conversion order on RCBC-claimed lands. (Photo by AMGL)
“The RCBC has filed grave coercion and occupation of real property to 23 leaders and members of AMBALA after we have cultivated the land last July 2011. We strongly believe that it was pure harassment to demoralize the struggling farmworkers.” according to Felix Nacpil Jr., Chairperson, AMBALA.
The groups said that the case aim to disrupt the farmworkers’ “occupation” of 4,915 hectares of agricultural lands as it targets to harass Ambala and United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu) leaders and even including Tarlac City Councilor Emmie Ladera. They claimed that RCBC and the Cojuangco-Aquinos are coordinating their efforts as it involved the lands being claimed by RCBC, LRC and Lipco.
“Aside from that, last Oct. 28, 2011, the camp-out of farmworkers in Brgy. Balete were threatened to be demolished by 60 element of PNP Tarlac City, 60 members of demolition team, a Philippine army squad and military agents. But farmworkers beefed up their ranks and thwarted the attempt,” added by Joseph Canlas, Chairperson, AMGL.
On January 5, 2012, AMBALA have filed a petition for revocation of the conversion order of RCBC-claimed lands at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Central office in Quezon City and stated that it is deemed lapsed as there were no development in 5 years after it was issued.
“We are preparing for the worse development of the RCBC case, as they are powerful and influential, the courts could easily decide on their favor. We are consolidating our members so that they would not fall into the Cojuangco-Aquinos misinformation campaign,” Nacpil said.
“Our lawyers and supporters are now on heightenened vigilance as we wait the court’s resoultion. On the scenario that the court would favor RCBC, we would mobilize all our members in the region, to defend the camp-out,” Canlas said.
AMGL said that they would immediately mobilize those being displaced by the TPLEx project in Tarlac City, those houses being demolished in La Paz town, lands being grabbed in Sta. Rosa and Cabanatuan, farmers from Bayambang where the lands are being grabbed by the Cojuangcos, Pampanga farmers being ejected by the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) and Ayala projects and more.
“In addition, we call on all our supporters in Manila to immediately protest at the RCBC main office in Makati, in case they continue to harass the farmworkers,” Canlas added.
“RCBC is playing with fire, it should realize that the farmworkers have endured the violent massacre in 2004, thus, plain issuance of warrants or whatever would not cow and derail them from occupying the hacienda, it is inviting the farmers’ wrath to fall on their Makati office,” he said.
In addition, AMGL and Ambala denounced the conspiratorial effort of the local DAR official with known land grabber and speculators in Tarlac City. A certain Linda Lundang of the Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (MARO) and retired MARO official Maximo Santiago were sighted by the farmworkers to enter inside the hacienda and negotiating with barangay officials. The farmworkers said that she was with a certain Marilou Abrilles, the speculator that is ejecting farmers at the nearby site of the toll plaza of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) project at Brgy. San Pascual. Farmers said that Santiago used his position to entitle his family to own lands that should be subjected to the agrarian reform program.
Ambala said that that the present and retired MARO officals and Abrilles are conspiring with barangay officials to impede the farmworkers ‘occupation’ of agricultural lands.
“We asked the Tarlac Provincial Agrarian Reform Office whether the DAR Central and DAR III have ordered these actions and they claimed there was none, hence, we demand that this official should be reprimanded as she is fuelling confusion among farmworkers,” Canlas said.
The groups said that they are watching out for this kind of actions as corrupt local agrarian officials commonly used the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) as their “milking cow,” exploiting the government’s budget and compensation at the expense of burdening farmers of bloated amortization dues.
“At present, we have identified that RCBC, the Cojuangco-Aquinos and the local group of land grabbers and speculators are working as a syndicate to exploit the situation and rid off the farmworkers of their rightful claim to the lands,” Canlas said.
“We warn them to keep their hands off Hacienda Luisita as Ambala is the only legitimate organization to represent the farmworkers and they have the right to hold them once they are sighted inside the hacienda,” Canlas warned.