According to updates received by Luisita Watch from farmworkers alliance AMBALA, local Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) personnel led by a certain Atty. Narciso with the assistance of Tarlac City police, proceeded to destroy crops and seedlings of 68-year old farmer Charlito “Tay Gerry” Catalan of Barangay Mapalacsiao.
Among those destroyed were Catalan’s vegetable plots, ricefields and seedlings for AMBALA’s system of rice intensification (SRI) pilot farm.
Catalan was previously arrested along with four other farmers by police elements and a fully-armed SWAT team commanded by no less than Tarlac City police Chief Felix Bervo, based on a flimsy complaint lodged by DAR-hired personnel.
Here is the earlier news release from AMBALA/UMA:
DAR employing police, Cojuangco dummies to protect illicit aryendo system in Hacienda Luisita
Tension in Hacienda Luisita continues to rise with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)’s active use of Cojuangco representatives and local police to impose what farmers call “sham land distribution” in the controversial sugar estate.
For several weeks now, personnel from the DAR’s Tarlac Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) and known Cojuangco dummies such as former HLI supervisor-turned- Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Organization head Arsenio Valentino — have been warning farmers to vacate parcels of agricultural land devoted to the bungkalan or land cultivation program, initiated by farm workers since 2005.
During the bungkalan’s peak, around 2,000 hectares out of the 6,453-hectare sugarcane plantation were transformed into ricefields and food crop plots.
The DAR, however, callously undermined the farmworkers’ bungkalan through its dubious land survey, the tambiolo raffle draw lot allocation process and the belated issuance of land reform coverage notices for hundreds of hectares of agricultural land in Hacienda Luisita — resulting to the disenfranchisement and dislocation of hundreds of farmers who have positioned themselves in bungkalan areas particularly in barangays Balete, Cutcut, Mapalacsiao, Bantog and Asturias.
“The DAR is deliberately sowing confusion and dispute among the ranks of Luisita farmers and residents via sham land distribution. Bahagi ito ng patuloy na panloloko, pandarahas at pangangamkam ng pamilya Cojuangco-Aquino sa Hacienda Luisita,” said Florida Sibayan, chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA).
Today, DAR personnel, escorted by around 12 elements of the Tarlac City police, threatened Mapalacsiao farmers with eviction to supposedly install legitimate farmworker-beneficiaries (FWBs) from another barangay, Lourdes, awarded lots by the DAR in the same areas devoted to the bungkalan in Barangay Mapalacsiao. The lots in question, however are already covered by the exploitative aryendo or lease system brokered by Cojuangco financier-agents. Under the aryendo, FWBs are paid a measly 7,000 a year for the lease of the 6,600 sq. meter lot awarded by the DAR.
“The DAR is only posturing that it wants to install legitimate beneficiaries, but it only seeks to evict farmers engaged in palay and vegetable production to make way for the Cojuangcos’ sugarcane aryendo,” said Sibayan. Through the aryendo, farmlots are reconcentrated back to Cojuangco-Aquino control even before actual physical land distribution can occur.
In Barangay Mapalacsiao alone, ex-LTO Chief Virginia Torres, a known ally and “Kabarilan” of President BS Aquino, has covered around 200 hectares for sugarcane, victimizing hundreds of FWBs through the aryendo system. Arsenio Valentino, meanwhile, has control of hundreds of hectares of DAR-allocated lots in Barangays Bantog and Asturias.
“The DAR only seeks to discredit the hard toil of farmworkers engaged in bungkalan, and ultimately protect the illicit aryendo system,” said Sibayan.
Since yesterday, AMBALA has joined thousands of victims of the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in Central Luzon as they troop to Manila for a week-long peasant Lakbayan.