NEWS RELEASE | Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) | May 7, 2014
Farm workers in Hacienda Luisita and Negros wholeheartedly support House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) but are vehemently opposed to any extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) being railroaded by the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agrarian Reform (COCAR).
Member-organizations of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), led by AMBALA in Luisita and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) based in Negros, echo the call of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) to junk CARPER and immediately enact HB 252 authored by Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap.
The COCAR through House Bill 4296 and Senate Bill 2188 mandates the issuance of Notices of Coverage (NOCs) over all remaining agricultural lands within the next two (2) years, and the provision of budgetary mechanisms for the completion of the Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) process including support services.
Issuance of NOCs is not a guarantee that there would be actual and genuine land distribution, as proven by tragic experiences of farmers in Hacienda Luisita and Haciendas Ilimnan and Arloc in Murcia, Negros Oriental.
In Hacienda Luisita, the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) belated issuance of NOCs to 358 hectares of in barangays Balete and Cutcut came to naught when the powerful Cojuangco-Aquino family, via the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), ordered the violent eviction of farmers through relentless bulldozing of crops, looting of farm tools and livestock, and burning of huts. TADECO has secured hundreds of hectares of agricultural land by deploying not only fully-armed private security personnel, outposts and concrete fences – but also employing assistance from the local police, paramilitary forces and the 3rd Mechanized Battalion of the Philippine Army, which has set up company headquarters right in the middle of contested agricultural land in Barangay Balete.
The DAR itself is clearly complicit in the aggressive land grab efforts of the Cojuangco-Aquino family. The DAR is only consistent in defending TADECO’s claims and giving undue favor to the Cojuangco-Aquino family in its sham implementation of the landmark Supreme Court ruling to distribute Luisita to farmworkers.
There is also the experience of the farm workers and farmers in Haciendas Ilimnan and Arloc. Three NOCs were already issued out to said areas since 1998 and 2004 respectively. Thirty-seven (37) and twenty-six (26) petitioners in these haciendas have already signed the Application to Purchase and Farmers Undertaking (APFU) in the same respective years.
Farm workers were installed by the DAR on 54 hectares of the 155 has. of land in Hacienda Ilimnan only in October 20011 even if their CLOAs were approved as early as 2008. However, in 2010, land grab efforts of the Negros Oriental provincial government converted these lands into a commercial livestock farm. This local government unit (LGU) continues to violently evict supposed beneficiaries from these areas. As of late, fruit giant Dole Philippines also came into the picture, and began plowing 101 hectares of land in Hacienda Ilimnan for fruit production last December.
The grave suffering of peasants under the pro-landlord CARP has pushed farm workers in Hacienda Luisita and in Negros to support legislation which offers a genuine alternative and clear-cut solution to the centuries-old land problem.
The scope of House Bill 252 (GARB) mandates that all agricultural lands should be distributed without allowing any exemptions and exclusions from physical land distribution. Coverage depends on actual agricultural use of public and private land – and does not rest on hocus-pocus declarations conjured by landlords, i.e. of their property being residential or commercial in nature.
The Cojuangco-Aquino clan has become the prime example of dodging land reform by employing underhanded maneuvers allowed by the CARP, such as the stock distribution option scheme (SDO), land use conversion, and its newest ploy of sugar block farming and leasehold agreements brokered by yellow agents such as P-Noy “Kabarilan” Virgie Torres.
GARB allows for free land distribution while compensation is given only to landlords who have acquired lands in good faith. Clearly, Dole Philippines and the provincial government of Negros Occidental aim to control lands in Murcia through coercion. A review of Hacienda Luisita’s history will also reveal why farmers say that the murderous Cojuangco-Aquino family do not deserve a single centavo for this controversial sugar estate.
Railroading the extension of the bogus CARP by the COCAR is contrary to the interests of farm workers and farmers. It shows that Aquino’s hacendero government is clearly insincere in implementing genuine agrarian reform. ###