’s regional office in San Fernando, Pampanga. Despite the supposed notice of coverage issued by the DAR on the areas in Balete village, the Tadeco has not been prevented from evicting farmers.

On January 16, some 30 farmers also filed charges against Tadeco and their security guards before the Department of Justice (DOJ). No action has been taken by the department as of today.

Ranmil Echanis, secretary general of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) and one of the conveners 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.”

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