Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap. RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net
MANILA, Philippines – A congressman and participants of a fact-finding mission in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac were arrested by local police on Tuesday, said Anakpawis partylist in a statement.
The group said Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap was attending a fact-finding mission about land distribution in Hacienda Luisita when their contingent was apprehended by members of the Philippine National Police.
Anakpawis president and former congressman Rafael Mariano said the group is now being held at the Tarlac City Police Station on charges of illegal assembly, direct assault, trespass to dwelling and malicious mischief.
Police Officer 3 Norbelita Ingaw of the Tarlac City police confirmed to INQUIRER.net that around nine people were arrested at the sugar estate but declined to give additional information because of the ongoing investigation. The local police claimed the individuals attended a rally at Luisita.
Hicap, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Danilo Ramos, Florida Sibayan of Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Asyenda Luisita, Sister Patricia Fox of the Religious Discernment of the Philippines and several others had just left a dialogue with the Philippine Army when they were arrested at around noon Tuesday.
“We demand the immediate release of Representative Hicap and others who were arrested,” Mariano said, adding that the group was looking into the “drawing of lots” system employed by the Department of Agrarian Reform in land distribution.
Mariano said the first-termer Hicap and other land reform advocates were confirming accusations of fraud and harassment in the area reported by land distribution beneficiaries.
The farmers said a large number of police were usually deployed at Luisita during the “drawing of lots” that assigned farmlots to beneficiaries.
Mariano claimed the “heavy presence of police and military coerced farmworker beneficiaries into signing promissory notes or the Application to Purchase and Farmers’ Undertaking (ADFU)” which “manifests the willingness of farmer-beneficiaries to pay the amortization and real estate taxes of the lands.”
In July, Ambala asked the Supreme Court to stop the “tambiolo” system of raffling off agricultural lots to farmers.