By Billy Javier Reyes and Bb. Joyce Cabral
Manila, Philippines- Arriving in Metro Manila for the 8th day of Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan (National Journey of Toiling Masses for Land and Justice), organizers of the 10-day long march posed this question to all presidential candidates, except Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III: “How do you solve a problem like Hacienda Luisita.”
Lakbayan organizers Danilo Ramos, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and party list group Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente in a joint statement asked presidential candidates Sen. Manuel Villar (Nacionalista Party), Sen. Dick Gordon, Lakas-Kampi merger party bet Gilbert Teodoro, independent candidates JC de los Reyes and Nicanor Perlas and Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas to declare their position on Hacienda Luisita.
“Senator Aquino believes Hacienda Luisita is God’s gift to Cojuangco-Aquino clan, and therefore only God can take it back from them. So it is useless to ask this moral, legal and political question to him. It is obvious, Noynoy and the patriarchs and matriarchs of Cojuangco landed clan will not give up their immoral and unlawful claim on Luisita”, the Lakbayan leaders said in a joint statement.
KMP’s Ramos said the problems in Hacienda Luisita will not find a long lasting and just settlement under a Noynoy Aquino presidency, asserting that the 6,453-hectare sugar estate is the bread and butter and the source of economic and political power of the Cojuangco-Aquino for near century.
“So the 64-dollar question mark remains—how these presidentiables except Noynoy solve a problem like Hacienda Luisita?” the KMP leader reiterated.
KMP said Hacienda Luisita is only one of the more than 200 cases being handled by the group’s para-legal committee, adding that agrarian cases in different regions and provinces will also be carried by Lakbayan for concrete action and resolution including but not limited to cases of landgrabbing in Southern Tagalog orchestrated by landlord and developers identified with Ayala group of companies and the 3,100 hectare landgrabbing spree inside Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.
Ramos said the Lakbayan will also bring up issues of landgrabbing and land reform reversals with the expansion of plantations and mining in Mindanao island which he said have displaced thousands of farmers and indigenous peasants, the problems of coconut farmers in Bicol region and the widespread cancellation of farmer land titles in Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Panay and Negros island.
The KMP leader said the biggest gainer among the landlords during the nine years of Arroyo administration is business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, who was able to control the P 130-billion coconut levy fund and enlarged landholdings from 3,000 hectares to 30,000 hectares in the span of 9 to 10 years.
Ramos said Danding has vast landholdings in Negros (3,000 hectares), Palawan, Tarlac, Caraga and Isabela provinces.
For her part, Clemente of Anakpawis party list announced that it will co-sponsor with KMP a presidential forum next month to present the farmers and the rural people’s agenda in the May 2010 elections.
The Anakpawis official said aside from Hacienda Luisita, the other highlight cases of agrarian problems to be discussed and debated during the forum will include controversial issues surrounding Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas, the land reform reversals engineered by Calabarzon program in Southern Tagalog and other land issues in Mindanao, Visayas, Bicol, Northern and Central Luzon.
As of press time, the South contingent composed of 1,500 farmers from Mindanao, Panay, Negros, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions led by the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) are still marching from San Pedro Laguna to Alabang in Muntinlupa City. They marchers are expected to arrive in Alabang by 10:00 a.m.
The 500-strong North contingent led by Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) will arrive in Monumento, Caloocan by 2: 00 pm, and will proceed to Our Lady of Grace past 3:00 pm, where they will hold a solidarity night and vigil. On January 22, organizers expect to mobilize 7,000 people for the long march from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Mendiola.
The 10-kilometer march from DAR to Don Chino Roces bridge in Manila will be spearheaded by senatorial candidates Rep. Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna) and Rep. Liza Maza (Gabriela), Anakpawis party list Reps. Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod, and leaders of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Pamalakaya fisherfolk alliance, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the urban poor group Kadamay, the militant driver’s group Piston and other sectoral groups affiliated with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and Alyansa ng Mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL). With a report from Gerry Albert Corpuz