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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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Land disputes hound Manila’s new agrarian chief

By Roy Morilla and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines- At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented today to newly installed Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes. In a dialogue with Secretary delos Reyes, the Southern Luzon based peasant group Kalipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and its mother federation- the activist Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the farmer groups asked the new DAR chief to act swiftly on cases pertaining to land use conversions and cancellations of agrarian reform titles in the region.

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.

Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin asked the new agrarian reform secretary to immediately issue cease and desist orders to big landlords and real estate developers to effectively halt all land use conversions and indefinitely suspend all these activities to prepare the stage for a comprehensive review of these lands currently embroiled in legal, political and moral disputes between the farmers and the big landlords in Southern Tagalog region.

“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,” Pinpin 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.

The KMP leader also cited a report filed by Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo Foundation (SENTRA), the lawyers group that handles agrarian cases including Hacienda Luisita. Flores said that of the 205 agrarian cases from Central Luzon,Southern Tagalog, Northern Luzon, Bicol and Panay regions, about half came from Southern Tagalog, mostly from Batangas reaching to 54 cases.

Flores lamented that farmers tend to lose the case at DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB), Regional Trial Court (RTC) and the Supreme Court (SC) even material evidences are sufficient but opposed to big landlords such as Zobel-Ayalas, Roxas, Yulos, Aranetas, Cojuangcos, Puyat family, big-time real-estate developers as Henry Sy, Sobrepenas, and traditional politicians as the Revillas, Remullas, Enriles, Mitras, Villafuerte. The farmers are also against foreign corporations such as Kuok Properties; including traditional and despotic landlords in the remote rural areas in the country such as the Dolors and Lopezes of Batangas, Don Domingo Reyes of Quezon, among many others.

“The DAR secretary should be daring enough to oppose big and influential landlords as the provisions of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with `Reforms’ (CARPer) are on their side. If he continues to serve their side, his stay at the department would be restless and he should expect more and more protests in front of his office,” Flores said. #

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Manila’s high court orders review of Luisita case

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Queen Shawn Dok and Lady Michelle Adobe

MANILA, Philippines-Striking farm workers in Hacienda Luisita and close allies in and out of the 6,453 hectare sugar estate owned by the family of the late President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino welcomed on Monday the order of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona to have the agrarian row reviewed by the high tribunal.

“The order for review is a welcome news that’s why we are welcoming it. We hope this won’t be the beginning of another false start. We hope this is the beginning of an end to a sugar coated reign and long-running feudal exploitation inside Hacienda Luisita,” the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa Sa Agrikultura (UMA), the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Amihan peasant women federation and the left leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a joint statement in reaction to Chief Justice recent order for a review on the Hacienda Luisita land row case.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the review should end on a positive note with the lifting of temporary restraining order and the high tribunal would decide for an urgent and unconditional free distribution of lands to 10,000 farm worker beneficiaries.

“Chief Justice Corona is lawfully, politically and morally obliged to lead the other 14 justices to decide the Hacienda Luisita case in favor of farm workers and their striving and starving families. Social justice should not be compromise for any kind of political accommodation and elite oriented political reconciliation. I guess this is clear with Corona and the 14 associate justices,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos for his part said it is still a long way to go even if Chief Justice Corona has issued the order. For a fresh start of the Corona led Supreme Court, the peasant leader asked Corona and other justices to put Hacienda Luisita ahead of other unfinished businesses the high court will accomplish this year.

“The case of Hacienda Luisita is the most controversial and the most politically charged case among the cases being reviewed by the high tribunal for judicial disposition. This should be prioritized and should be decided in the name of the collective interest of farm workers in particular and the Filipino public in general,” Ramos added.

Earlier Pamalakaya told the Supreme Court that the 10,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries inside the 6,453-hectare sugar estate owned by the family of President elect Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino were not asking for preferential treatment from the Supreme Court as far as the farm workers legal battle in the high tribunal is concerned.

