‘4K Luisita farmers got conned’

AT LEAST 4,000 farmers from Hacienda Luisita Inc. in Tarlac were “duped” by local politicians and other influential personalities within the past three years since the distribution of the certificates of land ownership award by the Department of Agrarian Reform, the agency said Tuesday.

The department said the lots awarded to 4,000 farmer-beneficiaries at the Hacienda Luisita had been leased or bought by local politicians or the aryendadors within the past three years since its distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership Awards to the farmworker-beneficiaries.

Close to 4,000 or 83 percent of the agrarian reform beneficiaries were found to be not in possession of their awarded lands.

Undersecretary for Field Operations Marcos Risonar Jr., Hacienda Luisita task force chairman, spearheaded the three-week validation at the controversial Tarlac estate’s 10 barangays “to have a concrete and conclusive picture of the actual state of agrarian reform beneficiaries in the hacienda.”

Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs Elmer Distor joined the team on the extended period of validation to speed up its completion.

“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 the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre as the Cojuangco-Aquinos continued to maneuver to circumvent the Supreme Court decision,” Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said.

“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.”

Based on the results of the field interviews and verifications, about 2,800 farmers had leased, mortgaged or rented out their lands, while 600 had sold their lots to third-party buyers. 

Moreover, almost 200 had been engaged in joint venture agreements.

DAR officials and employees conducted the investigation on the 6,212 farmer-beneficiaries of the sugar plantation from March 6 to 24 on the directives of Mariano. 

“We wanted to assess the condition of the awarded lands in Hacienda Luisita, the whereabouts of their awarded lands in order to determine potential areas for acquisition and distribution by the department,” the agrarian reform chief said.

Based on the executive report submitted by the validation team, investors in Luisita, including influential personalities and politicians, were mentioned by the farmers as their financiers or aryendadors of the awarded lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Illness  in the family and lack of funds to support agricultural production had been the most common reasons for the conveyance of the land, Mariano said, adding most of them were not aware of the rights and obligations of CLOa holders, most importantly the 10-year prohibitory period for the leasing and selling of the awarded lots.

With 2,000 farmworkers, barangays Mabilog, Pando and Motrico have the biggest percentage of beneficiaries who rented out their lots. 

Majority of the beneficiaries in Barangay Pando admitted their awarded lands were leased for only P7,000 a year to a prominent political clan in Tarlac, while barangays Cutcut ll and Mapalacsiao had the biggest number of lots sold.

Noticeably, 117 out of 236 beneficiaries in Barangay Bantog were found to be actual cultivators engaged in vegetables, rice and corn production.

On April 24, 2102, voting 14-0, the Supreme Court ordered the total distribution of Hacienda Luisita owned by the clan of former President Benigno Aquino III to about 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries. 

Topics: Luisita farmers
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