The regional peasant group Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Farmers Alliance in Central Luzon) strongly condemned the illegal arrest of eleven (11) farmworkers and their supporters including Anakpawis Party-list representative Fernando Hicap in Brgy. Balete, this noon by 22 elements of Tarlac city Philippine National Police (PNP), 7 intelligence agents in civilian clothing aboard 2 mobile vehicles, Mitsubishi Pajero SUV and 1 sedan. Also arrested were Florida Sibayan, acting-chairperson of Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala, Farmworkers Alliance in Hacienda Luisita), Luz Versola of Sakdal(youth farm workers), Angelina Nunag of Ambala. Among their supporters who are arrested, Sr. Pat Fox (Austrialian sister and lawyer) of Tanggol Magsasaka, Karla Mae San Juan of Anakpawis Party-list office in the House of Representatives, Danilo Ramos of Anakpawis and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Ericson Acosta (artist and former political prisoner) of UMA, Kerima Acosta of UMA, Ronald Matthew Gustillo of Karapatan national and Rene Biasan, staff of Anakpawis Party-list. The arrested were part of the contigent holding the national fact-finding mission in Hacienda Luisita, investigating the Aquino government’s “tambiolo land reform,” militarization and land grabbing.
“We strongly condemn this fascist move by the Aquino government and the Cojuangco-Aquino family and we demand the immediate release of those arrested. The Cojuangco-Aquinos are simply conveying a message that they rule over the hacienda and they could do whatever to keep control of the vast lands,” Joseph Canlas said, Amgl chairperson and Anakpawis Party-list regional coordinator for Central Luzon.
“But this also means that the Cojuangco-Aquino were already unable to rule the way they do before and are compelled to resort to fascist attacks as the farm workers’ sentiment for a free distribution of lands is snowballing,” he added.
Amgl reported that police forces are targetting to arrest Canlas, but the group resisted resulting a 30-minute scuffle and three counts of pursuit. The group reported that the young Karla Mae San Juan was slapped and punched at the stomach, and the police forces also ignored Hicap’s congressional position. This took place after the group held a dialogue with the Philippine Army at one of their detachment. The arrested were brought to a PNP camp in Tarlac city and being charged with malicious mischief, illegal assembly, direct assault, and trespassing.
Presently, groups such Ambala, Amgl, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Tarlak (Amt), Karapatan-Gitnang Luson, Bayan-Gitnang Luson, Anakbayan-Gitnang Luson and Kabataan Partylist-Central Luzon are leading a protest at the PNP camp in Tarlac city. Amgl gathered reports that San Juan was slapped, Sibayan and Verzola suffered swelling, while Biasan was wounded. Farm workers also accounted that some elements of the police touched breasts of some senior female farm workers. The groups are planning to file charges against the PNP with threat, harassment and intimidation, violence against women and children (vawc), illegal arrest and physical assault.
“The investigation on militarization in Hacienda Luisita, is clearly and undoubtedly validated as the fact-finding group itself experienced first hand, illegal arrest and harassment perpetrated by the Aquino government,” Canlas said.
Primarily, the fact-finding mission intends to gather data on the initial reports that farm worker beneficiaries (FWBs) were coerced into signing an application to purchase and farmers undertaking (apfu) with the DAR, while land allocation certificates (lac) were distributed. This process directed by DAR clearly obliges FWBs to pay amortization, consequently compensating the Cojuangco-Aquinos. On this regard, Ambala and its supporters claim it is immoral as the FWBs rights to land has long-been neglected since the Cojuangcos acquired Hacienda Luisita in 1957 and the implementation of stock distibution option (SDO) in 1989 which was evidently established as a failure to uplift the socio-economic status of the FWBs. Ambala also asserted that the “tambiolo” method of distribution is outright illegal and violation of their rights as FWBs.
In addition, at the moment DAR conducted raffling to FWBs, parcels of land are being grabbed by private corporation connected to the Cojuangco-Aquinos. Such as, the Tarlac Dev’t. Corp. (Tadeco) claiming 100 hectares in Brgy. Cutcut, and Luisita Realty Corp. fencing about 400 hectares in Brgy. Balete. Elements of the military also set-up detachments covering lands and keeping farm workers from cultivating them.
“The very opposition of the farm workers led by Ambala to this process immoral and unjust process of distibruting lands led by DAR is the achilles heel of the Cojuangco-Aquinos. This simply means that their plans of encashing lands, land banking and converting them to rake up profits are undermined, thus, they resort to all-out violent attacks against the farm workers and their supporters,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that the value of 1-hectare of land in Tarlac city ranges from P1 million to P4 million per hectare (P400/sqm) as pumped up by infrastructure projects such as the Subic-Clark-Tarlac expressway (SCTEx) and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx). Thus, a 4,915-hectare lands at P400/sqm would roughly value up to P19.6 billion.
“The Aquino government, while facing the massive dissent against corruption and the pork barrel, it is pushing the interests of the Cojuangco-Aquinos to suck up wealth from the lands and attacking the farm workers and their supporters ranging from massacre, extra-judicial killings, illegal arrest, harassment and other forms of rights violations,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that the Aquino government has exposed itself as an anti-people and anti-farmer regime. Its current undemocratic and fascist attacks on the groups struggling for reforms would boomerang against it.
“It is a matter of time when the Filipino people’s dissent against corruption would be amalgamated with the farm workers struggle for genuine land reform in Hacienda Luisita, isolating the Aquino regime and the elitist Cojuangco-Aquino family,” Canlas said.