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Aquino kin evicting 134 Luisita farmers

/ 11:54 PM September 21, 2013

IT’S BACKBREAKING work in Hacienda Luisita for farmworkers who now stand to own parcels of land in the more than 6,000-hectare estate owned by President Aquino’s family. E.I REYMOND T. OREJAS/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—A company owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino has sent 31 notices of eviction to 134 farmworkers who were told to vacate lands in two of the 10 villages inside Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province, a leader of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said on Tuesday.

The issuance of eviction notices came as the government started implementing agrarian reform in 4,099 hectares of the 6,443-ha sugar estate.

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Antonio Flores, KMP secretary general, said Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco) served 16 notices to 84 farmworkers in Barangay Cutcut and 15 notices to 50 others in Barangay Balete, both on the Tarlac City side of Hacienda Luisita.

Tadeco owns Hacienda Luisita, as well as 70 percent of the shares of stock of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), the firm that managed the stock distribution program (SDP), the form of agrarian reform at the estate since 1989.

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In April 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council in 2005 to cancel the SDP and distribute the lands to farmworkers who held shares of stock in 1989.

Flores said he learned about the Tadeco notices when KMP began a fact-finding mission at the estate on Monday.

The notices were dated July 30 but given on Aug. 20, he said. The recipients refused to leave, he said.

Eufrocinio de la Merced Jr., secretary of Tadeco, signed the notices that used the official stationery of Tadeco and Jose Cojuangco and Sons Inc., a copy released by KMP showed.

The one issued to Efren Luquias of Barangay Sta. Catalina (the new name of Cutcut), written in Filipino, alleged that he “entered the land without permission and cultivated it without right and against the law.”

De la Merced instructed Luquias to leave in 15 days.

Flores said the 134 farmworkers were among the 6,212 beneficiaries who were to get 6,600 square meters each.

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He said the plots they occupy are rice lands that KMP developed as part of the bungkalan (tillage) system in 2005 to help farmworkers grow food when HLI stopped planting sugarcane after the 2004 labor strike at the mill and as the agrarian case was pending at the Supreme Court.

Lawyer Antonio Ligon, HLI spokesperson, said De la Merced had confirmed that several demand letters were given. “These were sent mostly to those who are not farmworker-beneficiaries,” Ligon said.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) database showed that an Efren Laquias (not Luquias as stated in a Tadeco notice) is on the final master list of 6,212 beneficiaries, Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Anthony Parungao said in an e-mail.

“According to the DAR provincial office, he was allocated a farm lot in Barangay Motrico in La Paz [town]. His right as a [farmworker-beneficiary] is not at all affected by this notice and the farm lot allocated to him previously is still his,” Parungao said.

“In fact, the [certificate of land ownership award] for the lot, as well as those for others, are now being processed for registration by the [Registry of Deeds] in Tarlac,” he said.

The DAR is subsidizing the payment of land, requiring the beneficiaries to pay for every 6,600 sq m at P60,000 to P70,000 in 30 years, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes said earlier.

Parungao urged KMP to furnish the DAR a list of those who received notices so the agency could validate the location, nature and 1988 zoning of the land.

“But if it’s Tadeco that issued the notices, it’s likely these are not part of the subject landholding in the Luisita case, the Supreme Court decision, which we are currently implementing,” said Parungao.

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TAGS: agrarian reform, Benigno Aquino III, Hacienda Luisita, Tadeco, Tarlac Development Corp.
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