The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) led by landlord talking heads Sec. Gil delos Reyes and Undersecretary Tony Parungao can boast as long as they want about their agency’s so-called achievements in distributing Hacienda Luisita to thousands of farm workers.
The government’s dismal land reform record in Hacienda Luisita and Negros, both traditional strongholds of hacenderos, speaks for itself. With shameless bureaucrats like delos Reyes and Parungao, the powerful Cojuangco clan is assured of loyal back-rubbing. Their lies, however, will never expunge their crimes against the peasants and the Filipino people.
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national federation of farm workers, joins local peasant groups in a conference in Bacolod City starting today to tackle the impact of the bogus land reform program CARP and its extension CARPER.
According to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Negros and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), a member-organization of UMA, when the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) commenced in 1988, 80% of the agricultural lands in Negros were owned by 20% of landlords. By 1993, 53% of agricultural lands in the island would be concentrated in the hands of only 5% of landlords.
In a survey conducted by the Negros Occidental Provincial Government in 2007, 41 % of supposed Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) in the province were no longer in possession of the lands that were awarded to them. This has been due mainly to the lack of support services and non-land support facilities that have forced the ARBs to have their lands leased. This figure has been estimated to have reached not less than 60% in 2013.
Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., cousin of Luisita kingpin Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., still controls 5,030 hectares of lands under the so-called “corporative scheme.” Another 2,536 hectares owned by 10 landlords are still under the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme which was similarly implemented in Luisita under the CARP. According to NFSW, 1,905 SDO “beneficiaries” still live like typical farm workers with the same dismal conditions as in any other hacienda. Dividends, or shares in the capital stock received by farmworker-beneficiaries range only from P340 to P500 annually.
The SDO scheme in Tarlac brought extreme poverty and suffering to farmworkers and prompted thousands to rise up and strike against the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) management. The SDO was revoked in Hacienda Luisita via a landmark Supreme Court decision two years ago. However, this same big landlord scam is still in effect in 10 Negros haciendas leaving thousands of hectares of agricultural land under the control of a handful of powerful and scheming landlords .
Meanwhile, the DAR’s land distribution travesty in Hacienda Luisita has, since July last year, not only caused confusion but also massive dislocation of farmers. The DAR’s cunning maneuvers that allowed around two thousand hectares of agricultural lands to be exempted from distribution have now given the Cojuangco-Aquinos the green light to violently evict hundreds of farmers from the plots that they have long been tilling. Delos Reyes, Parungao and other yellow agents in the DAR have been going out of their way to justify the heightened atrocities against agrarian reform beneficiaries by publicly stating that there is nothing illegal in the Cojuangco-Aquino’s bulldozing of crops and fencing of agricultural lots.
Without sensing any irony in their shameless actions, agrarian reform personnel have also recently caused the unlawful arrest of five farmers associated with the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), practically threatening all other hapless farmers that they could face years of imprisonment if the DAR so wishes. The DAR it seems has forgotten that the SC decision was precisely in favor of AMBALA, the main petitioner in the landmark case representing thousands of farmworkers fighting for genuine agrarian reform and social justice in Hacienda Luisita.
The history of agrarian struggle in Luisita, Negros and the whole Philippine countryside has long proven the DAR’s active role in serving the interests of big landlord families such as the Cojuangcos and the Aquinos. The landlord-sponsored CARP and its extension CARPER, have long been a costly and violent farce that must be ended.
– Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, April 21, 2014