Harrasment continues: Luisita farmer’s hut burned down, more raps filed vs farmers


Hacienda Luisita farmworker Vicente Sambu, 63, who was re-arrested by Tarlac City police last May 16 was released Monday after posting bail. However, harassment against farmers continues as reports of violent incidents and filing of more trumped-up charges by Cojuangco-Aquino firm Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) against supposed land reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita are reported. Here are stories from Bulatlat.com:

Luisita farmer’s hut burned down, more raps filed vs beneficiaries

“Why can’t the DAR allow us to continue cultivating the land we have occupied since 2005?”

By RONALYN V. OLEA | May 28, 2014

MANILA – At 74, Benjamin Duque still works on the farm. For nine years, he and his seven children have been planting palay (unhusked rice) on a two-hectare land in Cutcut village inside Hacienda Luisita.

On May 25, at around 5 a.m., Duque’s colleagues discovered that his hut was burned down. Duque lives one kilometer away from his farm.

“My hut had been there for nine years, since I started joining the tillage campaign in 2005,” Duque told Bulatlat.com in an interview, referring to the campaign initiated by members of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala). After the November 16, 2004 massacre that claimed the lives of seven farmworkers, Ambala called on farmworkers to defy the Cojuangco-Aquinos and go into farming. Under the stock distribution option (SDO) implemented in Hacienda Luisita, farmworker-beneficiaries were prohibited from planting crops other than sugarcane. The SDO was in effect from 1989 until the Supreme Court nullified it in its April 24, 2012 decision.
A day before the incident, a financier named Dominador Quiani told Duque that he has leased the land being tilled by the latter. The financier claimed he paid three farmer-beneficiaries the amount of P12,000 each for one-year lease of Duque’s two-hectare farm.

“What the DAR [Department of Agrarian Reform] did was wrong. It caused division among the farmer-beneficiaries,” Duque, who himself is a beneficiary, said. “Why can’t the DAR allow us to continue cultivating the land we have occupied since 2005?”

In its final decision, the Supreme Court mandated the DAR to implement the distribution of all agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita. The DAR resorted to a raffle system as a way to distribute land to farmer-beneficiaries. The DAR assigned lots to farmers, which are far from their homes and farm lots. Hacienda Luisita covers ten villages in three municipalities.

Renato Mendoza, a leader of Ambala, said it is the Cojuangco-Aquinos who benefit from the discord among the farmer-beneficiaries.

Duque said nobody witnessed the incident but he deemed it was done in complicity with the security guards hired by the Cojuangco-Aquinos. He said his hut is near a security outpost set up by the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), a firm owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos, in Cutcut village.

Florida Sibayan, Ambala chairwoman, said they went to the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (Paro) in Tarlac City. “We are asking the Paro to let our colleagues stay on their respective farm lots,” Sibayan said.

Paro chief Ileona Pangilinan insisted that the DAR lot allocation should prevail, Sibayan said.

More charges

Meanwhile, more charges have been filed against Hacienda Luisita farmers.

After being released from prison, Vicente Sambu was charged with trespassing.

Sambu was arrested on May 16 for charges of direct assault. He was released yesterday after posting bail of P3,500.

At least 51 Ambala members have been charged with trespassing by Tadeco in relation to the Dec. 21, 2013 incident.

That day, security guards of Tadeco, accompanied by the local police, destroyed the crops of farmers in Balete village.

Tarlac City Councilor Emily Ladera-Facunla who tried to intervene was also charged with trespassing.

Hundreds of farmer-beneficiaries have been slapped with criminal charges such as malicious mischief, grave coercion, physical injury, among others, for fighting for their right to land.

Tadeco and other corporations owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos have been claiming ownership of thousands of hectares of land in Hacienda Luisita after the high court issued its final ruling.

Ambala and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) condemned the “latest acts of violence by the Cojuangco-Aquinos.”


Another Luisita farmer nabbed

Hundreds of farmers and their supporters are facing various criminal charges filed by Tadeco, Tarlac police and the DAR-hired survey firm.

By RONALYN V. OLEA | May 18, 2014

MANILA – Without being shown any warrant of arrest, a farmer in Hacienda Luisita was arrested by authorities May 16, according to Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma).

Vicente Sambu, a member of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), was arrested by Tarlac City police between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Friday from his home in Asturias village, Tarlac City. He is now detained at San Sebastian police station in Tarlac City.

Sambu, along with four others, was first arrested on December 21, 2013 when he and his colleagues attempted to stop the security guards hired by the Cojuangco-Aquinos from bulldozing agricultural lands in Balete village. They were charged with physical injury and detained at Camp Macabulos, provincial headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The five were released after two days; the prosecutor reverted the case to preliminary investigation for lack of probable cause.

In a previous interview with Bulatlat.com, Sambu said ten policemen beat him up and forced him inside the police vehicle. The charges filed by the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), a firm owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino III, were recently dismissed. A separatecharge of direct assault to persons in authority was filed against Sambu and his companionsJanuary 2014 in relation to the Dec. 21, 2013 incident. Also charged were Jose Baldiviano, Ronald Sakay, Rod Acosta and Mamerto Mandigma.

According to Uma, only two hearings on the case took place and the complainants failed to show up in the said hearings.

Luisita Watch, a network of supporters of Hacienda Luisita farmers, condemned the incident.

“Tadeco continues to grab land from the farmers despite the notice of coverage issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of land to the farmworker-beneficiaries,” the network said.

Hundreds of farmers and their supporters are facing various criminal charges filed by Tadeco, Tarlac police and the DAR-hired survey firm. The charges include unlawful detainer, malicious mischief, grave coercion, physical injury, trespassing, threat, among others.

“We are only fighting for our right to our land and yet we are the ones being arrested and imprisoned,” Florida Sibayan, Ambala chairwoman, toldBulatlat.com in a previous interview. Sibayan herself has been charged with malicious mischief, grave coercion, direct assault and threat.

Members of Ambala filed countercharges against the Cojuangco-Aquinos, members of the local police and Tadeco security guards before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in January this year. To this day, the DOJ has not acted upon the complaints filed by Hacienda Luisita farmers.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s