NEWS RELEASE: April 28, 2014 – AMBALA-UMA
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes once again failed to appear before Luisita farmers in a scheduled dialogue today at the DAR main office in Quezon City.
Last Thursday, hundreds of Luisita farmers stormed the DAR compound in protest of “hoax land distribution” and demanded that Sec. delos Reyes face them. DAR officials then promised Luisita farmers that they will schedule a dialogue for today. However, leaders of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) were told that only lower officials would be talking to them because delos Reyes is again not available.
“We have already engaged so many lower DAR officials in several dialogues in Tarlac and here in Quezon City, but each of these DAR officers avoided responsibility by pointing to the next higher or lower office as the appropriate venue for our grievances. Kaya nga kami napilitang sumugod sa DAR dahil turuan lang sila nang turuan,” said Florida Sibayan, chairperson of AMBALA.
Instead, the DAR through Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao has chosen to engage AMBALA in a media word war, which has so far accomplished nothing but reveal the government’s contempt and utter disregard for the welfare of Luisita farmworkers.
Parungao dismissed AMBALA’s claim that the SC ruled for “total land distribution” in Hacienda Luisita and further insulted Luisita farmworkers by saying that “[Their] reliance on the quoted portion of the decision is sorely misplaced, as a casual review by any law student will show that the same is a mere obiter dictum.”
“The term ‘sorely misplaced’ more appropriately describes Parungao and the DAR’s priorities. By consistently maligning farmworkers before the media, the DAR has expertly twisted the SC decision to favor only a single group — clearly not the thousands represented by AMBALA or any other petitoner to the case – but none other than the losing party, the Cojuangco-Aquino clan itself,” said Sibayan.
“Malacanang and the DAR’s spin doctors, desperately echo the line that government has accomplished land distribution by dishing out very specific figures which are in any case easily dispelled by the fact the Cojuangco-Aquino’s control or operation of sugarcane production in Hacienda Luisita has never been interrupted ,” said Sibayan. AMBALA claims that at least a thousand hectares were excluded by the DAR from land distribution.
Sibayan further noted that while hundreds of farmers now face various fabricated charges filed by the Cojuangco clan and the Tarlac police – and even one filed by the DAR itself against 5 AMBALA members — the DAR never bothered to go after representatives of the Cojuangco-Aquino family whose criminal refusal to abide by land reform has even caught the attention of international media. Sibayan refers to the ongoing spate of harassment, mauling, unlawful arrests, and destruction of crops and property of farmers ordered by the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
“Parungao can start by acting on AMBALA’s petitions that have already been gathering dust in many of the DAR offices. Then he can always go after P-Noy Kabarilan Virgie Torres, who has so far forged illicit lease agreements victimizing cash-strapped farmers, covering at least 200 hectares of land purportedly distributed by DAR to farmworker-beneficiaries. The DAR is actively supporting Cojuangco-Aquino financier dummies in reversing land reform way before actual distribution has been implemented. The DAR admits that it has not finished installing farmlot markers until now. It is highly anomalous that without knowing where their lots are, beneficiaries were furnished copies of land reform certificates (CLOAs) since last year.”
“Until now, beneficiaries cannot locate the DAR-allocated farmlots — making it easy for Cojuangco dummies to take over. With the confusing lot allocation scheme via raffle draw, the DAR has practically encouraged beneficiaries to use CLOA copies to serve as a form of collateral to avail of the measly lease of Php 7,000 a year from yellow agents like Torres,” said Sibayan.
AMBALA refused to stay for the DAR dialogue and instead joined protests against renewed US military presence in the country to be forged by President Barack Obama’s state visit starting today. Right after President BS Aquino assumed office in 2010, Hacienda Luisita was reported to be one of the potential sites of US-RP Balikatan military exercises in the country. ##