The regional farmers group Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Farmers’ Alliance in Central Luzon), the provincial group Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Tarlak (Amt) and Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala, Farm workers’ Alliance in Hacienda Luisita) condemned the latest land grabbing measures of the Cojuangco-Aquino family, through their controlled firm Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco) and president Benigno Simeon (BS) “Noynoy” Aquino’s utilization of government resources for his family’s benefits. Tadeco personnels bulldozed about 10 hectares of farm lands at barangay Balete, cultivated by Ambala members, amidst the deployment of military forces belonging to the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion (3rd Mech) of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom).
“We have expected this kind of abuse years before the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands. The Cojuangco-Aquino family has no plan of giving up the lands as they schemed to profit by selling them to businesses while government forces serve as their private security guards to keep off protests from farm workers,” Joseph Canlas said, Amgl chairperson.
The groups asserted that since Hacienda Luisita Inc., was established in 1989 as a form of the stock-distribution option (sdo) provisioned by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the farm workers who worked on the 6,435-hectare sugarlandia plunged to deep poverty and debt, while the Cojuangco-Aquino family enjoyed extravagant and pampered lives. This system of social injustice pushed the farm workers to launch the massive strike on November 6, 2004, when the Cojuangco-Aquinos conspired with the despised Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government to obtain an “assumption of jurisdiction” (aj) order from former labor secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas. The aj then served as a license for the infamous “Hacienda Luisita massacre” on November 16 which killed 7 farm workers and wounded 121, 32 of which by gunshot wounds.
Ambala reported that on December 12, Tadeco personnels and security guards bulldozed farms at barangay Balete, including the 6-hectare rice lands to be harvested on December 20. Land reform advocates, Hacienda Luisita Peasant Supporters Network (Hlpsn) took photographs of the Tadeco operation destroying crop cultivated by Ambala farm workers. A signboard was set-up stating “development soon to rise,” backdropped by tall buildings similar to commercial business districts in Metro Manila.
“Since Noynoy Aquino took the presidency, genuine land reform in Hacienda Luisita was doomed. With all the state-machineries such as the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR), police and military, and other gov’t agencies, the Cojuangco-Aquino family was determined to keep control over the vast lands of Hacienda Luisita,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that DAR unjustly implemented CARP Extension with “Reforms” (CARPer) that was never mentioned in the Supreme Court decision. Amgl claimed that by implementing CARPer, the interests of the Cojuangco-Aquino family were protected: as the lands covered shrinked to 4,099-hectares, benefiting the Cojuangco-Aquinos allowing them to sell the lands excluded; DAR generated a list of 6,212 farm worker beneficiaries (fwbs) including names that are illegitimate according to Ambala; DAR officials held a “raffle” giving out certificate of land ownership awards (cloa) which was illegal and unreasonable; fwbs were coerced to sign an application to puchase and farmers’ undertaking (apfu) agreement, which the beneficiary would be criminalized on failure to pay amortization; and sugar block farming is promoted by DAR for the lands to be chained to the Cojuangco-Aquinos sugar business.
The groups said that Hacienda Luisita continues to be militarized, which they asserted as part of BS Aquino’s program, Oplan Bayanihan, to intimidate farm workers and foil their protests. The deployment of the military paved way for Tadeco’s fencing of about 500 hectares of land at barangay Balete and Cutcut that evicted farm workers from their cultivated lands as part of their “bungkalan” (cultivation) campaign.
“It is very clear that BS Aquino is a traitor to the Hacienda Luisita farm workers. His schemes through DAR and gov’t forces are all for the protection of his family’s interests. He and his family are drooling over the potential profits of selling vast lands in Hacienda Luisita,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that the plan of the Cojuangco-Aquino family to convert lands in Hacienda Luisita was driven by the recent projects in the region such as the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (Sctex) and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (Tplex). Tplex recently opened to motorists from Tarlac city to Gerona town. Amgl said that agricultural lands in Tarlac range to P1.3 million to P5 to P6 million per hectare, thus, lands in Hacienda Luisita surrounded by McArthur highway, Sctex and Tplex are definitely to jack up prices. These projects are part of the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (Mlub) project in the region which is part of the W-Growth Corridor development plan, began during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, continued by the BS Aquino government.
“Thus, a mere 500-hectare graded land in Hacienda Luisita would range to about P650 million to P3 billion, money which the Cojuangco-Aquino family is insane about. This is the very reason why the Cojuangco-Aquino family would bring down the heavens just to profit from the lands,” Canlas said.
In response, Amgl called on farm workers of Hacienda Luisita to push on their bungkalan campaign. The bungkalan campaign covered a maximum of 2,000-hectares since 2005, cultivated with rice, vegetables and fruit crops. The campaign concretely gave the poor farm workers a source on income which is far more superior than being laborers of Hacienda Luisita, Inc. under the sdo scheme.
“We call on farm workers, led by Ambala to advance the Hacienda Luisita-wide bungkalan campaign. It is a moral and just cause for the lands to be benefited by those who labored on it and not serve the interest of the parasitic landlord class such as the Cojuangco-Aquinos. Local changes in Hacienda Luisita, accomplished by the peasant class through cultivation is a contribution to the regional and national struggle to effect fundamental reforms. Real development is the upliftment of the socio-economic well-being of the people and not the sheer construction of high-rise buildings and malls,” Canlas called. #