Category Archives: agrarian reform

Big landlords to benefit from P 4-B Akbayan pork barrel

By Roy Morilla, Jay Cuesta and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines-Big landlords in the Philippines will get their own pork barrel amounting to P 4-B in total agrarian reform subsidy courtesy of a party list group supported by the camp of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III in the last May 2010 elections.

Leaders of various farmer groups from Negros Island and Hacienda Luisita sugar estate in Tarlac province said the P 4-B support fund for bridges and infrastructures clinched by Akbayan party list will chiefly benefit the big landlords across the country like the family of President Aquino who still control the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita and the 11 huge land estates in Negros Occidental own by the President’s uncle Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.Yesterday, farmer leaders took turns in assailing the P 4.05 B pork barrel fund awarded by allies of the President in the House of Representatives to Akbayan party list, a staunch supporter of the present administration.

The Akbayan party list group said the P 4-B fund they sought from Congress was meant to provide support infrastructures and agricultural support and credit to agrarian reform communities (ARCs) and new farmer beneficiaries of the extended land reform program.

But in press conference held at Serye Café and Restaurant in Quezon City, farmer groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Negros (NFSW-Negros), the Luisita based farm worker groups United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and Unyon ng mga Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) rebuked Akbayan party list.

The activist peasant leaders asserted only big landlords and foreign agribusiness groups engaged in production of export crops and who control and dictate the operations of ARCs will benefit from the P 4 B pork barrel fund sought by Akbayan party list.

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“And that made the four-billion peso fund a pork barrel for big agribusiness, contrary to claim of Akbayan party list that the funds were meant to uplift the poor condition of new farmer beneficiaries under the extended land reform program,” they said.

The KMP and its staunch allies reminded Akbayan party list that land ownership in ARCs are only nominal and that the landlords and foreign agro-corporations still dictate what kind of crops should be planted in these agrarian reform areas.

They also said Akbayan should be reminded that even family of President Benigno Aquino III who controls the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita and Danding Cojuangco who operates at least 11 haciendas in Negros Island are also exploiting the ARC mode as a supplement to non-land transfer schemes such as Stock Distribution Option (SDO), joint venture and corporative farming to evade free land distribution and keep their lands for lifetime.

“Representatives of Akbayan party list are fooling millions of farmers across the country when they claimed that the P 4 billion infrastructure fund is meant to support fresh agrarian reform beneficiaries under the bankrupt CARPer regime. The ARCs operate under the whims and caprices of feudal lords and big agro-corporations, so it is a pork barrel set aside for these all time greedy entities. There is also no land reform to speak of under CARPer,” leaders of KMP-Negros, NFSW-Negros and UMA said during the press conference.

The KMP and its staunch allies said the ARCs are bogus land reform models, adding that land ownership in these communities are nominal because the farmers who possessed the lands are coerced to lease their lands to landlords and big agribusiness corporations for the production of cash crops and export crops.

For his part, KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella dismissed the P 4-B pork barrel fund to Akbayan party list a product of politics of payback to the highest order.

“The P 4 billion in total cash prize for Akbayan party list is an exchange deal for Akbayan support to the candidacy of President Aquino in May 2010 election. It is grandslam prize money for Akbayan for acting as the fourth communications group of Malacanang in the House of Representatives. In a nutshell, the P 4 billion Akbayan pork barrel is another form of government procurement of P 4 billion worth of political loyalty and patronage,” the KMP official said.

Marbella urged the House of Representatives to recall the P 4-B agrarian infrastructure fund to prevent big landlords and other groups with sinister agenda from the partaking fund and instead re-channel the four billion peso fund to support and production subsidies for rural producers across the country.

The KMP leader said the P 4-billion Akbayan pork barrel fund for agrarian infrastructure could be added to the palay procurement program of the National Food Authority (NFA) to enable the food agency to raise its palay buying capacity to 10 percent from the current 4 percent.

“We don’t want that P 4 billion worth of hard-earned taxes to go to big landlords and people with cruel intentions against the farmers. It is only politically, morally and legally correct for Congress to recall the highly questionable

P 4 billion and re-channel it to other social justice measures such as direct production subsidies to farmers and other rural producers,” added Marbella.

