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.#