Puro Panloloko, Pandarahas at Pangangamkam (full of deception, violence and landgrabbing) – this is how Hacienda Luisita farmworkers under the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), the local affiliate of the national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) characterize the State of Hacienda Luisita under President BS Aquino. The president’s Cojuangco-Aquino clan still controls the 6,453 hectare sugar estate.
Like his mother Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, President BS Aquino promised social justice and land reform in Hacienda Luisita as part of his electoral campaign. But Aquino’s actions speak differently. The Luisita Watch network was formed in 2014 to document government’s sham land distribution and the worsening human rights situation in Hacienda Luisita. Will these be mentioned in Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address on July 27?
THE LANDMARK SUPREME COURT DECISION
After years of struggle, Hacienda Luisita farmers were favoured finally by the Supreme Court with its November 2011 landmark decision for total land distribution and revocation of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme, which was subsequently affirmed in a final and executory ruling on April 24, 2012.
This hard-earned victory of the farmers was met with active opposition and maneuvering from the Aquino-Cojuangco camp led by President Aquino himself. Only a few months into his presidency, in 2010, during the Supreme Court’s oral arguments, the Aquino-Cojuangcos pushed for a compromise deal, to make it appear that farmers still wanted the oppressive SDO scheme in place. Aquino only gave a token statement that he was divesting his shares in the estate, and did nothing to stop his relatives from coercing and deceiving the farmers.
President BS Aquino’s hyped “anti-corruption” crusade to have former Chief Justice Renato Corona impeached and convicted is now widely seen as Aquino’s “first step” to retain control of Hacienda Luisita. Corona was the principal proponent of the 2012 SC decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita. Aquino boasts of the Corona conviction as a major accomplishment of his “Daang Matuwid,” but the trial later appeared as an ugly act of reprisal involving millions of taxpayers’ money coursed through the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) purportedly used by Aquino to bribe Senator judges for an assured guilty verdict.
SHAM LAND REFORM
The implementation of the landmark Supreme Court decision is marred with much violence, anomaly and controversy. AMBALA and UMA claim that land distribution in Hacienda Luisita is a sham for the following reasons:
- Lot allocation through lottery drum (tambiolo) complemented reconcentration of land back to the landlords. Physical land distribution superseded by the illicit and rampant lease and purchase deals led by Aquino-Cojuangco dummies and other land speculators through disinformation, deception and coercion. Ex-LTO Chief Virginia Torres, a close Aquino ally, is one of the major “aryendadors” with hundreds of hectares of land from supposed beneficiaries.
- The exclusion of a number of bona fide farm workers in the final master list of beneficiaries, and the underhanded insertion of names of unqualified ones.
- The imposition of compulsory signing of promissory notes (Application to Purchase and Farmers Undertaking) to ensure amortization payments. Luisita farmers are clamoring for free land distribution, a just demand given the history of the estate.
- The grant of overpriced landlord compensation to Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI)/Cojuangco-Aquinos — P471.5 million, reported to be also coursed through the DAP.
- The inept facilitation of the audit of P1.33 billion in assets that HLI and Centenary Holdings acquired from the sale of agricultural land and the inaction on farm workers’ appeal for the revocation of a conversion order covering 500 hectares. A solar power public-private partnership (PPP) project is now in place between the Department of Energy and PetroGreen, a firm also owned by the Yuchengcos of RCBC, HLI’s successor-in-interest in the disputed 500-hectare property.
- The deceit and coercion of beneficiaries through false statements and excessive use of armed state forces during the so-called distribution process.
- The exclusion of hundreds of hectares of agricultural land from distribution, thus causing confusion and dispute among beneficiaries, and dislocation, too. The exclusion of other lands for distribution, such as what Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco), Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC), Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) and many other corporate avatars of the Cojuangco-Aquinos is grabbing at present even though the DAR, under its mandate, should subject other agricultural lands in the area to agrarian reform.
- The purported sale of the sugar mill, Central Azucarera de Tarlac to businessman Martin Lorenzo in 2014 is seen as a push to further evade land distribution and scrutiny of the Aquino-Cojuangcos’ sullied assets. The Aquino-Cojuangcos, through Don Pedro Cojuangco’s son, Fernando, remain major stockholders of CAT and a new holding company, the CAT Resource and Assets Holdings, Inc (CRAHI). After widespread retrenchment of workers in the sugar mill “under new management,” Luisita residents fear that land use conversion and the unhampered entry of “development projects” will lead to dislocation of the farming community.
The Hacienda Luisita massacre case filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, by more than 50 survivors and relatives in January 2005, was “murdered” twice under Aquino. President BS Aquino, a congressman and active administrator of the estate during the November 2004 massacre, is one of the respondents in the case. Aquino and other civilian respondents were immediately cleared of charges in July 2005.
The case against police and military respondents, however, was “silently” junked by the Ombudsman only a few months into Aquino’s presidency. The Ombudsman’s Military and Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) dismissed all charges against police and military respondents in December 2010, based solely on NBI reports and without any other effort to conduct a more thorough investigation. Copies of the resolutions did not reach most of the complainants and their lawyers. On August 4, 2014, survivors and relatives of the victims filed a motion to reopen the case. The motion was junked only a few months later in October 2014. A copy of the controversial NBI report, which explicitly states that there is cause to file charges against armed state officers on the scene, was only made public after the Ombudsman junked the appeal to reopen the case.
Instead of prosecution, military officials involved in the Hacienda Luisita massacre were given juicy promotions by BS Aquino. Recently retired AFP Chief, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, was one of the ground commanders during the violent dispersal, along with Gen. Ricardo Visaya who now holds the reins in the AFP Southern Luzon Command.
IMPUNITY IN HACIENDA LUISITA
Rights violations in Hacienda Luisita peaked during the sham land distribution process from 2013 to 2014. Farmers filed hundreds of counter-charges before the DOJ against the Aquino-Cojuangcos and their minions in January, March and October 2014 but the DOJ has yet to act on any of the complaints until now.
Recent human rights violations in Hacienda Luisita were presented by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) during the recently concluded International People’s Tribunal (IPT) held in Washington DC from July 16-19. President BS Aquino was found GUILTY of gross and systematic violations of human rights.
|Violations (2010-2015)||# Incident||# Victims||Details|
|Extra-judicial killing (EJK)||1||1||Dennis dela Cruz, AMBALA, killed October 31, 2013|
|Frustrated EJK||3||6||March 2012 (RCBC), 2 incidents in March 2014 (Brgy. Cutcut)|
|Torture / Mauling||9||30+|
|Illegal Arrest and Detention||9||28|
|Destruction of Crops/Property||Bulldozing of crops / destruction of huts / looting of produce, farm tools & animals
2013 – October – December – Bgy Balete (260 hectares)
2014 – Jan; Feb 8; Mar 27; June 25; August 5 – Bgys. Balete,Cutcut, Mapalacsiao, Asturias
Burning of huts – Feb 8, 2014 (BS Aquino’s birthday) – Bgy. Balete
|Theft/ Violation of of Domicile|
|Threat, Harassment, Intimidation||too many||AMBALA leaders, members, whole communities (10 barangays) before 2012 SC decision & during militarized land distribution activities in 2013|
The state of farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita reflects the situation of the Philippine peasantry under Aquino. Landlessness and impunity is the reason why organized farmers reject another extension of the flawed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and call for the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB or House Bill 252). Despite the odds, farmers in Hacienda Luisita strive to pursue their land cultivation campaign bungkalan. For the farmers, Hacienda Luisita alone is one glaring and compelling argument for President Aquino’s ouster.