AGRARIAN Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano on Friday called on the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to stop harassing farmer-beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
In a one-page memorandum, Mariano directed the Department of Agrarian Reform’s Region 3 director and provincial officer in Tarlac to ensure the safety of the affected farmers of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), and block any personnel of HLI belonging to the Cojuangco-Aquino clan from entering the CARP-covered farmlots in Barangay Mapalacsiao and other Hacienda Luisita villages to evict them and to destroy their crops.
“It has come to the attention of this office that certain persons have entered portions of landholdings which are presently the subject of G.R. No. 17110 (HLI vs. PARC, et al.). Regardless as to whether or not such persons anchored their claims on the basis of certificates of land ownership award, it is imperative to maintain the status quo that no person should directly or indirectly dispossess or abet the dispossessment of farmers presently occupying the land or the destruction of any crops, thereon until such time that a proper determination has been made by the Supreme Court or DAR in this case as to the rights of the parties,” the memorandum read.
“Therefore, you are hereby directed to advise/inform all parties to refrain from committing acts that will render moot and academic whatever Decision the Supreme Court and/or DAR may take on the pending incidents.”
After yesterday’s afternoon dialogue with 146 Ambala members, Mariano immediately tasked a team to coordinate with the local police and the military to ease tension in Mapalacsiao.
He also vowed to help the farmers file the appropriate charges against the perpetrators.
Florida Sibayan, Ambala chairperson, said on July 1, the day Mariano was installed into office as DAR chief, personnel of HLI and the Tarlac Development Corp., destroyed and flattened over 20 hectares of palay and vegetables in Barangay Mapalacsiao “right in front” of Tarlac police officers.
Sibayan, along with Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura secretarygeneral Danilo Ramos, claimed that former President Benigno Aquino III and ex-DAR secretary Virgilio de los Reyes were behind the harassment.
Ramos said former agrarian reform officials must also be held liable.
Justin Vincent La Chica, former chief of staff of De los Reyes, in a May 18 memorandum, told the provincial agrarian reform officer not to wait for the pending agrarian dispute case in the area for the installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries in barangay Mapalacsiao.
La Chica said the disputed land cultivated by Leoncio Suarez, Gerry Catalan and others since 2004, should be given to the tillers, and not to agrarian reform beneficiaries linked to the Cojuangco-Aquino clan.
Sibayan, for her part, urged Mariano to nullify the distribution of the Hacienda Luisita landholdings through lottery, and to revoke the 1996 conversion order issued by DAR on 500 hectares of HLI property eventually ceded to RCBC, CHI, LIPCO and LRC.
She also called on DAR to ensure that conduct of the Supreme Court-mandated audit of the P1.33 billion share of farmworkers from the sale of HLI land assets.
On April 24, 2102, voting 14-0, the Supreme Court ordered the total distribution of Hacienda Luisita to about 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries.