Pinoy Weekly » Magsasaka http://pinoyweekly.org/new Philippine news, analysis, and investigative stories Mon, 07 Apr 2014 17:50:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 Luisita farmers urge DOJ to act on complaints http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/03/luisita-farmers-urge-doj-to-act-on-complaints/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/03/luisita-farmers-urge-doj-to-act-on-complaints/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 16:26:42 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=28597 Still searching for justice. Farm workers from Hacienda Luisita hold banners of farmers who were killed in the struggle for land reform in the sugar state. Tensions grips anew in the area after companies owned by Cojuangco-Aquino family started bulldozing farmlands since the last quarter of 2014. <strong>Macky Macaspac</strong>

Still searching for justice. Farm workers from Hacienda Luisita hold banners of farmers who were killed in the struggle for land reform in the sugar state. Tensions grips anew in the area after companies owned by Cojuangco-Aquino family started bulldozing farmlands since the last quarter of 2014. Macky Macaspac

Hacienda Luisita farmers led by the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) trooped to the Department of Justice (DOJ) urging Sec. Leila de Lima to act on their complaints of harassment by security forces of Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) who were fencing and bulldozing their crops and farmlands.

The group also filed a new complaint, this time involving a minor who was arrested by Tadeco security personnel after he took videos of the bulldozing activities on February 8.

They also condemned the arrest of their chairperson Florida Sibayan and farmer Julius Loveland last Wednesday while trying to process their bail for charges of threat filed by a Cojuangco security guard. They were released yesterday after posting bail.

According to Ambala, the DOJ has not been not acting on their complaints. The group said they first filed complaints on January 16. In news report by Bulatlat.com, De Lima said she has yet to check the status of the case with Undersec. Baraan.

Ambala added that 12 farmer-families lost an estimated Php 2,111,000 crops ready for harvest this March, razed homes and destroyed personal belongings and farm implements. Farmers also reported theft of farm animals and harvest.

“The reported losses are for a single incident alone. Cojuangco-Aquino guards have been destroying farmers’ homes and livelihood in Barangay Balete since after Typhoon Santi hit Central Luzon in October,” said Christopher Garcia, spokesperson of Ambala.

The group added that aside from Tadeco, another Cojuangco-owned company, Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), commenced the clearing of hundreds of hectares in barangay Mapalacsiao, affecting 50 farmer families in Sitio Maligaya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farmers slam ‘land grabbing spree’ in Hacienda Luisita http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/03/farmers-slam-land-grabbing-spree-in-hacienda-luisita/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/03/farmers-slam-land-grabbing-spree-in-hacienda-luisita/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 02:43:34 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=28542 Some 50 families of Sitio Maligaya in Brgy. Mapalacsiao, Tarlac City, have become latest victims of land grabbing by the Cojuangco-Aquino family in Hacienda Luisita. <strong>Kontribusyon</strong>

Some 50 families of Sitio Maligaya in Brgy. Mapalacsiao, Tarlac City, have become latest victims of land grabbing by the Cojuangco-Aquino family in Hacienda Luisita. Contributed Photo

Another company owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family has been grabbing lands in the disputed farmlands inside the sugar estate.

This is according to Anakpawis Party-list, which slammed the move of Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) to deploy armed security groups and illegally fence and bulldoze an estimated 200 hectares of farmlands in Brgys. Mapalacsiao and Parang in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac that started on March 5.

“It is an alarming trend in Hacienda Luista that farm lands supposed to be distributed to farmer beneficiaries are being excluded through dubious, illegal, immoral and violent means led by different Cojuangco-Aquino corporations,” said Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap.

Hicap said CAT (like the Tarlac Development Corporation or Tadeco) has no right to claim or exclude farm lands for distribution as the Supreme Court recognized the farm workers ownership of Luisita. “Because it is theirs (farmer-beneficiaries) in the first place. The Cojuangco-Aquinos don’t own even a plot of land in Hacienda Luisita in the first place,” Hicap said.

‘Family effort land grabbing’

The Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), meanwhile, said that the President’s sister and actress Kris Aquino, like the rest of the members of the board of directors of the CAT, should be liable for criminal infringement related to the ongoing violent bulldozing and fencing off of 214 hectares of agricultural lands in Brgys. Mapalacsiao and Parang in Hacienda Luisita.

The President’s sister successfully pursued a seat on the CAT board just last October. Ambala sees this as a move to consolidate Cojuangco-Aquino’s influence in Hacienda Luisita and a prepare for the media celebrity’s supposed gubernatorial bid in Tarlac for the 2016 elections.

