AMBALA STATEMENT – April 25, 2014
The Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) is refuting the Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes’ claim that the DAR has so far been faithful to the 2012 Supreme Court decision to distribute more than 4,000 hectares of Hacienda Luisita lands, and that the lands that are now being disputed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos and the Luisita farm workers are not covered by the landmark SC ruling.
According to AMBALA chairperson, Florida Sibayan, “the DAR secretary must be reminded that the SC decision specifically orders DAR to find other agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita and inlude these lands for land distribution.” Sibayan is refering to the specific provision in the April 24, 2012 final and executory decision of the SC which says that while only 4,915.75 out of the more than 6,000 hectares of Hacienda Luisita should be coverable, “it should be taken into account that this should not prevent the DAR, under its mandate under the agrarian reform law, from subsequently subjecting to agrarian reform other agricultural lands originally held by Tadeco that were allegedly not transferred to HLI but were supposedly covered by RA 6657.”
Sibayan further asserts that the matter itself that only 4,915 hectares has been made coverable out of the more that 6,000 hectare of Luisita lands “points to how the Cojuangco-Aquinos, in collusion with the DAR, through illegal acts of land conversion, has manuevered to retain more than a thousand hectares of lands.” These include properties of other Cojuangco-owned companies such as those now controlled by the Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC) 382.5451 has., Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) 373.909 has. , Luisita Golf and Country Club (LGCC) 78.8823 has., and the Tarlac Development Corporation 586 has. Out of a total of 1063.4776 has. , Delos Reyes stated that only around 300 might be covered for land distribution.
Sibayan said that these lands are generally still very much agricultural in nature even as some parts may have already been used for some other purposes through land conversions that were never legally approved by the DAR. The DAR only approved the conversion of 584 hectares of land.
If one includes the 358 hectares which have already been given an NOC, these total 1421.4776 hectares. This is 1/3 of the 4,335 hectare land that should have been distributed by DAR based on one of its rulings which stipulated that these were the lands that were converted into Stock Distribution Option (SDO). In essence the DAR should have distributed 5756.4776 hectares instead of only 4,099. The farm worker beneficiaries were robbed of an additional 1657.4776 hectares of land.
AMBALA had already submitted to the Tarlac DAR office on April 15 a letter requesting that the 1421.4776 hectares of land should be distributed to the farm worker beneficiaries based on the SC decision. This was given to DAR Sec. de los Reyes’ office on April 24.
AMBALA however says that “not much can be expected of DAR given its long record of conniving with the Cojuangco-Aquino’s in implementing a sham land reform program in the Hacienda. This includes encouraging TADECO to forcibly and violently evict the farm worker beneficiaries in the 358 hectare lots in Barangays Balete and Cutcut together with the help of police and military personnel even if DAR had already issued a Notice of Coverage (NOC) on said lands. “