“Please allow us to correct the Chief Justice, the 14 other justices and the spokesperson of the Supreme Court. The farm workers of Hacienda Luisita are not asking for preferential treatment. What they are asking is social justice based on free distribution of lands which was denied to them for several decades by the feudal aristocracy of Cojuangco-Aquino and their partners in crime in previous administrations,” said Pamalakaya.

The Pamalakaya fisherfolk group is one of the signatories to a letter of appeal sent to Chief Justice Renato Corona last week urging the high tribunal to resolve the Hacienda Luisita land case, as well as other high profile land cases including but not limited to the 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo in Calamba City, Laguna and the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas.

In 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman revoked the SDO scheme due to complaints by members of the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid ng Hacienda Luisita (AMBALA) that it has become disadvantageous for the farmers.

In order to avoid the property from being placed under the land distribution scheme under CARP, the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) immediately filed a petition before the high tribunal in February 2006 seeking the nullification of the order recalling the SDO agreement between the hacienda owners and 5,498 farmers.

On June 10 farm workers from Hacienda Luisita by UMA and KMP including other supporters and advocates submitted a letter of appeal asking the Supreme Court to act with dispatch and resolve the controversial agrarian case of Hacienda Luisita in favor of agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“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 three page letter of appeal stated.

The high court was also asked to look into high profile cases of land reform reversals and big time denials of peasant land rights in Southern Tagalog region.

The farmer groups were 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, and the 7,100 hectare property in Hacienda Yulo in Calamba City, Laguna.

The groups maintained these land reform reversal will lead to the evictions of thousands of families in farming families in Nasugbu, Batangas and Calamba, Laguna 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”, the groups said. #

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Philippine state security forces resume attacks vs. activists

By Gerry Albert Corpuz in Manila and Axel Pinpin in Calamba City

MANILA, Philippines- Barely 26 days before apparent Philippine President Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III assume the presidency from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, alleged members of a death squad operated by the Philippine military assassinated an active trade union officer South of Manila.

In a report filed by the left-leaning multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog chapter or New Patriotic Alliance in Southern Tagalog, the umbrella alliance of activist groups said on Wednesday night, around 6 PM, labor leader Edward Panganiban a union officer was brutally gunned down by unidentified men in Brgy. Caingin, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Bayan-ST said victim is a worker at Takata, a car-parts factory in the nearby town of Biñan, Laguna. The group said Panganiban’s union and the management of the factory are undergoing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations.

The extrajudicial killing of Panganiban was followed by the violent demoliiton of 21 farmer’s houses by private security guards of the Manila South Coast Dev’t Corp. in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu, Batangas which is about several hours after the killing of the trade union activist.

In a separate report, a copy of which was obtained by http://www.allvoices.com, peassant leader Guillermo Bautista, chairperson of the peasant group Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK or the Association of Farmers Organizations in Southern Tagalog) said perpetrators made it sure the demolition of houses will take place while farmers were away and out in the fields.

Bautista said prior to the demolition of farmer houses in the hotly disputed 10,000 hectare agricultural estate, previous threats against other farmers’ communities started in May 21, when policemen, security guards and representatives of landowners of the Hacienda Yulo in Calamba violently dispersed and illegally arrested protesting farmers.

“With this series of incidents, we cannot help but wonder if the recently concluded election has created a scenario where land owners, big businesses felt comfortable and free in attacking the rights of the marginalized farmers and workers. Have they found an ally in Sen. Noynoy Aquino?” the peasant leader asked.

The fresh wave of attacks against Filipino activists in Southern Tagalog region coincided with the issuance of a statement by United Nation Special Rapporteur Philip Alston who said extrajudicial killings in the Philippines because the incoming president is also heavily dependent on the AFP.

“The President-elect will likely be reminded that he is heavily dependent on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), not to cause problems and that any prosecution will alienate the military,” Alston said at a gathering of UN human rights officials in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Manila-based human rights watchdog Karapatan claimed that 1,118 extra-judicial killings and more than 200 enforced disappearances were documented in the Philippines between 2001 and October 2009.