The P 4 B fund awarded to Akbayan will be sourced from the P 110.6 B given to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). According to Cavite Rep. Jose Emilio Abaya, chair of the House Committee on Appropriation, Akbayan Rep. Kaka Bag-Ao lobbied for the P 4 billion pork barrel agrarian fund for fresh beneficiaries under CARPer.

The KMP believed the P 4 billion pork barrel fund for Akbayan party list was in exchange for the support of the party list group to the proposed P 21-B budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program currently being questioned by over 100 congressmen and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago at the upper chamber of the House.

The KMP also assailed Akbayan for drumbeating the success of CARPer as basis for its agrarian advocacy. Citing a recent study made by independent think tank Ibon Foundation, the KMP noted that last year, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) only managed to distribute 64,329 hectares of land out of the official target of 163,014 hectares under the extended land reform, and therefore big chunks of agricultural lands are still in the hands of big landlords and corporate groups, asserting further the P 4.05 B agrarian infrastructure fund will go to the hands of landed few.

Of the 64, 329 hectares distributed, 42, 428 hectares are private agricultural lands, but only 1,777 hectares or 4 percent of the total private agricultural lands were distributed through compulsory acquisition, and 96 percent were acquired under the voluntary offer to sell scheme.

Citing the same Ibon study, the KMP argued that only 17,501 hectares were distributed from January 2010 to June 2010, and that only 1,061.51 hectares or 6% were distributed through compulsory acquisition. Meanwhile, land distributed through the voluntary offer to sell mode – which landlords used to their advantage by dictating the price – covered a bigger 7.7% or 1,340.44 hectares.

The activist farmer group also said land distributed through the voluntary land transfer (VLT) mode – which allows landlords to retain control over their landownings by choosing whom to transfer land ownership to – covered the largest percentage at 40.7% or 7,119.14 hectares, all of which are landholdings over 50 hectares.

“The lands are still in the hands of the landed elite based on the own records of DAR. By design, by orientation and by practical means, the P 4 billion pork barrel fund alloted to fresh agrarian beneficiaries is a misnomer, a wholesale fraud and a triple platinum fund raising campaign for near future high crimes of corruption. It will only benefit the 11 haciendas of Danding in Negros and the President’s feudal empire in Hacienda Luisita,” the KMP added.

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Militants declare CARPer a failure

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Roy Morilla

Manila, Philippines- Eight of the biggest rural based organizations in the country today led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the agricultural labor group Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Amihan peasant women federation urged senators and congressmen to repeal the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with reforms (CARPer) or Republic Act 9700 for its comprehensive and far-reaching failures in delivering social justice to millions of landless farmers across-the-country.

The position of KMP and its allies was supported by the Hacienda Luisita farm worker groups Alyansa ng Mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Negros (NFSW).

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said a signature campaign calling for the repeal of CARPer or RA 9700 and the congressional passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 374 authored by Anakpawis party list Rep. Mariano and 6 other militant party list lawmakers will be launched beginning today to compel lawmakers to correct the grave historical injustice by previous land reform programs including the extended CARP.

On the other hand GARB, which militant farmer groups claimed is a progressive and social justice driven land reform law will put all agricultural lands, including lands leased to multinational corporations under the coverage of land reform and will have these lands distributed for free to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

In HB 374 or GARB, just compensation will be provided to landlords, however lands acquired through coercive and fraudulent means will not receive just compensation from the government. Aside from free distribution, GARB will ensure sufficient subsidies and support to farmer beneficiaries to prevent lands from reverting back to previous and new generations of landlords.

The KMP official did not say how many signatures his group and allied organizations would target for the anti- CARPer, however, Ramos said a memo will be sent to regional and provincial chapters of KMP in 55 provinces and 17 regions to gather signatures at the grassroots level calling for congressional repeal of RA 9700.

Ramos said the signatures would be soon submitted to Senate and the House of Representatives for appropriate legislative action. “We will bring CARPer back to the halls of Congress for extensive debate and discussion. We will assert our previous assessment that this law is a menace to the Filipino farmers. It is time to open the debate once more on why GARB is social justice driven and necessary and why CARPer is a inimical to the collective interest of land tillers and why RA 9700 is undoubtedly a land reform for big landlords,” the KMP leader added.

