TARLAC, Oct. 6, 2014— After years of legal wrangling, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) disqualifies 125 farmworker-beneficiaries (FWBs) from becoming awardees of Hacienda Luisita lands covered by the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) for failing to sign promissory notes for the farm lots’ amortization.
In an order dated Aug. 26, 2014, the DAR cited the FWBs’ failure to sign the Application to Purchase and Farmers’ Undertaking (APFU) as basis for disqualification. This promissory note binds FWBs to pay amortization for the farm lots over a 30-year period.
No legal basis
Hacienda Luisita farmers’ lawyer Jobert Pahilga of the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA) recently filed a motion before DAR, protesting the agency’s disqualification of 125 FWBs.
He explained: “There should be no need to require farmworkers to apply for the purchase of lands that they already own. There is therefore, no basis for DAR’s imposition to FWBs to sign the AFPU.”
Pahilga pointed out that disqualifying the 125 FWBs is unwarranted given that the order “has no factual and legal basis and was issued in violation of the rights of the said FWBs to due process of law”.
Pahilga shared the disqualification was issued while the Motion of AMBALA questioning the validity of the “tambiolo system” of land reform implemented by the DAR and the order to sign the AFPU under pain of disqualification is still pending before the Supreme Court.
The CARP law, RA 6657 as amended by RA 9700, does not provide as basis for disqualification of a beneficiary, the failure or refusal of the farmer to sign the AFPU.
“In the same vein, their failure to claim their lot allocation certificate or even their Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA), is not a ground to disqualify farmers,” said Pahilga.
According to him, the disqualification therefore “has no factual and legal basis and was issued in violation of the rights of the said FWBs to due process of law”.
Luisita farmers assert that neither should they be obliged to pay for the land, arguing that their ownership was affirmed when they were declared “stockholders” of the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) in 1989, and entered agricultural lands as their share, composing 33% of the corporation.
“We are, in fact, the rightful owners of Hacienda Luisita,” said Florida Sibayan, chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), slamming DAR for consistently ruling against the interests of Luisita farmers.
According to Sibayan, the Supreme Court (SC) affirmed that the Cojuangcos still owe the FWBs a share of the P1.33 billion sale of Hacienda Luisita land assets—agricultural lands cunningly sold to the Luisita Industrial Park Co., RCBC, and the BCDA for the SCTEX right-of-way.
“The DAR must work to have the Cojuangcos pay us immediately, and not the other way around,” Sibayan stressed.
FWBs added they already paid HLI for the value of the land by their labor and “mandays” or their labor on the land for particular periods.
Many FWBs are AMBALA leaders and members who have consistently stood up for the revocation of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme and for land distribution in Hacienda Luisita since 2003, when the group lodged its historic petition and joined the
Hacienda Luisita People’s Strike in 2004 with the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU).
Death, mauling, arrests
“Disqualification and consistent attacks against organizations and individuals who fought for land and justice in Hacienda Luisita – this is how the government honors the memory of those who were killed fighting for our rights,” said Sibayan, referring to the seven farmers killed in the Hacienda Luisita “massacre” of 2004.
From November 2013 to March 2014, Cojuangco-Aquino firm Tarlac Develoment Corporation (TADECO) ordered the bulldozing and destruction of more than a hundred hectares of rice and other food crops, burning of homes, and fencing off of some 360 hectares of agricultural lands.
The attacks resulted in the death of AMBALA member, Dennis dela Cruz, mauling, unlawful arrests, and filing of harassment suits to hundreds of farmers.
Farmers point to president Benigno Aquino III, then congressman and manager of the Luisita estate, as one of the perpetrators of the massacre.
Luisita farmers and their supporters are preparing international solidarity activities in the weeks leading to the 10th year commemoration of the Hacienda Luisita massacre (HLMX) on November 16, 2014. (Raymond A. Sebastián)