“The continued aggressive claim of CAT and other corporate avatars of the Cojuangco-Aquinos on the lands that supposedly belong to the actual tillers speaks much of the Presidential family’s anti-peasant practices and could in fact gravely affect Kris Aquino’s political ambitions in Tarlac,” said Florida Sibayan, chairperson of Ambala.

Hicap also blamed the Department of Agrarian Reform for the continuing social unrest in Hacienda Luisita. “The DAR or the ‘Department of Aquino Land Reform’ served its purpose (of acceding to) the interest of the president’s clan,” he said.

He added that DAR implemented a chaotic, confusing and questionable land reform distribution process by way of a “tambiolo system”. While it is silent on Tadeco and CAT’s land grabbing escapade, it turns deaf and blind on the latter’s legal action of filing trump-up charges against the farm workers.

“What we have right now in Hacienda Luisita is a family effort land grabbing affair. They not only defy but twist a court decision to protect their economic interest.” said Hicap.

Several hundreds of hectares have been secured by another Cojuangco-Aquino company, the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), in Brgy. Balete after a series of violent attacks by Tadeco guards and Tarlac PNP men against Balete farmers since December 2014.

Farmers have consistently asserted their right over the disputed  lands, but have been excluded from the total area of distributable Hacienda Luisita lands.

According to Sibayan, the disputed lands must be covered by the DAR for distribution as per the explicit provision of the Hacienda Luisita Supreme Court ruling of April 24, 2012 which instructs the DAR to find all other agricultural lands besides the 4,915 hectares officially declared distributable.

The lands, which have been supposedly included in the land distribution process, according to the group, have not yet been physically awarded to the so-called Luisita farmer-beneficiaries.

“These lands are instead being usurped and controlled by sugar cane production financiers who are said to be mere pawns themselves of the Cojuangco-Aquinos,” said Sibayan.

Deceptive measures

Farmers also criticized Tadeco, which has been circulating a petition to bolster their claims over the disputed hundreds of land and will bring peace and development to the Luisita farmers.

Ambala said the petition entitled “Manifesto of the Residents of Hacienda Luisita” has been circulating in ten barangays together with a newsletter published by Luisita Advocacies, Public Information Service (Lapis).

“This petition is deceptive and distributed by a shady entity called Lapis,” the group said.

They also said that the current petition is no different from the referenda in 1989 and 2010, which skirted land distribution. “Such measures of deceit have long been the trademark style of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan in Hacienda Luisita, complementing its equally-proven propensity to employ violence in the name of its big-landlord interests,” the group added.

Lapis stated that Tadeco’s development of its 358 hectares of land would propel Tarlac’s economy but was scuttled by the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) Notice of Coverage on the said lands.

“It failed to state though that the 31st Mechanized Battalion has a detachment right inside in the disputed lands, particularly in Barangay Balete and police including a fully armed SWAT team that were used in an illegal eviction action that Tadeco ordered in the said village on December 21st, 2013,” Sibayan said, refering to Lapis’ denial of ongoing militarization in the area.

“The unabated agrarian unrest in Hacienda Luisita is escalating in a pace comparable to that of the tension which led to the tragic Hacienda Luisita massacre ten years ago, the main perpetrators of which, the family of Kris Aquino and the Philippine President himself, have yet to be prosecuted much less punished,” the group said.

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Photos | Women farmers in Hacienda Luisita rise for justice vs Cojuangco land grabbing, repression http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/03/photos-women-farmers-in-hacienda-luisita-rise-for-justice-vs-cojuangco-land-grabbing-repression/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/03/photos-women-farmers-in-hacienda-luisita-rise-for-justice-vs-cojuangco-land-grabbing-repression/#comments Sat, 08 Mar 2014 05:32:46 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=28373 Fronting the huge tract of agricultural land in Brgy. Balete in Hacienda Luisita was a long concrete fence and a sign that said “Development soon to rise”.

But on March 6, two days before the International Women’s Day, it was the women of Hacienda Luisita who rose. For months now, these women were among the farmer-beneficiaries of the land claimed by the family of President Aquino who have been subjected to violence by state agents and private armed goons of the Cojuangcos. In Balete, the Cojuangco-owned company, Tarlac Development Company, has been destroying crops planted by the farmers. The women formed part of the community resistance, but many have been beaten up and arrested, and continue to be threatened with more harm. The Supreme Court, in 2011, had ordered the Aquino government to distribute Luisita to its rightful owners, the farmers. But until now, this has yet to happen, even as the Cojuangcos carry on with their land grabbing, with the help of the government.