Citing a study released by independent think tank Ibon Foundation, KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores noticed that CARPer which was passed by Congress last year only managed to distribute 64,329 hectares out of the 163,014 target hectares for disposal in the second semester of 2009.

Of the 64, 329 hectares, only 1,777 hectares were acquired by the Department of Agrarian Reform(DAR) under compulsory acquisition (CA), and huge sum of money were shelled for more than 41,000 hectares of private agricultural lands under voluntary offer to sell (VOS) scheme.

“Big landlords who want money for their lands made big money from CARPer last year under the financial slogan and condition of “if the price is right” Those landlords who wanted to keep the lands ranged VOS scheme as agrarian instrument to evade land distribution as seen the case of other big land owners who retained control over 99, 000 hectares which were target for acquisition by DAR last year. Now tell us where is land reform and social justice in CARPer. Those who are going gaga with the extended land reform are dreaming in broad daylight,” Flores noted.

The same Ibon study also revealed that from January 2010 to June 2010 only 17,501 hectares were distributed but only 1,061 hectares were acquired through CA, while 1,340 hectares were covered through VOS scheme. Still a huge number of landlords managed to evade land distribution by choosing VOS and imposing their own price on just compensation to FAIL DAR from placing the lands for coverage of pro-landlord CARPer.

KMP said the Landbank of the Philippines from 1972 to 2008 had spent P 289 B to acquire 1.6 million hectares of land from landlords in the name of previous land reform programs including the extended CARP. In the first year of CARPer, the KMP said, DAR only managed to distribute 81,000 hectares of the still undistributed 1.7 million hectares of land which is about 4 percent accomplishment rate and still 96 percent of the 1.7 million target hectares are in the hands of landed monopolies and saved from land distribution under the CARPer law.

Peasant enemy no.1

Meanwhile peasant activists belonging to Kasama-TK, AMGL, NFSW-Negros and Luisita farm worker groups will lead the public burning of President Aquino’s effigy at Mendiola Bridge whom they tagged as Peasant Enemy No.1.

The effigy made of scrap materials shows Aquino as the chief political representative of the Haciendero Republic and no.1 puppet of the United States (US) will be collectively set on fire by 20 leaders of peasant and fisherfolk groups from Southern Tagalog region, Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Ilocos region, Bicol, Negros Island and sectoral leaders of the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Kasama-TK spokesperson Nestor Villanueva said President Aquino is coddling big landlords inSouthern Tagalog like the Ayala-Zobel family which control or maintain majority stake in a number of haciendas in the region particularly the 10,000 hectare Hacienda Zobel in Calatagan, Batangas, the 8,650 hectare prime agricultural estate in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu, Batangas, 10,000 hectare sugar estate of Don Pedro Roxas also in Calatagan, Batangas and the 7,100 hectare estate in Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna.

“Aquino’s political attitude on Hacienda Luisita has become the model of land reform denials, land reform reversals and ultimate land reform grabbing by big landlords in Southern Tagalog region. It is only politically and morally correct to brand this 50-year old bachelor president as peasant enemy no.1,” the Hacienda Yulo based leader said.

Akbayan’s P 4 B pork barrel

Villanueva also slammed the P 4.05 B awarded by Aquino’s allies to Akbayan party list, referring to the budget lobbied by Akbayan party list Rep. Kaka Bag-ao for support infrastructure to agrarian reform communities (ARCs) which are members of the moderate and pro-Aquino party list group.

“Akbayan party list acted as partners in crime of big landlords who want to avail of separate pork barrel from Congress. The P 4 billion support fund will go to agrarian reform communities controlled or influenced by big agro-corporations own by landlords and foreign companies. Let me set the record straight, these ARCs are nothing but mere showrooms or token land reform projects just to make it appear that land reform still exists in the country. The four billion peso budget is chiefly pork barrel to all-time feudal exploiters,” the Kasama-TK spokesperson added.#

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Aquino told: Submit own corruption case to “truth body”

Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bombshell Moran and Trinity Biglang Awa

MANILA, Philippines- Staunch critics of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III on Saturday challenged the 50-year old bachelor president to allow the newly established Truth Commission to investigate not only corruption cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies, but also his own turf in connection with the controversial Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTex) road scandal.

In a press statement, the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the national goverment paid P 170 million for the construction of the interchange in Hacienda Luisita, and there was no closure about the previous expose on this highly irregular deal between the Arroyo government and the Cojuangco-Aquino who agreed on the deal.

