DUTERTE hits Aquinos for excluding Hacienda Luisita from land reform
President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday described the exclusion of the Hacienda Luisita from the agrarian reform program as “the greatest aberration” done to farmer-beneficiaries.
Duterte said although he has “nothing against” the Aquino family, including the late President Corazon Aquino and her son, President Benigno Aquino III, he said farmer-beneficiaries should have been awarded with portions of the land in Tarlac.
“I’d like to state very clearly that I have nothing against the Aquino family. ‘Yung dalawang presidente, pati ang pamilya (The two Presidents and the family). I’d like to put it in record that for the first two Aquino presidents, sumuporta po kami, ang pamilya namin sa Davao (our family in Davao supported them) because we believed in Corazon Aquino and I happen also to just…the best that was available at that time,” Duterte said in his speech during the 31st anniversary celebration of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) main office in Quezon City.
“Pero (But) the greatest aberration, if I look back in time… alam mo, kung ako naman siguro ang naging malapit lang naman makapag bulong (you know, if I could only suggest), to make the suggestion na (that) will not irritate ‘yung sinasabihan ko…alam mo ‘yung (the person I’m telling it to, you know) the greatest aberration sa (in) land reform was the Philippines was declared…the whole of the country.. as a land reform program area pero tinanggal nila ang Doña Luisita (but they excluded Doña Luisita),” he said.
Duterte recalled the bloody Hacienda Luisita massacre on November 16, 2004 where union farmers and activists conducting a strike were violently dispersed.
Another group of farmers pushing for land reform on Hacienda Luisita and other landholdings were also violently dispersed by police and soldiers in Mendiola, Manila on January 22, 1987.
“Far and in between the years that it was fighting…I mean the tenants, marami ho ang namatay (there were a lot who died). A lot of people died…invested blood, just to realize, until late today, ‘yung mga lupa na dapat sa kanila (the land that should have been theirs),” Duterte said.
Duterte bared that during his 2016 presidential campaign, he encouraged land reform because he commiserated with farmer-beneficiaries.
He reminded hacienderos (big landowners) that “there is a time for everything”, including a time “to live simply”.
Meanwhile, Duterte encouraged the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to study the land reform program “very carefully” before it is implemented.
“But if you go into a place where you want to implement land reform, do not just take it as it is. Study very carefully, the psychological, the economical, the social background sa mga taong ito (of these people),” Duterte said.
Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones earlier bared that his agency will be distributing the remaining portions of the land in Hacienda Luisita to farmer-beneficiaries in Tarlac.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of Hacienda Luisita’s 4,915-hectare agriculture lands to farmer-beneficiaries. (PNA)
DAR OFFICIALS STIRRING UP LAND REFORM BENEFICIARIES INTO VIOLENCE VS. LANDBANK FORECLOSURE
Officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) have added fire to the volatile situation in the banana industry in Davao del Norte by urging Land Reform Beneficiaries (ARB) to meet with violence officials of Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) serving foreclosures on banana farms they are currently tilling.
Attack them with bolos!, DAR Undersecretaries Marcos Risonar and David Erro told members of the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (DAMARBDEVCO) of Sto. Tomas town.
Risonar and Erro dished out the call to violence during a meeting in Tagum City on March 23 with the 1,800-member DAMARBDEVCO to discuss the cooperative’s Agribusiness Venture Agreement (AVA) with the Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI).
The meeting was held to tackle the issue of whether the AVA between DAMARDEVCO and MEPI should be continued and to explore the options for ARBs who will be displaced if the agreement is eventually revoked.
DAMARBDEVCO members said they were shocked to hear the DAR Undersecretaries telling them that they should “attack with bolos” representatives from the LandBank if the banana farms they are currently tilling are foreclosed by the government bank in the event their AVA with MEPI gets permanently revoked.
They denounced Risonar and Erro for attempting to dupe them with misleading statements and inciting them to violence.
Rolando Lusterio, one of the ARBs present during the meeting, recalled Erro, a lawyer, saying that “kapag nagpunta ang Landbank para maningil, itakin ‘nyo (if the Landbank goes to you to ask for payment, attack them with bolos).”
Dioscoro Abellano, another ARB, also recalled the indifference and utter lack of concern of the DAR officials to their plight when he asked what would happen to the more than 1,800 ARBs of MEPI and their 8,000 dependents once the AVA with the company is revoked.
“Tinanong namin sila paano na kami kapag nawalan ng trabaho. Ang sagot nila, hindi na daw nila problema yun, at doon daw kami magpunta sa DOLE para magreklamo (We asked them what would happen to us if we are rendered jobless. They responded that it’s not their problem anymore, and that we should go to the Department of Labor and Employment to complain).”
