The top official of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Tarlac says they cannot do anything about the escalating violence perpetrated by the Cojuangco-Aquino family against farmers in Hacienda Luisita.
Tarlac Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Ileona B. Pangilinan practically washed her hands of any responsibility in the Tarlac Development Corporation’s (TADECO) fencing off of hundreds of hectares of agricultural land from farmers in Hacienda Luisita. TADECO resumed setting up of concrete fences in Barangay Cutcut with their private security guards assisted by members of local police and military. This, despite a notice of land reform coverage dated December 17, 2013, issued by the DAR on disputed TADECO property.
Reached over the phone by Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) media officer Gi Estrada, PARO Pangilinan said that DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes has yet to release a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) against TADECO’s eviction of farmers. AMBALA filed a petition for a CDO when bulldozing of crops in another village, Balete, led to the arrest and mauling of several farmers and the bulldozing and destruction of hundreds of hectares of farmers’ crops during the last Christmas season.
Pangilinan said that it is up to barangay officials, and not the DAR, to deal with peace and order issues in the village level. UMA stated however, that TADECO‘s security guards are assisted by state forces –20 local members of the Philippine National Police and 10 army personnel belonging to the 3rd Mechanized Battalion. The company headquarters of the said army unit is found inside the TADECO’s fenced area in Barangay Balete where Cojuangco bulldozers are also parked. Preceding TADECO’s aggressive moves in Cutcut, soldiers conducted a medical mission in Barangay Cutcut, March 22.
The PARO head only promised to monitor the situation but cannot do anything else, even if she was told that a clash between farmers and TADECO’s security forces is most likely to happen.
UMA fears that new unlawful arrests might occur and new trumped-up charges might be fielded against protesting Luisita farmers.
“The Notice of Coverage issued by the DAR on the hundreds of hectares of land in barangays Balete and Cutcut is just a scrap of paper. It does not prevent landlords with the aid of private and government security forces from illegally evicting farm workers who have been tilling the lands since 2005,” said Christopher Garcia, AMBALA spokesperson.
The DAR never recognized the farmworkers’ “bungkalan” initiative, and the rights of farmers who tilled the land for food crops in Hacienda Luisita since 2005.
Gi Estrada, media officer 0916.611.4181
Christopher Garcia, AMBALA spokesperson 0929.320.0615