“Why not include the SCTex road scandal in the list of high crimes of corruption that happened during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration? If this truth body is after truth, justice and accountability, then it should include the SCTex right of way scandal in the investigation. If President Aquino and former President Arroyo are accountable for flagship cases of corruption that happened from 2001 to 2009, then by all means, subject the two to the Truth Commission and have their grand day for condemnation before the Filipino public,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Truth Commission created through Aquino’s Executive Order No.1 was established to investigate ex-President Arroyo and her allies accountable for irregularities under her watch, including the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal.

President Aquino signed yesterday Executive Order No. 1 will “investigate reports of graft and corruption of such scale and magnitude that shock and offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of the people.”

The “independent collegial body” chaired by retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. will have four more commissioners. It has until Dec. 31, 2012, to complete its work, with formal hearings most likely to begin next year, according Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

De Lima said the hearings would be open to the public but that closed-door sessions would be conducted for “matters of national security or public safety,” including the safety of witnesses.

Justice secretary De Lima said EO No. 1 was crafted in such a way that it would be “broad enough” to include cases such as Arroyo’s purported manipulation of the 2004 presidential election.

In seeking closure to controversies that occurred from 2001 to 2009, President Aquino armed the truth commission with the power to subpoena respondents and documents.

The commission is empowered to “collect, receive, review and evaluate evidence related to or regarding the cases of large-scale corruption which it has chosen to investigate, and to this end, require any agency, official or employee of the executive branch, including government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), to produce documents, books, records, and other papers.”

The EO empowers the commission to “obtain information and documents from the Senate and the House of Representatives’ records of investigations conducted by committees,” as well as those from the “courts, including the Sandiganbayan and the Office of the Court Administrator,” in connection with corruption cases filed before them.

The commission can also “call upon any government investigative or prosecutorial agency such as the DOJ or any of the agencies under it, and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, for such assistance and cooperation as it may require in the discharge of its functions and duties.”

“If that is the case of this EO, then it can also summon the President or any members of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan to explain and bare all about the P 170 million SCTex scandal and how the family continues to control Luisita despite legal, political and moral basis for them to surrender their unlawful and immoral claim of the 6,453 hectare sugar estate,” said Pamalakaya’s Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader the Cojuangco-Aquino family received P 170 million but regular government procedure mandates the landowner should give the property to the government at zero cost.

Hicap said the government does not ordinarily pay private landowners for right-of-way properties in government projects because the private landowner presumably benefits from the construction of a national road.

The Pamalakaya official also noted that the Toll Regulatory Board, which processes applications for interchanges in major road projects, does not normally pay for the construction of interchanges in private lands.

“Because of the SCTex hocus pocus, the value of Hacienda Luisita per square meter increased from P 8 to P 1,000 per square meter. The SCTex scandal deserves another round of scrutiny and the Truth Commission can look into this issue, aside from those high crimes of corruption perpetrated by the ruling Arroyo clique in Malacanang from 2001 to 2009,” Pamalakaya said.

The cost of the interchange built inside the Hacienda Luisita complex was shouldered by the government and funded through a loan from the Japan Bank and International Corp. It is a flagship project of President Gloria Arroyo.

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA)-SCTEx project engineering chief retired general Eduardo Lena had explained that the government paid for the construction of the interchange because it was part of the original plan for SCTEx.

The hearing failed to directly link Senator Aquino to the allegedly irregular transaction. The BCDA had negotiated with Senator Aquino’s uncle, Pedro Cojuangco.#

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Criminal charges pressed against Manila officials behind rice scam

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Gegemon Babon and Roy Morilla

MANILA, Philippines- The peasant activist group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the multisectoral alliance Bantay Bigas, the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the leftwing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday urged National Food Authority (NFA) chief administrator Lito Banayo to file criminal and other appropriate charges against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former agriculture secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap in connection with the over importation of rice which occurred in 2004 and 2007.

Peasant leaders Willy Marbella, deputy secretary general of KMP, Bantay Bigas convener and Amihan peasant women federation secretary general Lita Mariano, Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin and Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap led 100 farmers and supporters’ rally outside the NFA outlet in Visayas Avenue in Quezon City asking the NFA chief to charge Arroyo and Secretary Yap before the regular court.