Long fed up with the insults and attacks, the theft and betrayal, and with the help of some infectiously danceable music, the women gathered in front of the sign that day. Their fingers, like their anger, rose to conclude the pop beat. They furiously danced, alternately clapping, pointing their fingers in the air and hoisting their clenched fists. “Down with the Cojuangcos! Justice for us, farm workers!” If dance could only smash concrete and barbed wire, Barangay Balete would be a liberated zone.

“Their alliances are strong,” said Monique Wilson, theater artist and global director for One Billion Rising for Justice (OBR4J), of the women of Hacienda Luisita. “Their sufferings are great. They are used to it. But you can also sense their frustrations and anger. ” Wilson joined the Luisita women in dancing the OBR Philippines dance–as a creative protest against the land grabbing, harassments and lack of genuine agrarian reform. “Their struggle is a life or death struggle.  To even dance in front of the military, and the place (that was forcibly taken from them)–it is not just symbolic. It is really powerful.”

Flashing the One Billion sign in front of the tract of land grabbed by the Cojuangcos. <strong>KR Guda</strong>

Flashing the One Billion sign in front of the tract of land grabbed by the Cojuangcos. KR Guda

The Luisita women alternately flashed the One Billion sign and raised their fists as a sign of protest. <strong>KR Guda</strong>

The Luisita women alternately flashed the One Billion sign and raised their fists as a sign of protest. KR Guda

The call of OBR4J campaign is to dance and protest in sites of justice, just as the Luisita women had done, said Monique Wilson. <strong>KR Guda</strong>

The call of OBR4J campaign is to dance and protest in sites of injustice, just as the Luisita women had done, said Monique Wilson. KR Guda

Children walk around the area now fenced with concrete and barbed wires. The tract of land used to be their playgrounds as it was where their parents planted various crops, from rice to vegetables. <strong>KR Guda</strong>

Children walk around the area now fenced with concrete and barbed wires. The tract of land used to be their playground. It used their farms where their parents planted various crops, from rice to vegetables. KR Guda

A Luisita woman reads Pinoy Weekly in a makeshift bunkhouse for the protesting farmers, right beside the concrete fence put up by Tadeco. <strong>KR Guda</strong>

A Luisita woman reads Pinoy Weekly in a makeshift bunkhouse for the protesting farmers, right beside the concrete fence put up by Tadeco. KR Guda

 

 

 

 

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Indie actors, academe vow to keep watch over Luisita land grabs http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/02/indie-actors-academe-vow-to-keep-watch-over-luisita-land-grabs/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/02/indie-actors-academe-vow-to-keep-watch-over-luisita-land-grabs/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 07:18:21 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=28082 Actors Angeli Bayani and Karl Medina join the formation of Luisita Watch. Contributed Photo/Kiri Dalena

Actors Angeli Bayani and Karl Medina join the formation of Luisita Watch. Contributed Photo/Kiri Dalena

A network to “keep watch” over the continuing agrarian unrest in Hacienda Luisita was formed amid efforts by the Cojuangco-Aquinos to remain in control of the estate through land grabbing led by the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco).

Luisita Watch, a network of individuals and organizations “advocating the cause of Hacienda Luisita farmers” was launched last February 21 at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Showing up in support of the network were award-winning independent actors Angeli Bayani and Karl Medina, students, members of the academe, and other advocates.

Farmers ‘swindled’

Christopher Garcia, spokesperson of Ambala (Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita) thanked supporters for exposing incidents of land grabbing and violence, such as burning of huts, bulldozing of crops, mauling and arrest of farmers.

“Napakahalaga ng inyong suporta, dahil ang isyu ng mga magsasaka at aming pag-unlad ay isyu nating lahat,” he said. (Your support is crucial, because the issues that we farmers face is an issue of the whole nation.)

Luisita farmers say that they have been “swindled” out of the Supreme Court and Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) decision to reduce to coverage of land distribution in Luisita from 6,453 hectares to merely 4,099 hectares.

And while the DAR has declared that land distribution in Luisita is over, farmers say that Tadeco is continuing to chase them off their lands by bulldozing their crops and fencing off more than 400 hectares.

Meanwhile, other farmers, under pressure, are leasing their lands to sugarcane growers connected to the Cojuangco-Aquino family.

Aside from facing land grabbing threats by Tadeco, farmers are also questioning the P471.5 million paid by the government to the Cojuangco-Aquinos last year as “just compensation” under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. They say that “there is nothing just” about using taxpayers’ money to pay landlords for land that was taken from them.

Call to citizens: report developments

In support of the farmers, UP Prof. Danilo Arao said that the dominant mass media has been amiss in its duty to report the alarming developments in Hacienda Luisita, which farmers warn could lead to violence akin to the 2004 massacre.

“The media rarely reports about what happens in the countryside. They do not give enough prominence to what happens to our farmers. Sadly, they only pay attention when someone dies,” he said.

