While the whole nation’s attention is focused on the controversy surrounding President BS Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is working double time and with savage energy to evict of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita, the 6,453-hectare sugar estate controlled by the Presidential family.
Since June 25, employees of the DAR Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) led by Atty. Jose Eduardo Narciso, with the active assistance of the Tarlac City Police, have been directly engaged in destroying crops of farmworkers in Barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita, where farmlands and pilot organic farms of the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) are located. The DAR is hell bent in destroying the farmworkers’ “bungkalan” or land cultivation areas and crush all resistance against its implementation of sham land distribution.
In the June 25 incident, around 6 hectares of palay and vegetable crops belonging to 68-year old farmer Charlito “Gerry” Catalan and collective farms run by AMBALA were destroyed using tractors owned by the DAR; followed by another incident last July 3 where around 2 hectares of black rice and string beans cultivated by the family of Luisita farmworker Ofelia Ocampo were destroyed.
Yesterday, July 8, 9.1 hectares with banana trees, and newly planted peanut and chili collectively cultivated by the families of Rebecca Santos, Neng Pineda, Teresita Ocampo and Reynaldo Ocampo were destroyed upon the orders of DAR. Farmers tried to stop the DAR’s tractors but fully-armed policemen served as security detail to government personnel involved in the unwarranted clearing operations.
Early this year, AMBALA filed a motion to cite the DAR in contempt of the 2012 SC decision for submitting a false report to the Supreme Court . An earlier motion filed July 23, 2013 questioned the DAR’s Application to Purchase and Farmers Undertaking (APFU) and the allocation of lots via raffle draw or “tambiolo,” methods that are not acceptable to farmworkers. Luisita farmers have long been demanding that the government recognize their collective ownership of the lands and their initiative for land cultivation which started even during the height of the Hacienda Luisita strike in 2005 . The DAR’s tambiolo scheme has clearly sown confusion, dislocation and dispute among beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.
Areas affected by the recent bulldozing spree of the DAR in Barangay Mapalacsiao, for example, are identified by residents as part of Sitio Silangan and Maligaya in the same barangay. According to the DAR’s anomalous survey, however, lots within these areas are part of another village, Asturias, and were allocated via tambiolo raffle to farmworker-beneficiaries residing in yet another village – Lourdes or Texas.
AMBALA Chairperson Florida Sibayan said that the “DAR is merely posturing to implement the SC decision, but the DAR’s actions clearly favor President BS Aquino and his family’s interests . The DAR is evicting tillers to make way for the Cojuangco-Aquino sugarcance aryendo (leasehold) system led by PNoy’s loyal Kabarilan Virgie Torres in Mapalacsiao.”
The DAR is facilitating the re-concentration of the lands back to the Cojuangco-Aquinos and is likewise ensuring the constant supply of raw materials for the Central Azucarera de Tarlac sugar mill owned by the same powerful political clan.
Sibayan said that the Cojuangco-Aquinos and the DAR “do not give a damn even if there is still a pending motion filed by AMBALA in the Supreme Court, or even if the public now has been made aware of the fact that the controversial DAP was used to bribe legislators into voting for impeaching then Chief Justice Corona whose court voted for distribution of lands of Hacienda Luisita.” All this, Sibayan said only shows the despotism of the present government.
AMBALA however will not be easily cowed by these developments. “We are one with the Filipino people in calling for the impeachment of the President not only for DAP but also for the sham land distribution in Hacienda Luisita,” Sibayan said.