Marbella said aside from Reps. Arroyo and Yap, the charge sheet should include former officials of the Department of Agriculture and NFA who played key roles in the over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007 which cost Filipino taxpayers some 171.6 billion pesos.

In 2004, the Philippine government imported 900,000 metric tons of rice, while the country at that time only lacked 117,000 metric tons to fit the demand of the population, while in 2007, the government only needed 589,000 metric tons to fill the gap in rice supply, but DA and NFA pursued the importation of 1.827 million metric tons or about 1.2 million metric tons more of the required volume to augment the shortage in rice supply.

The rural based groups said aside from bringing the perpetrators of over importation of rice in exchange for fat or juicy commissions, the NFA and the DA should impose a six-year moratorium on the importation of rice and instead pursue measures that would increase domestic rice production, stop land use conversions of rice lands and assure irrigation for more than 3 million hectares of lands devoted to rice production.

They said, instead of reducing rice lands, the government should promote and increase rice lands devoted to rice and food production.

Procurement capacity

For her part, Mariano of Bantay Bigas and Amihan peasant women group urged Aquino government to increase the buying capacity of NFA to 25 percent of the total domestic produced palay by local rice farmers to stabilize rice prices and ensure good dividends for rice farmers.

Mariano lamented that while NFA is mandated by law to buy 10 percent of the locally produced palay from farmers, the authority only managed to buy one percent, and the rest of the funds of the NFA are allocated for unbridled importation of rice.

She said the NFA should increase not only its buying capacity, but also the price of palay per kilo. At present, Bantay Bigas wants the NFA to procure palay at P 15 per kilo, instead of spending taxpayers money to rice importation at the expense of Filipino farmers and consumers.

The groups said rotten and contaminated rice should not be distributed to poor Filipinos, saying the poor do not deserved rotten and unsafe rice for consumption. The groups said it would be grossly insulting and highly revolting to feed the poor with unsafe and health risk rotten rice.

Which is which?

But the groups asserted the unused and undistributed stocks of rice in government warehouses which are sound and still safe to eat should be distributed for free to communities affected by typhoon, including calamity stricken areas hit by Ondoy and Pepeng, and the El Nino and La Nina affected areas.

“In print media, Banayo of NFA said he will strongly consider the demand of farmers to have these hundreds of thousands of metric tons of rice distributed for free to poor Filipinos. But in TV and radio, the NFA chief said the authority will not give free rice to hungry families and multiple conditions shall be met to have these sacks of rice distributed either through food for work program or other measures,” noted Hicap of Pamalakaya.

” Which is which? Are Banayo and his puppet master in Malacanang taking us to another roller coaster ride?” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Proceso Alcala should step into the picture and stop the NFA from talking non-sense , adding that the agriculture department has the last way on what to do with the over imported rice.

“Alcala should tell Banayo to shape up or leave NFA. The demand is as easy as ABC. Make an inventory and proceed with the free distribution of these sacks of rice for free at the immediate, ahead of the next harvest season this coming October. Is that difficult? Mr. Banayo and his benefactor in Malacanang are making things difficult and complicated for the Filipino public.,” said Pamalakaya.

Earlier, the KMP, Pamalakaya and other rural based groups demanded Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to conduct joint or separate congressional inquiry on the over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007.

The groups said in aid of legislation, the rice inquiry will be able to draft policies to stop the government from anarchic importation of rice which are hinged on the liberalization policy and on the agenda of corrupt officials for juicy and fat commissions sourced from over importation and over pricing of rice imports. (With reports from Bombshell Moran and Lollipop de los Reyes)

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Police state in Hacienda Luisita assailed

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bianca Jing Bajing Jing and Bb. Tayuman Recto-Yap

MANILA, Philippines-Striking Hacienda Luisita farm workers on Wednesday pressed President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino to pull out the composite team of Army troops, para-military forces and members of the intelligence unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), saying the 6,453 hectare sugar plantation appeared like a mini garrison or satellite camp for the Northern Luzon command of the AFP.

In a press statement, the Hacienda Luisita based groups– Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU)and the Alyansa ng Mga Manggagawa sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala)said the AFP has deployed about a platoon of government troops in Luisita, excluding members of CAFGU and intelligence personnel from the 701st Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army.