According to Arao, concerned citizens must make use of the social media to “ensure the virality of the issue.” “The mass media cannot accurately mirror social reality, so we must do what we can to shape public opinion,” he added.

Arao further encouraged citizens to oppose the Cybercrime Prevention Act and its provision on online libel, saying that it imperils the freedom of Luisita farmers and their advocates to report on developments through the social media.

Angie Ipong, secretary general of the human rights group SELDA, meanwhile reminded the public that this year is the 10th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre, wherein seven farmers were killed and scores were injured. “Not one perpetrator has been brought to justice,” she said.

Former representative Liza Maza also said that the development planned by Tadeco in Hacienda Luisita is in line with President Aquino’s economic policies dictated upon by foreign business chambers, which are pushing for Charter Change.

“The push to amend the economic provisions in the  1987 Constitution is reflected in what is happening in Hacienda Luisita. Farmers are being driven away in lands the government wants to reserve for big foreign investors. We must thus also oppose Cha-Cha being railroaded in Congress today,” Maza said.

More than a hundred students and other supporters from the church, academe, and artists community attended the launch, which culminated in a signing of a “For Land and Justice” tarpaulin.

Luisita Watch has set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to ensure that incidents of land grabbing and harassment of farmers do not go unnoticed.

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Photos | Pinoy Weekly correspondent hurt as police disperse anti-militarization rally in Davao http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/02/photos-pinoy-weekly-correspondent-hurt-as-police-disperse-anti-militarization-rally-in-davao/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/02/photos-pinoy-weekly-correspondent-hurt-as-police-disperse-anti-militarization-rally-in-davao/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 16:58:16 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=27898 Bloodied face of Barry Ohaylan.  (Kilab Multimedia)

Bloodied face of Barry Ohaylan. (Kilab Multimedia)

Scores of protesters were hurt after police violently dispersed their protest rally in front of a military headquarters on Thursday, Feb. 13.

According to Davao Today, almost 2000 farmers and small scale miners from Compostela Valley, including workers and urban poor of Davao City  protesting in front  of Eastern Mindanao Command Headquarters, were violently dispersed.

The protesters denounced the encampment of military inside their communities and demanded immediate pull out of soldiers.  Barry Ohaylan of the Kilab Multimedia and a Pinoy Weekly correspondent was badly hit  by truncheons of  police dispersal unit.

Photos of the dispersal, taken by Ohaylan and Kilab:

(KIlab Multimedia)

(Kilab Multimedia)

(KIlab Multimedia)

(KIlab Multimedia)

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P471-M payment to Cojuangcos ‘corruption’, farmers say http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/02/p471-m-payment-to-cojuangcos-corruption-farmers-say/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/02/p471-m-payment-to-cojuangcos-corruption-farmers-say/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 03:42:34 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=27790 Development plans advertised in Hacienda Luisita show that the Cojuancos "will never give up" the estate. (Contributed Photo/Ambala)

Development plans advertised in Hacienda Luisita show that the Cojuangcos “will never give up” the estate. (Contributed Photo/Ambala)

The payment of P471 million to President Aquino’s family by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is tantamount to “brazen” fraud and plunder, the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today said.

The KMP demands that the money be returned to the government and that the Cojuangcos pay the “billion-peso debt they owe to the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita” instead.

The farmers issued the statement after a report quoted Anthony Parungao, DAR undersecretary for legal affairs, that the payment has been made to Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) and reported to the Supreme Court in October last year.

Hacienda Luisita is at the center of a still raging agrarian dispute, as the Cojuangco’s Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) continues to bulldoze and claim lands already occupied by farmworker beneficiaries.

“P471 million of taxpayer’s money was used to pay the Cojuangcos for the land while, at the same time, the President’s family still controls and are continuously fencing vast tracts of lands inside Hacienda Luisita,” said KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano.

 Aside from bulldozing and fencing activities by Tadeco in 400 hectares in the villages of Cutcut and Balete, the Cojuangcos are still exercising control over the sprawling estate through the “arriendo system” or leasing of lands from farmers using “dummies.”

One such dummy pinpointed by the farmers is presidential appointee former Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres, a shooting buddy of President Aquino.

Mariano added that a development plan called Luisita Industrial Park III also demonstrates that “the President’s family will never let go of Luisita.”

The third phase of the Luisita development plan allegedly consists of a 260-hectare industrial city with residential, recreational, industrial, and commercial uses.

The KMP further said that the multi-million peso payment to the Cojuangcos show how President Aquino’s family has made a milking cow out of the “bogus” Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Last Wednesday, the farmers protested inside the House of Representatives during the hearing of a proposal to extend CARP for another five years. The farmers were forcibly dispersed by guards.

