Reference: Renato Mendoza, AMBALA Barangay Cutcut 0912-330-9329
Donations for the farmers’ legal and medical expenses are most welcome. Please contact AMBALA at 09991683377 or Luisita Watch at (02) 799 2009.
I. Assault, Physical Injuries
• March 24, 2014
1. Victim: RUDY CORPUZ, 59, AMBALA leader
Alleged perpetrator: FAUSTINO CORPUZ (not related), TADECO hired personnel
• March 28, 2014
2. Victim(s): JERRY MESA, 45, and other farmers / members of AMBALA
Alleged perpetrators: TADECO security personnel led by MAURO DELA CRUZ, JOVITO SUELEN nad a certain PALOMAR
II. Assault, Physical Injuries with Arbitrary Arrest and Detention
Victims: MARCELINO LUGAY, PIA HERNANDEZ, FERNAN CORPUZ, farmers and AMBALA members
Alleged perpertrators: TADECO personnel, PNP-SWAT Tarlac
III. Destruction of Property / Looting
Dismantling of farmhut serving as organization headquarters, etc.
Victims: AMBALA Barangay Cutcut chapter and individual members
Alleged perpetrators: TADECO security men with PNP-SWAT Tarlac and military personnel from 3rd Mechanized Battalion as accomplices
IV. Warantless Raids, Harassment
Victims: Residents of Barangay Cutcut
Alleged perpetrators: PNP-SWAT Tarlac / 3rd Mech Bn personnel
Morning of March 24, 2014, about a hundred members of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) representing different barangays (villages), trooped to the provincial office (PARO) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to follow up on their pending urgent petition for the issuance of a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) against the violent eviction of farmers by Cojuangco-Aquino firm Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO).
AMBALA filed the petition before the DAR Region III Office in Pampanga on December 26, 2013, the only working day after TADECO ordered the bulldozing of crops, mauling and illegal arrest of farmers within a 258-hectare TADECO-claimed area in Barangay Balete during the Christmas season. The area is now secured by concrete fences, barbed wires, private security personnel led by the Great Star agency and a company headquarters of the 3rd Mechanized Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Before the violent attacks, TADECO also filed unlawful detainer (ejectment) charges against 81 farmers in Barangay Cutcut and 26 farmers in Barangay Balete. These farmer-families are long-time residents and farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita, some tilling the land even before the Cojuangco-Aquinos took over the sugar plantation in 1957. Farmers have been cultivating hundreds of hectares of land for foodcrops since 2005 via the bungkalan (tillage) campaign of AMBALA. The ejectment charges against the farmers have been recently DISMISSED by local courts.
Instead of acting on the CDO petition, local DAR officials enjoined residents of Barangays Cutcut and Balete to “apply as agrarian reform beneficiaries” as the DAR vowed to distribute some 360 hectares of the contested property to bonafide residents and tillers. The DAR issued a Notice of Land Reform Coverage (NOC) for the TADECO areas, published by the Philippine Star on December 17, 2013.
AMBALA chose to protest DAR’s inaction on the first day of its application process for Cutcut residents on March 24. Balete residents, meanwhile, were advised to start applying for lot allocations on April 1.
During the March 24 picket-dialogue, PARO Chief Ileona Pangilinan assured AMBALA Chairperson Florida “Pong” Sibayan that the DAR will look after the interests of so-called “farmworker-beneficiaries (FWBs)” but said that her office cannot do anything to stop the aggressive steps of TADECO against Hacienda Luisita farmers.
Pangilinan claimed that she was not aware that Sibayan was just recently released from police custody. Sibayan is respondent to a number of “harrasment suits” directly filed by TADECO and the local police in Tarlac, meant to silence farmers’ dissent in Hacienda Luisita. Dozens of other farmers and their supporters also face harassment suits.
A few hours after the dialogue, violence erupted in Barangay Cutcut. Local AMBALA leader Rudy Corpuz, 59, sustained six stitches due to head injuries after an assault by a certain Faustino Corpuz (not related to Rudy), one of the men hired by TADECO to fence the agricultural lots in Cutcut. AMBALA members tried to reason with the contract workers that the area is subject to land reform coverage and must not be fenced by the Cojuangco-Aquino family. Thugs hired by TADECO turned violent instead and attacked AMBALA leaders.
Two days after on March 26, residents noticed the build-up of TADECO security personnel, along with the unusual deployment of police forces in Barangay Cutcut. Fifteen policemen in two official vehicles and an 8-man Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team armed with high-powered rifles were deployed to assist TADECO guards in fencing agricultural lands. Ten soldiers from the 3rd Mechanized Battalion were also reported spotted.
On March 27, police officers identified as S/INSP. GALICIA and SPO3 GARCIA, bluntly told AMBALA leaders to let TADECO personnel “peacefully do their job” of fencing off agricultural land from farmers. Farmers who trooped to the scene told the police that there is a standing agreement to maintain “status quo” forged before local village officials last January, between TADECO security and Cutcut farmers represented by AMBALA. Other police personnel on the scene were identified as SPO3 BALOT, SPO1 ABELLA & PO2 BERNARDO.
On March 28, about 2 pm, around 20 TADECO security personnel led by MAURO DELA CRUZ, JOVITO SUELEN and a certain PALOMAR attacked farmers with hammers and shovels. Police and soldiers were at the place of incident while the farmers were being beaten up.
Farmer Jerry Mesa, 45, who was hit by a hammer on his head, was rushed to the Tarlac Provincial Hospital for treatment. Other farmers suffered various injuries.
Instead of intervening to stop TADECO men who instigated the attack, police started arbitrarily arresting farmers. Those nabbed by police were identified as Marcelino Lugay, Pia Hernandez, and Fernan Corpuz. Lugay and Hernandez were brought to the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Tarlac City, while Corpuz, brother of Rudy, was also rushed to the Tarlac Provincial Hospital due to heart problems. Corpuz is currently confined at the hospital with police escorts.
TADECO security guards then proceeded to dismantle AMBALA’s “kubol” or farmhut serving as local headquarters in Barangay Cutcut. Farmers have yet to report the extent of destruction and looting of the organization’s belongings, tools, and crops. Police and soldiers served as “security” while TADECO guards demolished AMBALA’s farmhut.
Police and soldiers terrorized the entire community as they roamed around Barangay Cutcut hunting down AMBALA leaders. They conducted warantless raids and randomly confiscated cellular phones of residents.
TADECO personnel now continue to set up fences to bar farmers from tending to their crops. AMBALA asserts that around a thousand hectares of prime lands including contested TADECO property were cunningly excluded by the DAR and the Cojuangco-Aquinos from land distribution, but is covered by the 2012 decision of the Supreme Court to distribute all agricultural land in Hacienda Luisita to farmworkers. ##