Agrarian Reform Dep’t involved in most recent arrest of Luisita farmers

statementFor the nth time, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) has condemned the unabated serial assault of the Cojuangco-Aquinos against Hacienda Luisita farmers, the recent incident of which took place yesterday afternoon in Barangay Mapalacsiao involving the arbitrary arrest by the Tarlac PNP of five farmers. The arrest came barely a week after armed goons of the Cojuangco-Aquino-owned Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), with the aid of a PNP SWAT contingent and AFP personnel, violently attacked the headquarters of AMBALA in Brgy. Cutcut which left tens of farmers severely injured.

Unlike previous incidents, this one, according to AMBALA, had the direct, active participation of the Department of Agrarian Reform, as it was a certain Tristy Figueroa, a representative of the DAR survey firm partner, FF Cruz, who ordered the PNP to arrest George Gatus, Gerry Catalan, Jaime Quiambao, Alvin Gratil and Leoncio Suarez. The Mapalacsiao farmers are being charged with coercion and violation of the implementation of the Republic Act 6657 or Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. They were detained for 20 hours at Camp Macabulos, Tarlac.

“The DAR’s involvement in this latest case of ‘legal’ harassment and intimidation pretty much exposes the fact that the DAR has all along been aiding and abetting the Cojuangco-Aquinos in their relentless and cruel haciendero ways to retain control of Hacienda Luisita,” said AMBALA chairperson, Florida “Ka Pong” Sibayan.

According to AMBALA, through Tadeco, the Central Azucarera de Tarlac and several other corporate avatars of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, the Presidential family has, since July of last year, been in an all-out campaign to evict hundreds of farm worker families from at least a thousand hectares of agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita. Several hundreds of hectares have already been fenced off by the Cojuangco-Aquinos in the villages of Balete, Lourdes, Cutcut, Parang, Central and Mapalacsiao. These lands, Sibayan said, have been excluded from the total area of distributable Luisita lands “through the cunning machinations of the Cojuangco-Aquinos and with the complicity of the (DAR).”

The lands meanwhile which have 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, despite bold statements by the DAR that land distribution has already been completed. 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 Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, through its secretary general, Ranmil Echanis, said that “the fact that the Luisita farmers, whose only desire is to see that land reform is truly implemented, are now being charged of violating the CARP law, tells us just how bogus and violently anti-peasant this law really is.”

Various militant peasant organizations led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas have been calling for a stronger, genuinely pro-peasant and pro-social justice land reform law and program to replace CARP which they believe has long been a sham and monumental failure. 

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