Twelve years after the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, agrarian reform chief Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano remains determined to implement the 2012 Supreme Court (SC) ruling that ordered the Cojuangco clan to distribute the 4,335-hectare hacienda, along with a P1.3-billion payout, to 6,212 farmer beneficiaries.
Seven people were killed along with dozens injured and 112 arrested when farmers on strike were brutally dispersed in the hacienda on November 16, 2004. Countless others have died over the years as the farmers continued their fight for genuine land reform.
In the face of a four-year-old SC order and two agrarian reform laws since 1989, the Cojuangco clan continued to have a firm control over the expansive Tarlac estate.
The farmworkers’ strike over a decade ago was at the height of protest actions against the ploy of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to keep its workers’ wages to a low of P9.50 weekly. Over the years, state forces and goons have demolished homes and destroyed crops in order to evict long-time tillers of the disputed area.
Despite efforts of the HLI to delay implementation of the High Court’s decision, however, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) expects to push forward with the audit of the P1.3-billion worth of proceeds from previous deals made by the HLI.
The DAR has coordinated with three auditing firms and has threatened legal action against the HLI should the corporation plan to purposely delay the proceedings again.
Delaying tactics and corporate maneuvering of the Cojuanco clan have prolonged the suffering of HLI workers, according to Mariano.
Last October, the DAR chief announced that he would not allow the disqualification of farmworker-beneficiaries rendered under the "tambiolo system," pending a complete review and investigation of land reform implementation in the hacienda.
Instead of a free and unconditional distribution of land titles to more than 6,000 farmworkers, the previous DAR administration raffled farming lots by randomly assigning the parcels of land to each beneficiary.
“The narrative of the Hacienda Luisita has been one of pain and struggle for decades. We shall end it now,” Mariano declared.
Photo: Relatives of the seven farmers killed in the Hacienda Luisita Massacre gathered at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac to pay tribute to their fallen loved ones during the commemoration of the 12th year anniversary of the massacre, November 16.