The peasant group demanded that President Aquino and his relatives return the P417 million to the nation’s coffers. It also called on HLI to immediately heed by the SC decision to pay the farmworkers P1.33 billion for the “illegal” sale of almost 300 hectares for the Luisita Industrial Park and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway or SCTEX road network.

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Again and again, farmers defy land grabbing in Hacienda Luisita http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/01/again-and-again-farmers-defy-land-grabbing-in-hacienda-luisita/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/01/again-and-again-farmers-defy-land-grabbing-in-hacienda-luisita/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 07:34:28 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=27595 Only low-level officials of Department of Agrarian Reform faced angry Luisita farmers in a dialogue last Jan 21. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Only low-level officials of Department of Agrarian Reform faced angry Luisita farmers in a dialogue last Jan 21. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

The land had just yielded a bountiful rice harvest. Farmers were just about ready to sow mongo seeds to rejuvenate the land and prepare it for the next planting season.

But on the morning of January 16, farmers in Brgy. Cutcut woke up to find that a hut, a security outpost of the Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco), has been erected right smack in the middle of their fields.

In minutes, the farmers mobilized themselves. Despite threats by the armed guards manning it, they were able to dismantle the outpost.

The next day, the farmers saw that the hut they dismantled was standing once more. This time, there were more Tadeco guards around, who threatened to call for military and police back up. But before the state’s security forces came, some members of the media came. This paved the way for negotiations, ending with both parties finally agreeing to  a status quo or to leave things as they are (“walang galawan”).

The next day, the hut was gone. “I don’t know what happened to it,” 59-year old farmer Rudy Corpuz said, chuckling.

But the tension in Hacienda Luisita is just beginning to escalate, the farmers believe, as the family of President Aquino step up efforts to maintain control over the vast estate.

Confrontations between farmers and armed guards and goons of Tadeco since last year has resulted in the bulldozing of lands, filing of trumped-up charges and arrest of farmers and their supporters, and the killing of one farmer.

Meanwhile, Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) land distribution process–marked by the controversial “tambiolo” or raffling of lots–has been accompanied by the heavy deployment of police ang military forces.

Pong Sibayan, acting chairperson of Ambala (Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita), fears that the tension may escalate into an incident similar to the 2004 massacre of striking hacienda workers. “The people are terrified,” she said.

Still, more than 400 farmers have refused to give their lands back to their landlords under what they claim as the “sham” land distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Under the watchful eyes and guns of private guards and state forces controlled by the most powerful man in the country, they continue tilling their lands collectively and demand for free land distribution.

‘Reconcentration’ of lands to Cojuangcos

In a letter given recently to farmworker beneficiaries, the DAR threatened to disqualify by February 15 those who still refuse to sign an Application to Purchase and Farmer’s Undertaking (APFU). “The failure to abide by this deadline means giving up your right as a beneficiary of CARP in Hacienda Luisita,” the letter said.

Farmers find this ‘deadline’ unconscionable.

Florida Sibayan, acting chairperson of Ambala, shows a picture of her father who died of sickness shortly teargas inhaled during the 2004 massacre worsened his asthma. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano0

Florida Sibayan, acting chairperson of Ambala, shows a picture of her father who died of sickness shortly teargas inhaled during the 2004 massacre worsened his asthma. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano0

In a dialogue with low-ranking DAR officials last January 17 (farmers complain that not even a department undersecretary faced them), the farmers said that they refused to sign the APFU because the document refused to recognize collective land ownership–even if such is an option under the law–and tied them to the payment of monthly amortization, which if unpaid for three years would mean land forfeiture.

“In truth, we have paid for this land many times over with our sweat and blood. It is already ours. Also, we are still waiting for the P1.33 Billion that the management of Hacienda Luisita still owes us–that amount alone should be enough to pay the government,” said Sibayan.

The P1.33-B owed to farmers from the sale of land for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway is just one of the many other contentious issues of the Supreme Court decision on Hacienda Luisita that remains unresolved because of what the farmers alleged is a “collusion” between the Cojuangcos and the executive department.

Meanwhile, even as the DAR has claimed successful distribution of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), farmers say that only xerox copies of CLOAs were given out. These also had little bearing, since the farm lots awarded to them by the DAR through the raffle were far from their homes or fields they were currently tilling.

“Many farmers in our barangay were given lots in far-away barangays Pando and Mabilog. A one-way tricyle ride would cost them P100. Also, most cannot afford to re-invest in irrigation, as the government has given us no support. So what happens is that many have no choice but to rent out their lands instead,” said Raymundo Alcaide, a farmer from Brgy. Balete who were among those who refused to participate in the raffling of lots.