UMA national coordinator Emma Velarde said among the task of Army troops deployed inside Luisita is to harass and terrorize leaders and members of Luisita farm workers’ associations calling for the immediate and unconditional free distribution of the sugar estate to 10,000 farmworker beneficiaries.

“Is President Aquino aware of the ongoing AFP campaign of terror inside Hacienda Luisita? Or this brazen act of Jurassic feudal terrorism has the seal of approval of the Office of the President? Which is which Mr.Aquino,” Velarde added.

Velarde raised this concern during a picket rally this morning held at Mendiola Bridge by 50 farm workers most of them were from Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and Hacienda Yulo in Barangay Canlubang,Calamba City in Laguna. The farmers staged the rally to denounce President Aquino for evading issues pertaining to land reform in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday.

Before the rally, Hacienda Luisita farmers trooped to the office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Quezon City to submit a formal complaint against military officers and members of the 710st IBPA whom they accused of engaging in state terror campaign and round-the-clock surveillance inside the sprawling sugar estate in Tarlac province.

At the rally in Mendiola, allies of Hacienda Luisita farm workers led by Kilusang Magbubukid ngPilipinas (KMP)and the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) took turns in berating President Aquino for evading all issues pertaining to agrarian reform during the 50-year old bachelor’s first state address.

“This is official. President Aquino is the ultimate President of Hacienda Republic.He will utilize and mobilize the reactionary and mercenary AFP to protect his family’s land monopolization of Luisita in the name of feudal rule,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general.

“ He is serving as feudal icon to other hacienda owners who have been resisting agrarian reform beneficiaries demanding land rights and social justice. It is for this reason, why Noynoy is not touching Luisita and other haciendas on his first SONA, and perhaps in his succeeding addresses in the next five years,” the KMP official added.

Ramos further said:”Big hacienda owners are supporting Aquino’s use of state power to protect their unlawful and immoral control on the 6,453 hectare sugar plantation in Tarlac province. The hacienda oligarchs are all happy with Aquino and like the landed family of the President, they don’t want to hear any policy statement on agrarian reform that would benefit landless and land-lacking farmers in the country.”

Kasama-TK secretary general echoed Ramos opinion. “Hacienda Luisita and bigger issues on land reform are intentionally omitted in his 1st SONA because Aquino is politically allergic to discuss Luisita and other Luisita like cases such as the 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo controversy in Barangay Canlubang and the 8,650 hectare perpetual land use conversion of prime agricultural land in Hacienda Looc”, he added.

Pinpin said if Aquino really wants to address Luisita and other high profile issues involving haciendas in favor of the land reform beneficiaries through appropriate legislative action, the President could easily send marching orders to Congress to repeal the extended CARPer (CARP with reforms) law and enact GARB or HB 374.

The controversial GARB was re-filed in the first week of July by its main author—Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, a farmer himself and current KMP chair. The re-filed bill was co-authored by the progressive bloc in Congress led by Bayan Muna Reps. Teodoro Casino and Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares, Gabriela Women Party (GWP) Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmy de Jesus, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party list lawmaker Antonio Tinio and Kabataan party list Rep. Raymond Palatino.

The bill if enacted will automatically cover vast landholdings for free land distribution that includes Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Yulo, Hacienda Looc, scattered thousands of agricultural lands owned by business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, the vast tracts of plantations leased to multinational companies like Del Monte in Mindanao the and the controversial 3,100 hectare Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

“But President Aquino is not listening to the legitimate cry and agrarian demands of Hacienda Luisita farm workers and Hacienda Yulo farmers and this is the real score at the moment. We dare him to come up with a strong presidential instruction urging congressmen from both side of the political equation to certify HB 374 as urgent and necessary, and his first SONA is the right time for this,” the Kasama-TK official added.

According to Kasama-TK, the Southern Tagalog region has become the regional laboratory for land reform reversals, land reform denials and land use conversions since the dictatorial regime offormer President Ferdinand Marcos. Hundreds of thousands of prime agricultural lands have been subjected to automatic control of big landlords and were primed for land use conversions at the expense of land reform beneficiaries and other land tillers across the region,” the group said.

