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Farmers demand free land in Luisita

09:14 PM January 21, 2012

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—A left-wing farmers’ group declared support for the demand of farm workers in a 6,000-hectare sugar estate owned by relatives of President Aquino to be given parcels of land in the estate for free.

In a statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said farmers that would benefit from a Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of land in a 4,915-hectare portion of Hacienda Luisita should get the lands for free.

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The Supreme Court decision, issued in November, isn’t final yet, however.

The KMP renewed its call for the free distribution of the estate owned by Mr. Aquino’s relatives in Tarlac as the group observes the 25th anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre today.

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At least 13 farmers were killed and dozens were wounded when government soldiers and policemen opened fire at a rally near Malacañang on Jan. 22, 1987, appealing to the late President Corazon Aquino to implement genuine agrarian reform.

The farmers were demanding an audience with Ms Aquino when they were fired upon.

Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general, said like the victims of the 1987 carnage and many landless farmers, “justice continues to be elusive” to Hacienda Luisita farm workers despite a favorable ruling by the high court.

In its Nov. 22, 2011, decision, the tribunal affirmed the ruling of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council to place the sugar estate under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and ordered just compensation to the Cojuangcos.

Felix Nacpil Jr., chair of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), said the lands should be given free because these were bought in 1957 by the late Don Jose Cojuangco, Mr. Aquino’s grandfather, using loan and guarantee from the government.

In a statement, Ramos said the KMP would “continue to rely on the strong determination of Luisita farm workers in asserting their rights over the lands and frustrate the obvious political maneuvers of President Aquino to take over the Supreme Court and maintain his family’s control over Hacienda Luisita.”

He was referring to an allegation by Chief Justice Renato Corona that the impeachment mounted against him was due to the tribunal’s decision giving Hacienda Luisita to farm workers.

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Ambala and the United Luisita Workers Union have criticized the plan of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to file a motion asking the Supreme Court to inhibit Corona from taking part in the deliberation of the agrarian case.

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said the trial of Corona should “not be a cause of further delay” in the implementation of the Nov. 22 order. The high court has not yet acted on the motion for reconsideration and clarification filed by the HLI.

At least 1,000 farmers from various provinces in Luzon marched near Malacañang on Friday to demand justice for massacre victims.

Seven of the 13 were from Laguna, said Orly Marcellana, spokesperson of the Kasama-TK, one of the groups that took part in Friday’s march on Mendiola Bridge.

Virginia Aribe, 74, whose daughter Adelfa was one of those killed on Mendiola, fought back tears as she recalled the killing of her daughter, who was in her 40s when she died.

Marcellana said the farmers are clinging to hopes the case would be reopened.

He said until now, farmers fall victim to human rights abuses committed in the course of the counterinsurgency campaign of the government. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Romulo Ponte, Inquirer Southern Luzon

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TAGS: agrarian reform, Hacienda Luisita, Land Reform
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