Lands in the hacienda are rented out for as low as P7,000 per year. Meanwhile, other farmers have given up their lands as collateral, for “loans” that reach up to P100,000.

Ambala says that sugarcane growers who are “dummies” of the Cojuangcos now control many of these lands rented out or given up as collateral by farmworker beneficiaries, paving the way for the re-concentration of land to their old landlords. This is exactly what the DAR and President Aquino has set out to achieve, the group says.

Alcaide is one of many Ambala members who instead participate in the “bungkalan” or collective tilling that farmers have set up since 2005, a year after the infamous massacre. A few days before Christmas last year, he once again got a taste of the kind of violence that the Cojuangcos were capable of, when his hut and fields were bulldozed by Tadeco guards.

Farmers tried to stop the bulldozing of their fields last December. (Contributed Photo/Ambala)

Farmers tried to stop the bulldozing of their fields last December. (Contributed Photo/Ambala)

“They flattened everything to the ground, my rice plants and root crops. They didn’t leave anything. Even my animals were gone,” he said.

Of the farmers who immediately rushed to defend their fields, eight were arrested.

Price of resistance

The farmers believe that the almost 400 hectares now being claimed by Tadeco in the villages of Balete, Cutcut, and Mapalacsiao is of special interest to the Cojuangcos. These lands nearest Tarlac City proper is part of what is believed to be a land use plan to turn Hacienda Luisita into an industrial, residential, and commercial zone.

These are 268 hectares in Brgy. Balete, 104 hectares in Brgy. Cutcut, and several more hectares in Brgy. Mapalacsiao. Tadeco claims that these lands have been reclassified for non-agricultural uses, and are not covered by the SC decision.

Farmers who have tilled the lands say otherwise. “I have been been a farm worker here since I was 17 years old. My parents have been working the land even before that,” the 60-year old Alcaide said.

According to Ambala, Tadeco is exploiting a loophole in the SC decision, which only covered 4,915 hectares of the more than 6,000-hectare hacienda. The coverage was further reduced to 4,099 hectares after the DAR survey excluded roads, bridges, canals, and other areas that farmers believe to be of commercial value.

After all the exclusions, each farmer beneficiary is now only allotted 0.66 hectares of land, which farmers say will easily revert back to the Cojuangcos if the “sham” land distribution proceeds unchallenged.

But challenging landlords and their alleged “cohorts” in the Aquino administration has a steep price.

Colleagues show a photo of slain farmer Dennis de la Cruz (middle). (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Colleagues show a photo of slain farmer Dennis de la Cruz (middle). (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Last November 1, 28 year-old farmer Dennis de la Cruz was killed after a night of standing watch over the “bungkalan.” At 6 a.m., he was found dead by the road in Brgy. Balete, beside an electric post that fell during the storm Santi. He was stabbed on his side with an icepick.

Sibayan, who saw the body, said that it was obviously foul play related to their continuing struggle for land.

Previously, de la Cruz was being pressured by Tadeco guards to abandon his fields, which he made abundant last year with rice and vegetables such as eggplant, okra, tomatoes, bitter gourd, and string beans.

Such incidents of harassment and outright violence have stricken terror into the hearts of the farmers. “Now, I don’t go out at night. I never sleep at my own house anymore,” said Sibayan, who recalled receiving house visits by armed men when she started becoming an outspoken leader.

Sibayan is a survivor of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre. A bullet grazed her back after she saved a fellow worker who was being beaten and dragged away by military men.

When the “bungkalan” started, Sibayan was elated that she and her fellow farmers were finally able to till their own land. For her, it was way better than receiving P9.50 per day as a hacienda worker. Her family didn’t run out of rice to eat, and she was able to sell vegetables at least twice a week.

But she realized that their struggle was not over; it was just beginning. “If we don’t remain vigilant, our gains will be lost. We have sacrificed too much to let that happen. We will continue to fight,” she said.

On the 27th anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre, farmers call for the ouster of the 'landlord president' BS Aquino. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

On the 27th anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre, farmers call for the ouster of the ‘landlord president’ BS Aquino. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

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Landless farmers press for Aquino’s ouster, ‘system change’ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/01/landless-farmers-press-for-aquinos-ouster-system-change/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/01/landless-farmers-press-for-aquinos-ouster-system-change/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 15:22:41 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=27582 Farmers reenact the Mendiola Massacre amid a backdrop calling for President Aquino's ouster, saying that systemic change is needed for genuine land reform. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Farmers reenact the Mendiola Massacre amid a backdrop calling for President Aquino’s ouster. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Farmers bearing the brunt of landlessness and “fascist attacks” of state forces today marched to the gates of Malacañang to press for the ouster of President Aquino, saying that injustice has heightened 27 years after the Mendiola Massacre.

