Farmers from Hacienda Luisita stormed the Cojuangco offices in Makati City today to condemn escalating violence, deception and land grabbing by the Presidential family against supposed farmworker- beneficiaries (FWBs) in the controversial sugar estate. The contingent from the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA ) are also participants of the week-long Peasant Lakbayan (People’s March) which will culminate on June 30, the expiration of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
“Hacienda Luisita farmers are long-time victims of the bogus and pro-landlord CARP. Sa Hacienda Luisita, ang ibig sabihin ng ‘PPP’ ay pangangamkam, panloloko, and pandarahas at ito ang pinapatupad ng gobyernong Aquino,” said Florida Sibayan, AMBALA Chairperson. More farmers have been forcibly evicted from productive farmlands in Hacienda Luisita, after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) imposed what farmers call “fake land distribution.”
Only yesterday, June 25, DAR personnel led by a certain Atty. Narciso with the assistance of fully-armed elements of the Tarlac City police, destroyed all the crops of 68-year old farmer Charlito “Tatang Gerry” Catalan of Barangay Mapalacsiao, and other adjacent farm lots devoted to AMBALA’s bungkalan or land cultivation program initiated by the alliance in 2005. Around 5-6 hectares of ricefields, vegetable plantations and seedlings for AMBALA’s system of rice intensification (SRI) pilot farm were destroyed yesterday.
Angry farmers threw rotten tomatoes at images of President BS Aquino, his uncle, Luisita kingpin Peping Cojuangco and daughter Josephine; and the Aquino sisters led by Kris Aquino, director of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac sugar mill and Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, treasurer of the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO).
After the Sureme Court ruled to revoke the CARP’s exploitative stock distribution option scheme (SDO), various corporate avatars of the Cojuangco- Aquino family under Jose Cojuangco & Sons, Inc. have been engaged in pangangamkam (landgrabbing), panloloko (deception) and pandarahas(violence) against the farmers, says Sibayan.
AMBALA further noted that while the President has nominally divested his interests in Hacienda Luisita, government policy and the full force of the state’s machinery are used to complement his family’s aggressive efforts to once again dodge land distribution and maintain control of Hacienda Luisita. Government institutions such as the DAR, PNP and AFP, especially in Tarlac are actively used to suppress the farmers’ legitimate grievances and demands.
Kris Aquino is still officially listed as director of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) which has fenced off and evicted farmers in a 300-hectare area in adjacent barangays Mapalacsiao and Parang. Maria Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz is the treasurer of the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), which has hired thugs involved in recent frustrated murder attempts against AMBALA leaders, bulldozing of crops, arson, and fencing off of 358 hectares of agricultural land even after the DAR issued a notice of land reform coverage.
Cruz is also a member of the board of directors of the Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC) where two other Presidential sisters Aurora Corazon “Pinky” Aquino-Abellada and Victoria Elisa “Viel” Aquino-Dee sit as top stockholders. The LRC’s bid for a PPP – or public-private partnership project to convert portions of the estate into a Luisita Ecozone — was recently given a positive response by the PEZA. President Aquino will give the final approval for the project.
The LRC fenced around 20 hectares of land in Barangay Cutcut which was allocated by DAR for distribution. Federico Sagun, a FWB awarded a lot in the said area, complained to DAR Tarlac but was merely told to report to the police so that a blotter could be filed. AMBALA says that more than 1,500 hectares of agricultural land in Luisita were mysteriously excluded by the DAR for distribution.
“President BS Aquino has certified as urgent, moves to extend the effect of the pestilence called CARP because his family was able to amass immense wealth from Hacienda Luisita through bogus land reform and murder. We oppose another CARP extension and call for the immediate enactment of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB),” said Sibayan.