REFERENCE: Florida “Pong” Sibayan, acting- Chairperson, AMBALA, 09293201477
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had a media field day by gloating with utmost pride, not only over its sham accomplishments in Hacienda Luisita, but also with the arrest of five (5) members of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) for allegedly obstructing the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in the controversial sugar estate.
With this most recent development, the DAR has just confirmed its connivance with the Cojuangco-Aquino landlord clan led by BS Aquino in fomenting violence against Hacienda Luisita farm workers.
A recent fact-finding mission led by Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap and several peasant and human rights groups revealed that farmers George Gatus, Leoncio Suarez, Alvin Gratil, Jaime Quiambao and Gerry Catalan were nabbed without commiting any crime.
As members of AMBALA, the main petitioner favored by the landmark Supreme Court decision for land distribution in Hacienda Luisita, the complaint lodged against them – violation of the implementation of RA 6657 or CARP – is absurd and ridiculous.
Around noon on April 3, five members of AMBALA tried to approach several persons loitering in a farmlot in Barangay Mapalacsiao to simply ask what these strangers were doing. Before the farmers could even approach them, these persons ran away.
After a few moments, while the farmers were already resting in a farmhut, they were rounded up with no less than the Acting Chief of Police of Tarlac City, Police Supt. Felix Bervo commanding around twenty policemen plus a SWAT team armed with high-powered rifles.
The five farmers were not informed of the reason for their arrest and were directly brought to Camp Macabulos, the Philippine National Police (PNP) provincial headquarters in Tarlac City, instead of the nearest police precinct located within Barangay Mapalacsiao.
Upon hearing of this most recent arrest of farmworkers, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) of which AMBALA is associated, reached the DAR’s Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Ileona Pangilinan via phone, to report the incident which possibly involved DAR personnel.
UMA Secretary General Ranmil Echanis sought Pangilinan’s intervention for the immediate release of the farmworkers. PARO Pangilinan promised to send their legal affairs officer to possibly assist in the release of the said farmers.
After a few hours, UMA and AMBALA learned that it would be impossible for the DAR to “assist” in the release because the DAR itself caused the arrest. A certain Francis Figueroa, an engineer hired by the FF Cruz firm and DAR, acted as complainant to justify the farmers’ unlawful arrest.
The absurd charge is the most recent in a spate of “harassment suits” filed against hundreds of farmers and their supporters, either by representatives of the Cojuangco firm Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) or the Tarlac PNP.
Personnel hired by the DAR were previously involved in violence against farmworkers. Faustino Corpuz, Sr, a thug employed by a surveyor of DAR, was involved in two separate violent assaults against members of AMBALA. On January 22, he together with another hired hand, Nixon Notarte suddenly attacked a senior citizen, AMBALA member Manuel Gomez with a large metal digger and a crowbar seriously wounding the latter.
The second incident involving Corpuz was when he hit namesake AMBALA leader Rudy Corpuz with a hammer in the head on March 24, just after a dialogue with PARO Pangilinan in Tarlac City a few hours earlier. A more serious incident happened on March 28, when four (4) AMBALA leaders and members in Cutcut suffered hammer blows from TADECO hired thugs.
TADECO and the DAR therefore hired the same thug, Faustino Corpuz, Sr., for menial labor which also involved harassment and violence against dissenting farmers.
Violent eviction, burning of huts and bulldozing of crops ordered by the Cojuangco-Aquino family could have been prevented had the DAR only acted on AMBALA’s motion to issue out a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) against TADECO. All that DAR did was issue a useless “show cause” order against TADECO. DAR officials admitted it cannot impose the CDO for the simple reason that TADECO refused to accept their “show cause” order.
DAR officials have been consistently biased against Luisita farm workers. Their most recent media pronouncements prove that the DAR is only interested in making the public believe the brazen lie that it has finally accomplished land reform in Hacienda Luisita.
The landlord-sponsored CARP and its extension CARPER, has always been a farce that should be exposed and opposed. Luisita farmers continue to fight for social justice through various means including the ‘bungkalan’ land cultivation initiative and their ardent support for Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) in Congress. ###