According to Alston, “impunity is a serious issue that characterized extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines.”

Alston, was in the Philippines for a fact-finding mission in 2007 to investigate complaints of grave human rights violations and left and right killings of political activists. He had denounced the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration for failing to put an end to extra-judicial killings, which he said has decreased in recent years, but has continued due to lack of substantial measures to address the problem.

The UN special rapporteur said not a single member of the military, whom he earlier blamed for many killings and forced disappearances, has been punished over their involvement in political killings, enforced abductions and filing of trumped up charges against activists all over the Philippines.

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Farmers, fishers oppose 18th floor condominium project in Hacienda Looc

Farmers, fishers oppose 18th floor condominium project in Hacienda Looc

Farmers and fisherfolk groups in the sprawling 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas vowed to oppose the construction of an 18th floor first class condominium in Barangay Papaya.

The Samahan ng Mga Magbubukid ng Batangas (Sambat) and the Haligi ng Batangueñong Anakdagat (Habagat), affiliates of the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the ambitious project is being undertaken by the Manila Southcoast Development Corporation (MSDC), a subsidiary of SM Property Holdings owned by mall magnate Henry Sy.

According to Guillermo Bautista, chair of Sambat, aside from the 18th floor condominium project due to be finished or on before 2012, Sy is also planning to establish eco-tourism projects along foreshore land areas of Hacienda Looc, including another international mall similar or even bigger than the SM Mall of Asia in the former Pasay reclamation area.

Bautista said Sy plans to sell each unit in the 18th floor condominium for P 3.5 million, P 7 million and P 10 million.

Bautista blamed the fatally flawed and loop holes ridden Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) behind the land grabbing sprees of SM and other real estate developer groups in Hacienda Looc.

“The 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc was previously declared as CARP lands and therefore subject of land distribution to farmer beneficiaries and in fact, DAR distributed Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) to 1,393 farmer beneficiaries,” he said.

“But the national government overturned the decision and let the effective sale of Hacienda Looc to MSDC for 215 million in 1994 and this led to land reform reversal affecting over one thousand farmer beneficiaries and 10,000 rural populace some 15 years ago,” the Sambat leader added.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap also blamed CARP for the agrarian dispute in Hacienda Looc with the national government’s sell-out of Carpable lands to Sy. He said as of now over 20,000 farmers and fisherfolk and their families are affected by the land market transaction initiated by the government courtesy of the 21-year old CARP.

“As of now, fisherfolk are being banned to fish 5 kilometers away from the shore land as if Hacienda Looc and its coastal waters are declared the Henry Sy republic. Something must be done to stop this injustice made in the name of Palace clients and political supporters in the persona of Mr. Sy and company,” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said the corporate takeover of Hacienda Looc by SM will immediately affect the livelihood of 1,500 farmers and fisherfolk. Hicap said the security guards detailed by MSDC are preventing small fisherfolk to get near the 5-kilometer fish ban from the shoreline and in case they get near, the guards will fire shots or harass them for crossing in the private property of SM.

“The bogus CARP, the government’s uncontrollable greed for fat commission and SM’s real estate and mall expansionism escapade are behind this current predicament and sufferings of farmers and fisherfolk,” he said.

Meanwhile, KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos aired his support to the a house resolution filed by Bayan Muna party list Rep. Teodoro Casiño urging the House Committee on Agrarian Reform to investigate how Sy and MSDC managed to wrest control of the 8,650 hectare of prime agricultural lands from farmers who have been tilling the area for generations.

On May 27, Casiño filed House Resolution directing the House Committee on Agrarian Reform to investigate the failure of CARP in the case of Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas, with the end in view of protecting the farmer-beneficiaries and other residents whose rights are continuously violated by the MSDC owned by Henry Sy.

“We want a full-blown investigation on one of the biggest land reform reversals and land reform landgrabbing in recent history of agrarian reform in the country. The lawmakers should cross party lines and should come to their senses,” said Ramos. #

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