4K Luisita farmers duped by local politicians, DAR validation reveals

news national 2 pix 1 april 25 2017Lots awarded to around 4,000 farmers of Hacienda Luisita have been leased or bought by local politicians or aryendadors within the past three years since the distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to farmworker-beneficiaries, data from the department show.

A total of 5,031 of all the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) validated in 10 barangays have been interviewed during the conduct of the three-week validation of the controversial Tarlac estate. Almost 4,000 or 83 percent of the ARBs were found out to be not in possession of their awarded lands.

Luisita Task Force Chairman and Undersecretary for Field Operations Marcos Risonar Jr. ordered an additional week from April 3 to 7 to have a concrete and conclusive picture of the actual state of ARBs in the hacienda. Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs Elmer Distor joined the team on the extended period to fast track the completion of the validation.

Based on the results of the field interviews and verifications, around 2,800 farmers have leased, mortgaged or rented out their lands while 600 have sold their lots to third-party buyers. In addition, almost 200 have been engaged in joint venture agreements.

DAR officials and employees conducted the investigation on the 6,212 ARBs of the sugar plantation from March 6 to 24 as per the directives of agrarian reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano. “We wanted to assess the condition of the awarded lands in Hacienda Luisita, the whereabouts of their awarded lands and in order to determine potential areas for acquisition and distribution by the department,” Mariano said.

According to the executive report submitted by the validation team, investors in Luisita including influential personalities and politicians were mentioned by ARBs as financiers or aryendadors of the awarded lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Most of the interviewees mentioned illness in the family and lack of funds to support the agricultural production as reasons for the conveyance of the land. They were not aware of the Rights and Obligations of CLOA holders most importantly the ten-year prohibitory period for the leasing and selling of the awarded lots.

Barangays Mabilog, Pando and Motrico, with 2,000 farmers, have the biggest percentage of ARBs who rented out their lots. Majority of the beneficiaries in Barangay Pando admitted that their awarded lands were leased for seven thousand pesos yearly to a prominent political clan in Tarlac province. While Brgys. Cutcut ll and Mapalacsiao have the biggest number of lots sold, data showed.

Noticeably, 117 out of 236 ARBs in Barangay Bantog are found actual cultivators engaged in vegetables, rice and corn production.

“DAR recognizes the sacrifices and efforts of the farmers who remained in possession of their awarded lands. This is also to honor and give justice  to the families of victims of Hacienda Luisita massacre as the Cojuangco Aquino continue to maneuver to circumvent the SC decision.

“We enjoin those who were forced to rent out or sell their lots to hold ground in their awarded farms because the exacerbation of the aryendo system in Luisita is a deliberate obstruction of the delivery of agrarian reform,” Mariano said.

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