Hundreds of farmers from Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Dolores, and other areas of unresolved land disputes in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog commemorated the infamous massacre in a protest, which highlighted the need to change a system controlled by “corrupt bureaucrats serving the interests of (big landlords and businesses).”

On January 22, 1987, tens of thousands of farmers marched to Malacañang to demand genuine land reform under the newly installed administration of the late President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, mother of BS Aquino. Thirteen farmers were killed when state forces opened fire on the peasants.

Almost three decades later, farmers testify that nothing has changed.

Sally Padino, sister of slain farmer Arman Padino, said that President Aquino’s “tuwid na daan” meant death for farmers, who were being killed by either bullets or hunger.

Arman was killed when security guards in Hacienda Dolores opened fire on farmers on their way to their fields last January 12. “Kumukuha lang siya ng mga bungang-halaman para may pambaon ang mga anak niya,” (He was just foraging for root crops so that his children will have something to eat) Sally told Pinoy Weekly.

Sally Padino (extreme left), sister of slain farmer Arman Padino speaks in behalf of farmers in Hacienda Dolores. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Sally Padino (extreme left), sister of slain farmer Arman Padino speaks in behalf of farmers in Hacienda Dolores. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Another farmer, Noel Tumali, remains in critical condition, said Sally.

Hacienda Dolores, a 2,000-hectare land in Porac, Pampanga, is being claimed by Leonardo-Lachenal Holdings, Inc., FL Property Management Corp., and Ayala Land. Guards have fenced in lands that farmers have been tilling for decades, leaving many without livelihood.

Meanwhile, in Hacienda Luisita, farmer Rudy Corpuz said that just this morning, they received a distressed call from their fellow farmers in Brgy. Cutcut, where a scuffle with suspected Cojuangco goons just ensued.

Based on preliminary information they recieved, a military asset hit farmer Maning Gomez, a senior citizen, several times with a metal digger. The perpetrator was with several other men claiming to be engineers conducting a land survey for the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

The Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corporation has been pushing to exempt hundreds of hectares of lands in Hacienda Luisita from distribution. Tadeco’s moves have resulted in the arrest of farmers, and even the killing of one farmer since last year.

Farmers allege that the Cojuangco-Aquino family remains in control of Hacienda Luisita because of the DAR’s “sham” distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

“The President’s family’s lead is now being followed by their closest ally and real estate giants,” said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Rafael Mariano.

He cited the Ayala’s involvement in land grabbing in Hacienda Dolores; the Araneta’s  land grabbing of 300 hectares in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan; and the refusal of the Zobel’s to distribute 11,000 hectares in Calatagan, Batangas.

“The Filipino peasantry has had enough of Aquino’s blatant disregard of the people’s demand for justice and genuine land reform. We will work hard and link arms with the people for the realization of our call to oust Aquino and for system change,” Mariano said.

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Aquino charged with plunder of P125-M Malampaya funds http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/01/aquino-charged-with-plunder-of-p125-m-malampaya-funds/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/01/aquino-charged-with-plunder-of-p125-m-malampaya-funds/#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 11:28:55 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=27573 A farmers' group files a plunder case against President Aquino for alleged misuse of P125-M Malampaya funds by NGOs linked to Janet Lim-Napoles. (Contributed Photo)

A farmers’ group files a plunder case against President Aquino for alleged misuse of P125-M Malampaya funds through NGOs linked to Janet Lim-Napoles. (Contributed Photo)

Farmers from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today filed a plunder case before the Office of the Ombudsman against Pres. Benigno Aquino III, Budget Sec. Florencio Abad, Agrarian Sec. Virgilio Delos Reyes, Janet Lim-Napoles, and nine others over the misuse of P125 Million of the Malampaya Fund.

In a 16-page complaint with 70 documentary evidences, the KMP accused Aquino of releasing hundreds of millions of pesos to ‘bogus’ non-government organizations (NGOs) through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

“The projects that the DAR entered into with the NGOs … are not in any way related to energy-development. Worst, those projects were never implemented. Not a single centavo was spent for the said projects and not a single farmer received any benefit therefrom,” the complaint said.

The projects include the purchase of millions of pesos worth of worms, allegedly to be used in vermi-composting.

Rafael Mariano, KMP chairperson, said that Aquino was the primary accused in the case because he approved the unlawful release of the funds.

The complaint said that in 2011, the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management approved the release of billions of pesos of Malampaya funds for projects or purposes “not related to energy exploration, development or exploitation.”

The DAR, one of the departments who were allocated the funds, entered into Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) for organic farming with several NGOs that are linked to Napoles, according to the complaint.

