Statement by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, June 4, 2014
In rejecting the urgent petition of the Cease and Desist Order (CDO) of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) against the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Undersecretary Parungao has practically lawyered for the Cojuangco-Aquino-owned corporation.
The rejection on May 20, 2014 puts into jeopardy the cases of five farm workers and two local councilors who were charged recently by TADECO at the Municipal Trial Court in Tarlac City with trespassing in the 258-hectare disputed land in barangay Balete.
These lands together with another 100 hectares in barangay Cutcut have been tilled by more than a hundred farmworkers including AMBALA chairperson Florida Sibayan and her family since 2005 and had been issued a Notice of Coverage (NOC) by DAR on December 17, 2013.
The 7 defendants namely, Vicente Sambu, Jose Baldiviano, Rod Acosta, Mamerto Mandigma, Ronald Sakay, Tarlac City Councilor Emily Ladera-Facunla and Barangay Balete Kagawad Crisanto Viadan were defending the farm lands from the armed goons of TADECO who, on December 21, 2013, bulldozed the crops of farm workers and destroyed farm huts with the aid of police personnel including SWAT members on December 21, 2013.
Councilor Facunla and Kagawad Viadan, on the other hand, were negotiating with the police officials to halt the forced eviction as the latter could not show any court orders or even authorization from any government agency such as the DAR on the legality of the police operation. Facunla and Viadan were merely trying to show the police the document proving that the DAR had already issued an NOC in the disputed areas but this was totally ignored by the latter.
Now we know why. Usec. Parungao’s main arguments in rejecting the CDO are in unison with the arguments of TADECO in charging the 7 with trespassing. The Usec. said that the earth-moving activities undertaken by TADECO appeared, at this point, to be merely for the preservation and protection of its properties and that it has all the right to protect its properties from trespassers.
The Ocular Inspection report of Atty. Jose Eduardo Narciso, however, admitted that TADECO’s bulldozing sorties and fencing off of the area could only be considered as a prelude to conversion.
Furthermore, the Usec. admitted wittingly or unwittingly that it can resolve the protest made by TADECO on the NOC order on the latter’s favor or even issue out a Conversion Order (from agricultural to other uses) again in TADECO’s favor.
Perhaps it’s about time that Parungao finally changed his official job description from DAR Usec. for legal affairs to Cojuangco-Aquino legal counsel.