7 Hacienda Luisita farmers arrested
HACIENDA LUISITA, Tarlac City—Tension at the sugar estate owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino continued to rise as a bank asserted its ownership over a portion of the plantation by putting up a fence around the property, a move that farmers tried to prevent.
A few days after 17 farmers posted bail following an arrest warrant issued against them for grave coercion, seven farmers were arrested on Monday and charged with malicious mischief when they tried to stop workers from building a fence around the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) property.
Two of those arrested are minors. They were released to the custody of their parents also on Monday. The five others posted bail on Wednesday.
The farmers have been staking claim on the 184-hectare property owned by RCBC, which is part of Hacienda Luisita.
While the Supreme Court acknowledged RCBC’s ownership of the property as a buyer in good faith, the farmers said this parcel of land should be included in the coverage of agrarian reform.
Tension started to build up here on Saturday when some 100 workers, accompanied by about 50 security guards, started building a fence made of galvanized iron sheets in the area.
Portions of the property in Barangay Balete were occupied by the farmers last year after the high court ruled in favor of distributing the land inside the sugar estate instead of distributing shares of stock in the company that owns the property.
Lawyer Jobert Pahilga, who represents the farmers, said the number of security guards and policemen in the area reached more than 200 on Monday.
In his affidavit, Eduardo Soriano, a security officer and area supervisor of the Greyhounds Security and Investigation Agency, the firm commissioned to secure the property, said the farmers were armed with steel truncheons and destroyed the fence even with policemen around.
Senior Insp. Joshua Gonzales of the Tarlac City police said the police maintained a satellite station inside Hacienda Luisita.
He said police officials sent more men when RCBC representatives reported about the increasing tension in the area. More than 100 policemen were in the area on Monday.
“Whenever there is a threat to the community, the police will be there to [ensure peace],” Gonzales said.
Pahilga said RCBC should have sought a special order from the court to allow it to fence the area because the property is subject of a dispute.
Relatives of President Aquino are trying to collect payment for the estate if it were to be distributed to farmers.
They have recently demanded the inhibition of Chief Justice Renato Corona, now on trial at the Senate, accusing him of bias against the Cojuangco family. Jo Martinez-Clemente, Inquirer Central Luzon
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.