AGRARIAN Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano vowed on Friday to go after untouchable owners of big landholdings, particularly on Negros island, and vowed “to free farmer-tenants from the grips of landlord-oligarchs.”
“DAR is out to destroy haciendas. Because of this, people might call me hacienda master,” he said at a news forum, adding that landlord-oligarchs have blocked genuine land reform since the inception of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms until it lapsed in June 2014.
He singled out the island of Negros which accounts for 9,303 hectares of the 59,148.7 hectares that remains undistributed to 16,065 farmer-beneficiaries.
“This is where you will see a big balance of undistributed lands,” he said, adding that Negros remains the “bastion of landlordism, the sugar bowl and the social volcano of inequality... since the Spanish [colonial] period.”
Among the biggest landholdings in Negros that remain untouched are the haciendas of the Araneta family, the Locsin family and the Benedicto, Consing, Gustilo, Montinola, Lopez, Jalandoni, Lacson, Yulo and Montilla clans.
“It [Negros] is the bastion of haciendas where farm workers are still enslaved by hunger and poverty, and are being threatened, shot at and massacred by goons and soldiers,” Mariano said.
DAR is now reviewing two stock distribution options in Negros island and one agribusiness venture agreement in Mindanao, he said.
“We are in the process of investigating complaints against Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. on the alleged unjust eviction of farmers to develop the area into the Negros First Ranch livestock farm,” he said.
The governor allegedly resorted to harassment and intimidation using government troops after DAR’s issuance of a decision in favor of the farmers.
Other big landlords can be found in Leyte, Isabela, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Camarines Sur, General Santos City, Region 10, Masbate, Palawan and Southern Luzon, Mariano said.
“Not all landlords are created equal. Some have really big landholdings. And they form the bastion of the landlord oligarchy,” he said.
“These landlord-oligarchs use their power, influence, and connections to deprive farmer-tenants of land that should have been distributed to them by virtue of land reform.”
When asked if several of the landlords hail from political clans, Mariano, a former Anakpawis party-list lawmaker, replied “some.”
As far as the Hacienda Luisita Inc. belonging to the family of former president Benigno Aquino III is concerned, the DAR chief promised to resolve the full installation of farmers at the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita belonging to the Cojuangco-Aquino family of former president Benigno Aquino III in Tarlac.
On April 24, 2012, with finality, the Supreme Court issued a ruling to distribute the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita to at least 5,000 beneficiaries.
“The new DAR is determined to implement genuine agrarian reform, including free land distribution or land distributed at least cost to farmers,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mariano said he wants a full accounting of the P90-billion Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth that went to DAR’s agrarian reform program-related projects.
“We will see how the money was spent,” he told Manila Standard.
The P90-billion fund came the P168-billion wealth of the Marcoses held in escrow by the Presidential Commission on Good Governance.