DATE: FEBRUARY 10, 2014 REFERENCE: Christopher Garcia, spokesperson, AMBALA, CONTACT NO: 09293200615
GI ESTRADA, UMA MEDIA OFFICER, CONTACT NO.: 09166114181
FARMERS APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC: HELP END IMPUNITY IN HACIENDA LUISITA
The Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) condemn the destruction of farmers’ huts and crops in Barangay Balete by thugs employed by relatives of President Aquino during the weekend. Violent acts against Hacienda Luisita farmers have been escalating since last year and reached this unfortunate peak on Pres. BS Aquino’s birthday last Saturday, February 8.
Farmers in Barangay Balete were held at gunpoint by armed personnel of the Great Star Security agency employed by Cojuangco firm Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) as the guards proceeded to dismantle the huts of Ricky Flores, Rudy Pineda and Wilfredo Sibayan, husband of AMBALA acting chairperson Florida “Pong” Sibayan.
A young peasant, Rey Flores, 16, son of Ricky, tried to capture the incident with his cellphone camera, but the guards pointed shotguns at him and hauled him for turn-over to police authorities. Rey was subsequently released upon the intervention of Tarlac City Councilor Emmy Ladera-Facunla and DSWD representatives. The thugs, however, continued dismantling farmhuts and destroying crops. On the night of February 8, at least three farm huts were razed to the ground by Cojuangco guards. The huts belong to farmers Romy Sotto, Edgar Aganon, and Eddie Castro. AMBALA reports that farm huts and crops of Eustaquio Sabado, Max Facunla, and Abelardo Mallari were also destroyed.
President Aquino’s relatives are on a rampage in Hacienda Luisita. Agrarian unrest, injustice and the reign of terror and impunity still hang over this controversial sugar estate. On September 17, 2013, a duly-elected lawmaker, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap was violently arrested by Tarlac Police whilst on a fact-finding mission in Hacienda Luisita. HUNDREDS of farmers and their supporters are now facing fabricated charges filed by TADECO and the Tarlac PNP before local courts. The list of these harassment charges grow longer every day.
During the Christmas season, TADECO commenced bulldozing hundreds of hectares of farmers’ crops in Barangay Balete. Five farmers were mauled, detained and are now facing charges fabricated by the Tarlac PNP to justify the violent incident personally directed by its highest local officers, Tarlac PNP Provincial Director Alex Sintin and Tarlac City PNP Chief Bayani Razalan.
The contested agricultural areas in Barangay Balete are now unlawfully fenced by TADECO despite the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) issuance of a notice of land reform coverage on December 17, 2013. Cojuangco bulldozers are parked next to the company headquarters of the 3rd Mechanized Battalion of the AFP, also located within this disputed area. The unlawful detainer or ejectment case lodged by TADECO versus farmers Florida Sibayan, et al., was recently dismissed by MTC Judge de Jesus, January 24, 2014. TADECO, with the active assistance of the Tarlac PNP, has been undertaking eviction of farmers since December 2013 without any court order.
Last January 16, AMBALA members and individual victims of threat, harassment, destruction of crops and property, illegal arrest and detention, robbery and other violations filed criminal cases versus TADECO, their armed guards, and the Tarlac PNP, before the Department of Justice (DOJ). DAR Undersecretary Francisco Baraan who faced the farmer-complainants in a dialogue that same day, promised to immediately act on AMBALA’s request for the DOJ to create a special panel for Hacienda Luisita rights violations. AMBALA has yet to hear of any action or update from the DOJ.
AMBALA also filed a motion to cite the DAR and TADECO in contempt of the 2012 Supreme Court (SC) decision on Hacienda Luisita, for undermining and subverting this historic ruling to distribute Luisita to farmworkers.
The Cojuangcos seem to commit these violent attacks against farmers during holidays and weekends, when government agencies, courts and even media institutions are closed or idle. As early as December 26 or a day after Christmas, AMBALA filed before the DAR Regional Office, an urgent cease and desist (CDO) petition against TADECO bulldozing and eviction of farmers. The DAR Main Office was immediately furnished a copy of this urgent petition.
During a dialogue with DAR officials last January 21, the agency promised farmers to come up with concrete action on several issues raised by AMBALA — by today, February 10. Judging from their actions, DAR’s highest officials are apparently busy recycling their accomplishment reports while frantically belying claims of the overpriced compensation awarded to the Cojuangco-Aquino family for Hacienda Luisita.
We appeal to all concerned individuals and institutions: SUPPORT THE FARMERS’ PLEA FOR GENUINE LAND REFORM AND SOCIAL JUSTICE. STOP MILITARIZATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN HACIENDA LUISITA.
Malacanang, the DAR, DOJ, SC, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and all other concerned government agencies are ALL MUM about violence in Hacienda Luisita. Meanwhile, BS Aquino’s kabarilan Virgie Torres and other land grab vultures continue to facilitate Cojuangco-backed “aryendo” deals with duped beneficiaries. There is not enough media coverage to make the public aware of the farmers’ urgent concerns, compared to the “hypercoverage” of other controversial but trivial issues.
Are we all waiting for another Hacienda Luisita massacre before we open our eyes?
Photo links: Photo of Rey Flores circulating on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=657202804321031&set=a.598162936891685.1073741827.100000939532732&type=3&theater
Burnt/ destroyed farmhuts, photo by AMBALA, circulating on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.657380674303244.100000939532732&type=3
ATTACHED PHOTO: Rey Flores, 16, (in black) escorted by Tarlac City Councilor Emy Ladera-Facunla (in white) and Tarlac PNP as he steps out of the agricultural areas unlawfully fenced by Cojuangco firm TADECO.(AMBALA)
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