Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano 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 Hacienda Luisita.
Mariano made the announcement when he visited Tarlac province to meet farm workers and beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita in the quest for land reform and social justice.
“We begin genuine agrarian reform at the belly of the beast—in Hacienda Luisita, where farmer-tenants have struggled to take the land due to them for more than a quarter of a century, ever since agrarian reform was introduced in the country,” Mariano said.
The former leader of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and three-term legislator of Anakpawis Partylist had consistently supported Hacienda Luisita farmworkers, especially during the historic People’s Strike 12 years ago.
In 2004, the Hacienda Luisita management retrenched 327 farm workers of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), including its union officers. The move incited ULWU to launch a strike and to block Gate 1 of the sugar mill. In what is now known as the “Hacienda Luisita massacre,” seven people were killed and 121 injured—32 from gunshot wounds—as a result of management’s violent dispersal of the striking ULWU workers.
Mariano said that to date, 111 farmworker beneficiaries (FWBs) had been reportedly disqualified by the previous DAR administration for refusing to sign the Application to Purchase and Farmers’ Undertaking (APFU) document.
“Refusing to sign the APFU should not be a ground for disqualifying an individual as beneficiary of land reform,” said Mariano, who stressed that disqualification based on refusal to sign the APFU has become common practice for disenfranchising farmer-beneficiaries in other land reform areas across the country.
“The DAR should never impose the threat of DQ –and even the filing of criminal charges –against farmers without thoroughly investigating their circumstances or understanding their predicament,” he said.
“Walang magsasaka na mapapalayas sa lupang kanilang binubungkal (No farmer should be evicted from the land he farms),” Mariano stressed, reiterating DAR’s new policy.
“Hacienda Luisita is in fact a special case, and we must carefully study the merits of the farmworkers’ call for free land distribution – the beneficiaries assert that they have already paid for the required amortization while they were still under the SDO. Due process must be observed before disqualification,” Mariano added.
“Farmers in Hacienda Luisita have inspired many to realize the principle ‘land to the tiller’ despite all odds,” said Mariano, referring to the Supreme Court’s (SC) order for total land distribution of Hacienda Luisita. Luisita farmers fiercely campaigned for a favorable SC ruling even after the Luisita Massacre in 2004.
Aside from monitoring the implementation of the SC order, which primarily covered Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) landholdings placed under the stock distribution option (SDO), Mariano is also bent on fulfilling the DAR’s prime mandate to cover for land reform all available agricultural areas in Hacienda Luisita.
Mariano recently junked the protest of the Cojuangco-Aquino owned Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) against land reform coverage of an additional 358 hectares in Barangays Balete and Cutcut, also in Luisita. The said TADECO areas were not included in the previous DAR’s land distribution process, which was limited to landholdings under HLI.
Mariano personally led an inspection to verify the actual merits for land reform coverage of many other landholdings in Hacienda Luisita which are still owned by various Cojuangco-Aquino affiliated firms.
Farmworkers accompanied Mariano in his ocular visit to the 500-hectare property with a petition for revocation of the 1996 conversion order pending before the DAR. The area is now controlled by RCBC, Luisita Industrial Park Corporation (LIPCO), and Luisita Land Corporation (LLC), formerly known as the Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC). Mariano also noted the presence of military detachments in land reform areas in several barangays.
DAR to press charges vs aryendadors
The DAR will definitely press charges against these ‘financiers’ or aryendadors who coerce, lure and swindle beneficiaries into this illicit scheme. “The aryendo system must stop. They must be charged for obstruction of land reform in Hacienda Luisita,” warned Mariano.
“We have received reports of wide-ranging disenfranchisement of FWBs in Luisita. Beneficiaries who were also victimized by the rampant aryendo or illicit lease-back system utilized by so-called ‘financiers’ must not be disqualified from land reform. They are victims of scheming opportunists who wish to subvert land reform in Luisita,” said Mariano.
“We salute the determination and courage of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers. We must continue to work together to make genuine agrarian reform a reality,” he said.