Farmers belonging to the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Farmers' Alliance in Central Luzon) give president Benigno Aquino's two-year presidency a “double thumbs down” a week before his third state of the nation address (SONA). The group claimed that Aquino has implemented policies and programs that were detrimental to the region's farmer sector during the all-peasant sector assembly held in Angeles City. It was followed by a protest at Plaza Miranda of the said city with the farmers burning an life-size image of Aquino. Amgl announced that it would launch a caravan starting July 19, towards Metro Manila.
“Hacienda Luisita, CARPer, land grabbing, mining, extra-judicial killings of Willem Geertman, Romualdo Palispis and Pascual Guevarra, Oplan Bayanihan, PPP, TPLEx, oil price hikes, these are a few of the many issues Aquino has promoted in the two years of his presidency, and they are all against the farmers' interests,” Joseph Canlas said, Amgl chairperson.
Amgl primarily claimed that Aquino has done everything in his power to retain the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita on the control of his family, the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
“Everybody knows about Hacienda Luisita, they conned the government in 1957 and used public funds, they massacred the farmworkers in 2004, they blocked the DAR and PARC's decision to junk the stock distribution option in 2006, they tried to peddle lies at the Supreme Court during the oral arguments and carried out a bogus referendum on August 2010, the farmworkers and many sectors supported them on their demand for land distribution, the high court finally decided for land distribution on November 22, last year and April 24 this year, then the Cojuangco-Aquinos launched their massive attacked against former chief justice Renato Corona. At present, they are continuing to harass the farmworkers, colluding with the RCBC,” Canlas said.
“During Aquino's presidency, farmers who used to cultivate lands peacefully and continuously are now threatened by land grabbing, as the government has neglected their rights and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with 'Reforms' or CARPer is concretely useless,” he added.
The group is citing the issues of farmers in Tarlac city, where the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) has triggered massive land grabbing and speculation, in anticipation of the abrupt appreciation of land value. Farmers in Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) in Nueva Ecija, Camp Gregg Military Reservation in Pangasinan are also threatened by land grabbing. Aquino's family corporation the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Realty Corp. (CAT Realty) is claiming ownership of the 386-hectare agricultural land in Bayambang, Pangasinan. It added that the Angara-sponsored Aurora-Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Act (Apeco) is one of the issues that the killed Dutch NGO worker Willem Geertman was actively opposing.
“There is a long list of land grabbing issues in the region that worsened during Aquino's presidency,” Canlas said.
“Mining operations are also systematically destroying the mountains of Zambales, Pampanga and Bulacan and Aquino is continuously promoting through his recently issued executive order no. 79,” he added.
Amgl coined Aquino's program as CARPer, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program and Oplan Bayanihan.
“Aquino's thrust is to eject farmers from their lands and sell them to foreign investors and big businesses. Those who would oppose are being targeted by extra-judicial killings or rights abuses as packaged by his counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” Canlas said.
“We would always remember that Aquino is liable for the killing of Willem Geertman, Bayan Muna-Aurora leader Romualdo Palispis and Amgl-Nueva Ecija leader Pascual Guevarra who was killed 10 days after he was proclaimed president,” he added.
“We call on other sectors for support as we continue our struggle for genuine land reform in the region and justice for the victims of Aquino's Oplan Bayanihan,” Canlas called. #