Tension between hirelings of Cojuangco firm Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) and farmers sparked anew, only hours after a dialogue between local agrarian reform officials and Hacienda Luisita farmworkers represented by the AMBALA in Tarlac City yesterday.
Rudy Corpuz, 59, AMBALA leader from Barangay Cutcut, Hacienda Luisita suffered head injuries after an attack by a certain Faustino Corpuz (not related to Rudy), a worker contracted by TADECO to set up markers on disputed property. Local AMBALA members in Cutcut have been standing vigil over a hundred hectares of agricultural land planted with palay and vegetables due to threats of bulldozing and fencing by TADECO.
TADECO filed ejectment charges against 81 Cutcut farmers who have been planting foodcrops in the said area since 2005. The charges were recently dismissed by local courts. The said property is also covered by a notice of land reform coverage (NOC) dated December 17, 2013 issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Earlier yesterday, farmers led by AMBALA Chairperson Florida “Pong” Sibayan confronted local DAR officilas headed by Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) Chief Ileona Pangilinan, for failing to act on AMBALA’s urgent cease and desist petition against TADECO filed since December.
Pangilinan reportedly told the farmers that “the DAR is on their side,” but Sibayan dared officials to put their words into action. “The NOC that the DAR issued for TADECO property is useless if they cannot even issue a cease and desist order to stop the Cojuangco-Aquino family from fencing off these lands from farmers.”
Sibayan’s hut and crops were among those destroyed by Cojuangco-hired thugs in another village, Barangay Balete last February 8, President Aquino’s birthday. Twelve farmers including Sibayan’s husband Willy, filed new complaints of malicious mischief, grave coercion, illegal detention before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last Thursday, March 20. Barangay Balete is now literally surrounded by concrete fences on all directions except its side facing the Luisita Access Road.
“The DAR should stop calling us farmworkers’ ‘beneficiaries.’ Until now, Hacienda Luisita is controlled by the Cojuangco-Aquino family,” said Sibayan. “Puro perwisyo at walang benepisyo kaming nakukuha mula sa gobyerno at sa mangangamkam na pamilya ng asenderong pangulo,” she added.
Sibayan was recently released from police custody after posting bail for a farbricated criminal charge filed by a TADECO security guard. Dozens of farmers and their supporters face trumped-up criminal charges – “harassment suits” to suppress farmers’dissent – filed by local police and TADECO. Sibayan lamented that DAR officials feigned ignorance of escalating tension in Hacienda Luisita and only offered empty promises to farmworkers.
The company headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Mechanized Battalion is located inside the fenced TADECO area in Barangay Balete, where Cojuangco bulldozers are parked. Preceding TADECO’s move to set up markers on disputed land, soldiers conducted a medical mission in Barangay Cutcut. Another detachment of the paramilitary CAFGU was transferred from Barangay Lourdes to an area nearer Barangay Central and Mapalacsiao, where the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) and TADECO have been bulldozing and fencing off some 214 hectares of agricultural land. Presidential sister Kris Aquino is a board member of the CAT.
“What are the benefits of land reform under a Cojuangco-Aquino president? All we have in Hacienda Luisita is sham land distribution, landgrabbing, deceit, and a climate of terror and impunity. Puro panloloko, pandarahas at pangangamkam, ” said Sibayan.
Reference: Florida Sibayan