By Lady Michelle Adobe, Queen Shawn Dok and Gerry Albert Corpuz
MANILA, Philippines-Newly proclaimed 15th President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III was asked by the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) why the resolution of the land dispute inside the Cojuangco-Aquino owned Hacienda Luisita was not listed among the urgent problems the Aquino administration should resolve in the first 100 days of the 50-year old elected official.
Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said President Aquino should immediately confront the issue of 10,000 farm worker beneficiaries demanding the urgent and unconditional free distribution of 6,453-hectare sugar estate in Tarlac province.
“The resolution of decades old agrarian dispute inside Hacienda Luisita is big must for the Aquino administration. Noynoy should face this issue fair and square in his first 100 days office. He should not evade the issues pertaining to Luisita and act like long-running political escape artist,” the Pamalakaya official asserted.
Hicap noticed that the ongoing dispute of Hacienda Luisita was not among the issues Aquino included in his first order of business on July 1, the newly elected president’s first working day in office.
In an interview with reporters, President elect Aquino said among the issues his administration would attend to were the problems he would inherit from outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from budget deficit to speeding up of prosecution of criminal and other cases filed against President Arroyo and other government officials of the outgoing administration.
President Aquino also reaffirmed his commitment against regressive taxation like imposing a tax on text messages and the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill as a legislative priority.
“To Mr. Aquino and company we dare ask—how do you solve a problem like Hacienda Luisita? This issue is a matter of life and death and they cannot escape this political calling searching an end to landlessness, exploitation and injustice inside the 6,543-hectare Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate,” the Pamalakaya official added.
Meanwhile, a composite of 50 peasant activists mainly Hacienda Luisita farm workers belonging to Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and from staunch allies Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and Pamalakaya personally delivered a 2- page letter of appeal addressed to Chief Justice Corona.
KMP deputy secretary-general Willy Marbella said Chief Justice Corona and 14 other justices of the high tribunal anytime can lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) it imposed against the decision of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) to place Hacienda Luisita under land reform and have the sugar estate distributed to 10,000 farm worker beneficiaries.
“We humbly submit to your honorable office our appeal asking the Supreme Court to act with dispatch and resolve the controversial agrarian case of Hacienda Luisita in favor of agrarian reform beneficiaries,” Marbella said.
The two-page letter of appeal to Corona reads: “Dear Chief Justice, the honorable high court has yet to act on the collective interest of Hacienda Luisita farm workers to lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the move of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to place the 6,453-hectare under land distribution to landless farm workers.”
“Honorable Chief Justice, the Supreme Court ruling favored the sugar barons of Hacienda Luisita and the landed aristocracy of Cojuangco-Aquino. It is in the highest interest of the Filipino people and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita to end this long-running feudal reign and exploitation with the immediate, unconditional and free distribution of Hacienda Luisita to 10,000 farm worker beneficiaries,” the farmer groups added.
In their appeal, the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) also asked the Chief Justice to let the high tribunal investigate high profile cases of land reform reversals and big time denials of peasant land rights in Southern Tagalog region.
Kasama-TK was referring to the case of farmers in Hacienda Looc involving 8,650 hectare of prime agricultural lands, which was previously placed under land reform program but was reversed by the Department of Agrarian Reform to pave way for real estate projects of Manila South Coast Development Corporation, a sister company of SM Holdings Inc. and Fil-Estate Realty Corporation.
According to Kasama-TK, the conversion of Hacienda Looc will lead to the evictions of 10,000 farming families in Nasugbu, Batangas and their wholesale displacement from their farmlands and principal source of living. Such land reform reversal policy of the state exempting commercial farms and expanding with coverage for exemptions that now include coconut lands has become a long running nightmare for millions of landless farmers and still land seeking farmer beneficiaries across the country.
Kasama-TK also told Chief Justice Corona the incident two weeks ago involving some 50 heavily armed men who stormed peasant villages in Hacienda Looc and tore down 21 houses of helpless farmers in vain attempt to terrorize the farming communities and force them to leave the lands they cultivated for generations. Another case which was mentioned in the letter of appeal is the case of Yulo Estate in Canlubang, Calamba City involving 7,100 hectares of prime agricultural lands which are coconut lands in nature.
“Honorable Chief Justice, also two weeks ago, armed goons about 50-60 of them swooped down a farming village inside the hacienda and dispersed a crowd of farmers who set up a protest camp out against the plan of the Yulo family to convert the estate into an industrial and commercial zone,” Kasama-TK added.
The dispersal resulted to the illegal arrest and detention of 11 people were arrested- three of them were minors and 1 was a 71-year old peasant woman, 8 others were charged with fabricated offenses and hundreds of their peasant colleagues were hurt. “Honorable chief Justice, perhaps it is time for the high court to take a decisive intervention on cases involving agrarian disputes all over the country.
“Many hacienda owners and their private partners are behaving extremely nowadays starting with Hacienda Luisita and recently Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas and Hacienda Yulo in Canlubang, Calamba City, province of Laguna,” the farmer group said.
KMP said the continuing denial of peasant land rights and the left-and-right land reform reversals all over the archipelago are sending the high court a compelling signal to purse a thoroughgoing agrarian reform in aid of pro-people’s jurisprudence. We hope this letter of appeal would merit the attention of your honorable office and the offices of 14 other justices of the Supreme Court. #