Ruthless destruction of farmers’ crops in Hacienda Luisita continue, after relatives of the 2004 massacre victims trooped to the Ombudsman’s Office in Quezon City last Monday to reopen investigation on the massacre case.
A collective farm cultivated by Barangay Mapalacsiao residents including Violeta Basilio, mother of massacre victim Jhaivie, was destroyed early morning today on orders of Virginia Torres – ex-LTO Chief and now sugarcane “financier-agent” working for the Cojuangco-Aquino family. Torres, also a known “Kabarilan” (shooting buddy) of President BS Aquino, “resigned” from her post at the LTO last year after a video of her playing in a casino went viral in the internet.
Farmers identified the hired men as Domingo dela Cruz, Dennis Ocampo, Edwin Bonifacio, Gomez Masanque, Dociu Santos and Eddie Mendoza, who operated big farm tractors reportedly owned by Torres to destroy newly-planted palay in Sitio Maligaya, Mapalacsiao. The men were assisted by Mapalacsiao Barangay Captain Rael Gatus and some elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) stationed in the said barangay.
The hired men led by Gatus also threatened to once again destroy another farm cultivated by Charlito “Gerry” Catalan today. Catalan’s farm was destroyed by DAR personnel last month but the elderly farmer, aged 68, through the help of AMBALA’s collective work teams, managed to rebuild destroyed paddies, gather surviving seedlings, and replanted the palay.
“We will never give up the fight for land and justice,” said Florida Sibayan, Chairperson of the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA).
Gatus was cautioned by AMBALA legal counsel Jobert Pahilga through a letter dated July 25, that criminal and administrative cases await him and other perpetrators if they insist on destroying huts and crops tended by farmworker-beneficiaries. Gatus is also involved in earlier incidents within his village, where even Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) personnel assisted Torres’s thugs in destroying crops and huts of farmers. DAR employees involved in previous incidents were identified as a Atty. Narciso, Beth Ocampo, Oca Atillo and sheriff Alfredo de Mesa. The atrocities in Mapalacsiao have been ongoing since June 25. (Click this link for Atty. Pahilga’s letter and more info on previous incidents)
Prior to this newest incident, on August 2, 7am, Gatus, escorted by two elements of the PNP and ten thugs hired by Torres, barged into the cooperative farm along with two big tractors. The men destroyed rice paddies made by farmers via “bayanihan” or collective work.
At around 8 am, farmers including senior citizen Ofelia Ocampo tried to talk to the men and stop the destruction. One of the thugs, Domingo dela Cruz told her that they were sent by Virgie Torres to destroy all crops by AMBALA and make way for a sugarcane seed bed. Dela Cruz told the farmers that Torres controls all the farmlots under the aryendo or “lease” system in Mapalacsiao. According to residents, agreements for the illicit aryendo system take place even in the Barangay Hall, where DAR officials and even Torres herself are spotted facilitating transactions.
Violeta Basilio along with survivors and other relatives of the victims 2004 massacre filed a motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman last Monday to seek justice for the death of their loved ones. After a decade, land and justice remains elusive to Luisita farmers.
“This only shows the kind of justice system we have under a cacique President whose greedy family will not let go of Hacienda Luisita,” said Sibayan.