“First, this is a clear admission that Hacienda Luisita is militarized. We should not forget that the AFP’s commander-in-chief is president Noynoy Aquino, a member of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan. The president’s family is the antagonist of the farmworkers’ struggle for their rights to land,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairperson.
AMGL and Ambala reacted to Torres’ statement that their presence is due to the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan as reply to media’s inquiry of their reply to the conducted investigation by farmers’ groups. AMGL and Ambala have long been demanding the military pull-out since before the violent dispersal of the farmworkers’ strike on November 16, 2004. The groups that the military should not intervene on the issue of Hacienda Luisita as it is clearly an agrarian issue.
“Everybody should know that Oplan Bayanihan is a counter-insurgency program, targetting those they brand as ‘insurgents,’ and their operation is clearly military in nature, whether they clean up streets or any civil-military operations. Thus, Torres has admitted that they are conducting military operation in the hacienda,” Canlas said.
“Soldiers never left the hacienda. When we were massacred, they still had the guts to show their faces. They wreaked havoc here, harassed leaders and members of Ambala and United Luisita Workers’ Union,” said Felix Nacpil, Jr., Ambala chairperson.
Ambala said the AFP have a bloody record inside the hacienda as their presence coincided with the series of extra-judicial killings and abductions of leaders, members and supporters of the farmworkers. Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (Catlu) and Brgy. Mapalacsiao chairman Ric Ramos was killed on October 25, 2005 when the military encamped at his barangay. He was killed by sniper fire at his house.
“Imagine that the military is inside the hacienda and our leaders were being killed. Though they deny knowledge of this merciless crime, we would never be deceived by their posturing and implementation of civil-military operations,” said Nacpil.
Ambala said that the Cojuangco-Aquinos are coercing barangay chairpersons to sign an affidavit requesting military deployment, except for Brgy. Balete chairman Renato Luna who is a known supporter of the Cojuangco-Aquino.
“Luna is a known corrupt official, he swindled many farmworkers, claimed lands positioned by farmworkers. He is now afraid of the farmworkers as he is living inside the area guarded by the security guards, he is avoiding the enraged farmworkers,” said Nacpil.
Ambala said that the request of barangay officials for military deployment was never consulted with the residents.
“It is conspiracy between the Cojuangco-Aquinos and their lackeys. They are manufacturing basis for militarization inside the hacienda as they are deflecting the blame away from president Aquino, their commander-in-chief,” Canlas said.
AMGL and Ambala reiterated that the Armed Forces of the Philippines have no business inside the hacienda as they have previously declared that Tarlac is an insurgent-free province. The groups said that forces of the military is now trying to conceal their presence inside the hacienda.
“We are not stupid not to know that the military is targetting those who are struggling for their rights to land. Oplan Bayanihan is a synchronized implementation of combat, intelligence and civil-military operations. They are simply identifying the farmworkers’ leaders, members and their supporters when they are holding operations,” Canlas said.
“The main issue in the hacienda is land reform, when the lands are distributed, the military would have no reason to take-over community activities as it would be covered by the farmworkers cooperatives,” he added.
AMGL and Ambala said that they are on the process of finalizing the data gathered from the fact-finding mission and they are planning to campaign further for military pull-out.
“If the AFP continue to justify their presence with sweeping streets and cleaning canals, the government should simply employ local residents as it is better and would add livelihood to the farmworkers. We appeal for support from various sectors to flush the military out of the hacienda. They are the primary agents of unrest and not of ‘peace and development,’” Canlas said. #