Various regional groups have denounced the latest arrest of the leader of farm workers, Florida Sibayan, acting chair of Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala, Farm Workers Alliance in Hacienda Luisita). Sibayan's arrest was based on a warrant accusing her of threat charges filed by the Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco), controlled by the family of president Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino, the Cojuangco-Aquinos. The Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Farmers Alliance in Central Luzon, affiliated with Ambala), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Central Luzon (Bayan – CL), Workers' Alliance in Region III (War III), Anakbayan – Central Luzon, Central Luzon Ayta Association (Claa), Aguman Dareng Maglalautang Capampangan (Amc), Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Tarlak (Amt) and Anakpawis Partylist – Central Luzon have condemned Sibayan's arrest and claimed that this is a manufactured charge, is part and parcel of the holistic offensive against the farm workers who are struggling for their rights to the land. The groups asserted that the Cojuangco-Aquino family is launching a feudal and fascist campaign against the farm workers, in light of raking off profits from selling and converting lands for the interests of foreign monopoly.
“We condemn to the highest degree possible the filing of trumped up charges and arrest of Sibayan and we demand her immediate and unconditional release. We hold the Cojuangco-Aquino's, especially BS Aquino responsible for this fascist attack,” Joseph Canlas said, Amgl chairperson and Anakpawis Party-list regional coordinator.
“We are anticipating these kind of tactics as we believe that Oplan Bayanihan has stepped up on its phase 2 of implementation,” Canlas added.
Oplan Bayanihan is the counter-insurgency program of the Aquino government based on the United States Counter-insurgency Guide or COIN. Amgl claimed that the Cojuangco-Aquinos are past the stage of deceiving the farmers such as the distribution of certificate of land ownership awards (cloa) by the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and is on actually snatching lands from the farm workers such as the fences constructed by Tadeco last quarter of 2013 to early this year in barangayas Balete and Cutcut and now by Central Azucarera de Tarlac in barangays Mapalacsiao, with all operations secured by elements of the Phil. National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The groups cited that the Cojuangco-Aquino clan has taken advantage of the stock distribution option (sdo) scheme, as provisioned by the Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) since 1989. The farm workers who actually labored on land were subjected into deep poverty and misery, thus, driving them to launch the 5,000-strong strike on November 6, 2004. Through the use of the assumption of jurisdiction (aj) order issued by the labor department of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, government forces opened fire at the striking farm workers on November 16, 2004 – “Hacienda Luisita massacre” killing 7 and wounding hundreds. The next day, the picket line was set up by the farm workers supported by multi-sectoral groups and a massive “bungkalan” campaign was launched by Ambala reaching at most 2,000-hectares in different barangays covered by the hacienda. The Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) controlled by the Cojuangco-Aquinos opposed the decision of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (Parc) to revocate the stock distribution option (sdo) scheme by filing for a temporary restraining order (tro) at the Supreme Court on June 2006. The farm workers sustained the campaign to pressure the Supreme Court, triggering a mass movement of various sectors until it decided for the revocation and distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands on November 24, 2011 and April 22, 2012. But as BS Aquino as president, farm workers opposed DAR's scheme of raffling out cloas, compensating the Cojuangco-Aquinos and obliging them to pay amortization. Consequently, Tadeco and now Cat are forcing farm workers out of the land and putting up fences.
“Based on its history, the peasant struggle in Hacienda Luisita is an anti-feudal, anti-fascist and anti-imperialist,” Roman Polintan said, Bayan – CL chairperson.
“Sugar production in the country is dictated by the demand of the US and world market since the American colonization. It is not a staple crop but a cash crop, where big landlords serve also as compradors for foreign monopoly capitalists,” Polintan said.
“The struggle for genuine land reform in Hacienda Luisita is actually a stepping stone into breaking out from the control of imperialism,” he added.
The groups said that the Cojuangco-Aquinos have evidently resorted to grabbing lands, converting and planning to sell them as revealed by the Hacienda Luisita land use plan. Tadeco has set up a signage saying “development soon to rise,” in brgy. Balete. The land use conversion plan is primarily composed of the Las Haciendas De Luisita Golf and Residential Community, regional shopping center, Luisita Business Park, Luisita Industrial Park, Centro Techno Park, Central Park, commercial-business district (cbd), an educational center, leisure farms and agricultural reserve. They added that as Hacienda Luisita was connected to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (Sctex) and promoted through BS Aquino's Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, the Cojuangco-Aquinos intended to rake up profits from the development projects.
“The grand plan of the Cojuangco-Aquinos is to serve foreign interests and not of the farm workers whose ancestors have tilled the land since Spanish colonial times,” Polintan said.
Thus, the groups said that BS Aquino as president, utilizing government resources and machineries such as the DAR, local courts, police and military should be held responsible for this systematic attack against the farm workers. It is a betrayal of public interest, essentially treason against the Filipino people.
“We accuse BS Aquino of treason as he has implemented policies and programs detrimental to the Filipino, where majority is the peasantry, especially those who tilled on his own backyard, the Hacienda Luisita farm workers,” Canlas said.
“Genuine land reform under the BS Aquino government is totally sham, likewise, nationalist industrialization a fantasy. With BS Aquino implementing programs such as PPP, Oplan Bayanihan, Visiting Forces Agreement – Balikatan military exercises, the untouched freedom of foreign monopoly to suck up profits through incessant oil price hikes, power and utility rates, privatization of social services, generally the neo-liberal policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization, BS Aquino has sided with foreign interests and betrayed the Filipino people,” Canlas said.
“We assert the issue of Hacienda Luisita cannot be contained within the four walls of the courts and agencies, but shall be resolved outside on the streets where the mass movement crowding and shouting at Cojuangco-Aquinos' ears. We demand the immediate and unconditional freedom of Sibayan, or face the full wrath of the farmers and people from different sectors of Central Luzon demanding BS Aquino's resignation,” Canlas demanded. #