Citing a report filed by Ibon Foundation, the KMP said as of December 2006, DAR has cancelled at least 108,141 CLOAs and Emancipation Patents (EPs) involving 204,579 hectares. CLOA and EP cancellations are increased by 3,790% from 1995 data of 2,780, while land area increased by 1,162% from 16, 213 hectares. Of the cancellations, majority or 87% were due to subdivision of mother-CLOAs into individual CLOAs. It involved about 82% of the lands to 167,486 hectares.#

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Aquino asked: Don’t evade land reform issues on state address

By Lollipop de los Reyes, Pepsi La Loma and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Phillippines- Fifteen Hacienda Yulo farmers in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna now on their second day of fast today urged President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III not to evade the issue of land reform in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, saying farmers from all over Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon provinces who would join the mass action in Batasan complex on Monday.

“Noynoy did not mention anything about land reform and social justice during his inauguration on June 30. This coming SONA, the President has no option but to tell his government land reform policy, call a spade a spade and get ready for intensified agrarian unrest if he fails to institute corrective measures on agrarian injustice in this country,” said the 15 hunger striking Yulo farmers identified with the Kalipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK).

Hacienda Yulo farmer leader and hunger strike organizer Nestor Villanueva of Kasama-TK noticed that President Aquino being a big landlord himself from Central Luzon courtesy of the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita has become very accommodative to big hacienda owners like the Yulo family.

“The Yulo has become more aggressive than ever in killing the land rights of the farmers to the extent of mobilizing the Philippine Army and the special action groups of the PNP in Southern Tagalog. In the name of land monopoly and land use conversion for super profits, the Yulo sourced the help of state security forces to able to cut 1,000 coconut trees inside the Hacienda and pave way for the grandslam land use conversion,” the Yulo farmer leader said.

Villanueva added: “What we want from hear from him are three statements. The first one is a commitment to distribute the 7,100 hectare to all farmer beneficiaries. The second one is the urgent halt on all land use conversion activities in the Yulo estate and last but not the least is the immediate pull out of all Army and police forces inside the hacienda, nothing more, nothing less.”

The three demands were submitted to Malacanang by peasant groups Kasama-TK and its mother organization, the left wing peasant activist group—the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas on July 1, a day after Aquino’s inaugural address at Luneta.

But for Axel Pinpin, secretary general of Kasama-TK, President Aquino is not listening to the legitimate cry and agrarian demands of Hacienda Yulo farmers and it is the real score at the moment and the days to come.

“Until now, there is no presidential instruction from the Office of the President for DAR to act swiftly on the demands submitted to Aquino’s office early this month. How long it would take him before he makes a decisive move in favor the Yulo farmers? One year? 50 years?”, said Pinpin.

Pinpin said the official response of President Aquino so far was the violent demolition of peasant camp-out in Mendiola Bridge and the dispersal of striking farmers on July 3 that led to the mass arrest of 41 farmer activists and the injury of 13 other Southern Tagalog activists.

“So far this is the concrete step taken by Aquino as far as the agrarian issues surrounding Hacienda Yulo is concerned and for the farmers the act is simply incorrigible and extremely reprehensible,” the Kasama-TK official said.

At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented on July 16 to newly installed Agrarian reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes.

Among the land dispute cases involving land use conversions, cancellations of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and eviction of farmer beneficiaries include the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas which has been primed for eco-tourism projects and the 7,100 hectare prime agricultural land in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna province.

The other cases of agrarian disputes presented during the dialogue with DAR secretary include land reform reversals and land use conversions in Dasmarinas and Silang in Cavite province, the seedling projects in Montalban, Rizal and the conversion of Araneta owned lands in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

“The Southern Tagalog region has become the laboratory for land reform reversals, land reform denials and land use conversions since the Calabarzon days of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Hundreds of thousands of prime agricultural lands have been subjected to automatic control of big landlords and were primed for land use conversions at the expense of land reform beneficiaries and other land tillers across the region,” Kasama-TK noted.

Citing a report filed by Ibon Foundation, KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores said as of December 2006, DAR has cancelled at least 108,141 CLOAs and Emancipation Patents (EPs) involving 204,579 hectares. CLOA and EP cancellations are increased by 3,790% from 1995 data of 2,780, while land area increased by 1,162% from 16, 213 hectares. Of the cancellations, majority or 87% were due to subdivision of mother-CLOAs into individual CLOAs. It involved about 82% of the lands to 167,486 hectares.#

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Farmer activists prefer protest over street party

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Roy Morilla and Gegemon Babon

MANILA, Philippines – ” An earth shaking no.”

