Luisita target of incoming DAR chief
Incoming Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano announced a review of the implementation of what he said was a “sham” agrarian reform program in a sugarcane estate owned by the family of outgoing President Aquino as among his priorities as head of the agrarian reform department.
Mariano, also leader of the militant farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said under his watch as head of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), “no farmer will be displaced.”
The former Anakpawis party-list representative said he would reverse “antifarmer” decisions of the DAR, starting with those involving Hacienda Luisita which belongs to Mr. Aquino’s maternal relatives, the Cojuangcos.
“We will conduct a no-holds barred review and reversal of the DAR’s antifarmer decisions, a moratorium on land-use conversion and a stop to the cancellation of farmers’ land ownership certificates, among others,” Mariano said.
He said he would make sure farmers were not displaced from the land they tilled “by strengthening their security of tenure over the land.”
“We will immediately review the sham ‘tambiolo’ land reform implemented by the DAR in Hacienda Luisita,” Mariano said, referring to the raffle of lots within the Tarlac sugar plantation for distribution to plantation workers.
He said he will review the pending petition of Hacienda Luisita farmers to revoke the land-use conversion issued by the DAR in favor of the Cojuangcos.
The Supreme Court ruled with finality in 2012 to strike down the stock distribution program implemented by the President’s mother, the late president Corazon Aquino, in lieu of land distribution.
The government last year started distributing about 4,100 hectares of the plantation to the workers to comply with the Supreme Court’s order.
But, according to KMP, Hacienda Luisita remains under the control of the President’s relatives.
KMP said the Cojuangcos moved to fortify their control of the more than 6,000-hectare hacienda when Mariano’s appointment became imminent following his nomination by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said workers connected to the Cojuangcos had stepped up the eviction and demolition of farmers’ houses and increased the presence of armed security men.
Flores said farmers should “prepare for a bigger confrontation” as landowners were expected to oppose policy changes and reversals of DAR decisions.
Mariano also said he would continue to advocate for a new law to overhaul the now lapsed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) which he said was filled with loopholes.
DAR has stopped processing petitions to issue notices of coverage to 11,948 private landholdings covering 127,329 hectares since the CARP extension with reforms (CARPer) law expired on June 30, 2014.
Most of the haciendas that have yet to be distributed are in the Negros provinces.
Mr. Aquino’s last month in office has been marred by tension over the May 30 demolition of a farmer’s house in Hacienda Luisita, the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and KMP said.
Danilo Ramos, UMA secretary general, said the demolition of the house of Charlito Catalan in Barangay Mapalacsiao in Tarlac City was led by village chair Edison Diaz of Barangay Lourdes. Diaz was helped by three men identified with a sugarcane planters’ group connected to the Cojuangco-Aquino family.
Bamboo fences were destroyed when women members of the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) came to Catalan’s rescue, Ramos said.
Christine Santos, counsel of the Tarlac Development Co. (Tadeco), did not reply when asked if the firm issued a demolition order.
But Diaz denied bringing or heading a demolition team. With a report by Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon
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