“Allocating millions for red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms is not only preposterous but revolting. Obviously, Aquino and his political lieutenants colluded with fake NGOs to deliberately plunder the Malampaya funds,” Mariano said.

These NGOs include WorkPhil Foundation, Samahan Magsasaka sa Kapatagan, Karangyaan Para sa Magbubukid Foundation, Kaupadanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation, and Social Development Program Farmers Foundation.

The plunder case cited a report by the Commission and Audit Report (COA) that the funds released to these NGOS were not liquidated, that some of the NGOs were not even registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and that some were engaged in projects “totally unrelated to the purpose or purposes for which they were incorporated.”

The COA recommended the filing of cases against the NGOs as well as the DAR officials accountable for the transactions.

“This plunder complaint (shows) that under the Aquino regime, the DAR is not only a conduit of big landlords, like the Cojuangcos, in strengthening their control over vast haciendas but (also) a conduit in plundering the nation’s coffers,” Mariano added.

Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap hailed the filing of the plunder case. “The public must continue to seek truth and justice on the pork barrel scam and other corruption cases,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malacañang has withheld comment on the farmers’ plunder charge, saying that it has yet to read a copy of the complaint.

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Groups condemn latest ‘attack’ vs farmers in Pampanga http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/01/groups-condemn-latest-attack-vs-farmers-in-pampanga/ http://pinoyweekly.org/new/2014/01/groups-condemn-latest-attack-vs-farmers-in-pampanga/#comments Tue, 14 Jan 2014 07:05:16 +0000 http://pinoyweekly.org/new/?p=27384      Armed security personnel guards the entrance of Hacienda Dolores (Pokus-GL/Contributed Photo)

Armed security personnel guards the entrance of Hacienda Dolores (Pokus-GL/Contributed Photo)

Groups under the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) demanded justice for three farmers who were “attacked” by security guards in Hacienda Dolores in Porac, Pampanga, resulting to the death of one farmer.

According to AMGL, Arman Padino, together with father-and-son, Noel and Reynold Tumali were fired upon by alleged security guards and armed goons deployed at the said hacienda on the early morning of January 12, while the farmers were on their way to work on their farms.

The victims were brought brought to Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga, but Padino succumbed to death due to a gunshot wound in the head last Monday, while the elder Tumali was critically wounded.

The group said that the perpetrators were deployed by Leonardo-Lachenal Holdings, Inc. (LHI), FL Property Management Corp. (FL PMC) and Ayala Land.

“This is an outright barbarism of LHI, FLPMC and Ayala against the vulnerable farmers of Hacienda Dolores. This has no place in a supposedly civilized and democratic society such as ours. Join us in our condemnation and demand for justice for Padino and the Tumalis,” said Joseph Canlas, chairperson of AMGL and Anakpawis Party-list regional coordinator.

AMGL also said that when barangay officials led by Antonio Tolentino, also chairman of Association of United People of Hacienda Dolores (ANMHD), an affiliate organization of AMGL, responded to the attack, they were also fired upon by the perpetrators.

But when Tolentino led the filing of charges against the suspect, they have learned that they were being charged with malicious mischief and carnapping by LHI and FL PMC.

Canlas addded that Hacienda Dolores farmers are usual victims of abuses perpetrated by LHI, FLPMC and Ayala Land.

The group found in a fact-finding mission held October 30 to 31 of last year that the private firms fenced more than 758-hectare of lands cultivated by the farmers depriving farmers of their livelihood, forcing them into odd jobs and their children going out of school.

“Since 2011, farmers are subjected to continuing harassment by security guards and armed goons, mass arrests have been a common practice, instigated by LHI and FL PMC in collusion with the local police,” added Canlas.

Last December, Jessel Orgas survived a grenade throwing and Modesto Posadas from gunshot wounds from motorcycle-riding men. Subsequently last January 8, Ener Angeles Tolentino was arrested by two police officers while on way to work on his farm.

“These offensives of LHI, FL PMC and Ayala are comprehensive and well-coordinated. While their victims are yet to be cared for at the hospital, they had the time and resources to file charges against the real victims, and even release a biased report to the media,” Canlas said.

Meanwhile, Karapatan-Southern Tagalog demanded the immediate release of husband and wife Joel and Pritargue Almonte, who were both arrested in their house in Valenzuela City last January 9.

According to Glendhyl Malabanan, secretary general of Karapatan-ST, Joel Almonte who is a diabetic, is a known leader and organizer of fisherfolks in Laguna. Almonte and his family is renting a house in Valenzuela while having his medical treatment when arrested.

The two arre currently detained in Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna.

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