Edwin Gil, another ARB, said Erro made the statement when he and the other ARBs asked what would happen if their AVA with MEPI was revoked and they have to start paying amortization to Landbank as required under the law.
“Ang sabi ba naman sa amin, itakin daw namin ang taga-Landbank nang tanungin namin kung anong gagawin namin, wala naman kaming ibabayad (Imagine, they told us that we should attack people from Landbank with our bolos when we asked what were we to do, we do not have money to pay Landbank),” Lusterio said.
The land being tilled by the ARBs inside MEPI’s farm in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte was donated to them by the company as part of the terms of their AVA. While they were given the land for free, the ARBs also received lease rentals, above-average compensation and other benefits from MEPI that are considered among the highest in the agriculture sector.
If the AVA, which is the condition for the donation is revoked, the donation itself is revoked and the government must pay MEPI more than P1.0 Billion representing the company’s just compensation for the land it had earlier donated to the ARBs. The ARBs, in turn, would have to pay Land Bank for the land that they already owned had the AVA not been revoked.
Abellano said the DAR officials also told them that House Bill 555 will protect them and stop Landbank from collecting payment from the ARBs and having their lands foreclosed, when such a proposal has not yet been approved and has long been languishing in the Congress.
Under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and its extension, ARBs can pay for the land awarded to them for 30 years at 6 percent yearly interest.
“Ano ba talaga ang gusto ng DAR, umunlad kami o maghirap? Bakit sila nagpadala ng mga opisyal na puro kasinungalingan ang sinabi sa amin? (What does DAR really want—for us to prosper or to become poor? Why did they send officials who told us all lies?),” Abellano said.
Lusterio, Gil and Abellano said the DAR officials tried to dupe them by saying that the AVA with MEPI was already “cancelled” when the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), which is chaired by President Duterte, has not yet rendered a final decision on the motions for reconsideration that had been filed earlier by MEPI and DAMARDEVCO.
MEETING WITH DUTERTE
The DAMARBDEVCO ARBs said they could hardly argue with the two DAR officials, who introduced themselves as lawyers, even though the truth was that President Duterte even plans to attend the second round of consultations with them to discuss their AVA with MEPI.
Jun Mercado, another ARB present at the meeting, said Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella was quoted as saying recently that the President would be attending the second meeting, along with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who chairs the Landbank.
“So how is the AVA already cancelled, mag-meeting pa nga kami with President Duterte?” Mercado said.
Mercado also recalled Risonar as claiming that MEPI can no longer appeal the decision before the courts on the revocation of the AVA, which is false because it deprives the company of due process.
“They were trying to make us believe that the agreement with MEPI is already cancelled by telling us na tapos na daw ang (we already ended our) relationship [namin] with MEPI,” Lusterio said.
The militant farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) has tagged Mar Roxas as a ‘landlord protector’ and would not be endorsing the standard bearer of the administration Liberal Party in the 2016 election.
The KMP bared this stand at a farmers’ assembly held recently at the University of the Philippines (UP) organized by the Philippine Land Reform Movement (PLRM).
The stand of the KMP against the ‘anti-farmer’ Roxas becomes part of the “Peasants Electoral Agenda for 2016” adopted by the assembly.
The agenda challenged presidential candidates to address, among others, the land problem, corruption of agricultural funds and human rights abuses against farmers.
Roxas is seen as a candidate who could not contribute to the agenda and will not be considered by KMP and its affiliates around the country for “being a landlord and a protector of comprador interest,” the militant farmers group said.
Before jumping into the presidential race, Roxas was the Interior Secretary of President Benigno Aquino.
Both the Roxas and Aquino families are currently in conflict with farmers demanding distribution of vast agricultural estates covered by land reform.
The KMP said Roxas belongs to the Araneta family, which is locked in dispute with farmers over a 3,000-hectare estate in San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan. The Aquinos own the large Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac where dozens of farmers lost their lives in the fight to have the land distributed to farmer beneficiaries.
KMP said it is choosing who to endorse among presidential candidates Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, Senators Grace Poe Llamanzares and Miriam Defensor Santiago.
KMP secretary general Antonio Flores lumped Roxas with his ‘boss’ Aquino whose ‘hacendero regime’ worsened farmers’ landlessness.
Nine out of 10 farmers are landless, according to Flores, because vast haciendas and plantations remain undistributed.
He mentioned the huge landholdings that should go to the farmers as the Aquino-Cojuangco family-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Araneta Estate in Bulacan, Hacienda Dolores in Pampanga, Hacienda Looc in Batangas, Danding Cojuangco Haciendas in Negros, and hundreds of thousands of transnational corporations-controlled plantations in Mindanao.
We will challenge the presidential aspirants to address the land problem which is the root cause not only of the agrarian-related violence but of the escalating civil war in the country, said Flores.