Farmer and other rural based groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Amihan peasant women federation, the Kalipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) rejected the plea of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to hold their rally inside the Quezon City Memorial Circle in Eliptical Road, instead of pushing their way near the Batasan in time for Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Excuse me, but we are going to the main capital not to stage a street party and hail the Aquino administration to high heaven. We are going to Manila to present the real state of the people which is free from any shade of illusion,” the six rural based organizations said in a joint statement.

“Mr. Aquino is barely a month on office, but this 50-year old bachelor politician is leading us to another authoritarian or police state by confining us to a 10-hectare park where no one could see or hear us but a handful of park goers,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos in a press statement.

Ramos said Aquino should allow protesters to get near the Batasan complex and express the people’s agenda and true state of the nation address rather than bar them from getting near Congress and put them inside the Quezon City park like prisoners seeking fresh air and the warm of the sun.

“Our farmers, fisherfolk and the other rural people will come from as far as Quezon province. They don’t deserve this kind of treatment from Mr.Aquino, they are coming to push free land distribution and justice and tell the Aquino clique that these things are non-negotiable. Definitely they are here on SONA day to make a difference and not to join any Palace led street party,” the KMP leader added.

On Sunday, about 1,700 farmers and activists from Southern Tagalog led by Kasama-TK and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog chapter (Bayan-ST) will lead a caravan for land, truth and justice starting from Lucena City in Quezon Province and will pass several towns of Laguna and Batangas provinces before reaching the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office in Quezon City in the evening to join farmers camping out in DAR. The striking farmers are from Hacienda Yulo in Barangay Canlubang inCalamba City who are on 100-day peasant strike which began on June 30.

On Sunday night, the farmers will deliver the State of the Peasant Address (SOPA) which will call for the urgent and unconditional free distribution of lands to farmer beneficiaries that include the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, the 7,100 hectare coconut lands in Hacienda Yulo and the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas.

The SOPA will also call for the pull-out of Army troops in several haciendas that include Luisita, Yulo and Looc. “President Aquino is not listening to the legitimate cry and agrarian demands of Hacienda Yulo farmers and this is the real score at the moment. Until now, there is no presidential instruction from the Office of the President for DAR to act swiftly on the demands submitted to Aquino’s office early this month. How long it would take him before he makes a decisive move in favor the Yulo farmers? One year? 50 years?”, said Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin.

Pinpin said the official response of President Aquino so far was the violent demolition of peasant camp-out in Mendiola Bridge and the dispersal of striking farmers on July 3 that led to the mass arrest of 42 farmer activists and the injury of 13 other Southern Tagalog activists.

“ So far this is the concrete step taken by Aquino as far as the agrarian issues surrounding Hacienda Yulo is concerned and for the farmers the act is simply incorrigible and extremely reprehensible,” the Kasama-TK official said.

At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented on July 16 to newly installed Agrarian reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes.

Among the land dispute cases involving land use conversions, cancellations of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and eviction of farmer beneficiaries include the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas which has been primed for eco-tourism projects and the 7,100 hectare prime agricultural land in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna province.

The other cases of agrarian disputes presented during the dialogue with DAR secretary include land reform reversals and land use conversions in Dasmarinas and Silang in Cavite province, the seedling projects in Montalban, Rizal and the conversion of Araneta owned lands in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

“The Southern Tagalog region has become the laboratory for land reform reversals, land reform denials and land use conversions since the Calabarzon days of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Hundreds of thousands of prime agricultural lands have been subjected to automatic control of big landlords and were primed for land use conversions at the expense of land reform beneficiaries and other land tillers across the region,” said KMP.

Citing a report filed by Ibon Foundation, KMP said as of December 2006, DAR has cancelled at least 108,141 CLOAs and Emancipation Patents (EPs) involving 204,579 hectares. CLOA and EP cancellations are increased by 3,790% from 1995 data of 2,780, while land area increased by 1,162% from 16, 213 hectares. Of the cancellations, majority or 87% were due to subdivision of mother-CLOAs into individual CLOAs. It involved about 82% of the lands to 167,486 hectares.#

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