THE 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita, owned by the family of outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, would be among the first to be subjected to a “no holds barred” review, incoming secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Rafael Mariano, vowed Wednesday.
“We will immediately review the sham land reform implemented by the DAR in Hacienda Luisita,” Mariano said.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the leftist farmers group Mariano headed, said the Cojuangco family “immediately maneuvered to secure their landholdings” after Mariano was mentioned as a possible DAR secretary.
The KMP cited reports by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura on the most recent incident of violence against farmers of Hacienda Luisita that occurred on Monday, May 30, when agents of the Cojuangco-Aquino family attempted to demolish a farmer’s house in Barangay Mapalacsiao, inside Hacienda Luisita.
“We will conduct a no holds barred review and reversal of the DAR’s anti-farmer decisions, [declare] a moratorium on land-use conversion, and a stop to the cancellation of farmers’ land ownership certificates,” Mariano said.
“This review will also include the pending petition by farmers for the revocation of the land-use conversion issued by the DAR in favor of the Cojuangcos of Hacienda Luisita,” Mariano said.
Farmer tenants have complained that the Cojuangco-Aquino family has defied a Supreme Court ruling that the President’s family must distribute the lands to the farmers, and that the DAR was conniving with them.
The Court had also ordered the family to return P1.33 billion to the farmers, since this amount came from the proceeds of the sale of some 500 hectares.
The KMP said the Cojuangco-Aquinos were now securing control over the hacienda in Tarlac.
“While we welcome President-elect Duterte’s appointment of KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Filipino peasantry must not put their guard down,” KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said.
“The Filipino peasantry should continue and heighten their collective assertion of their rights to the land. Big landlords led by the Cojuangco-Aquinos are fortifying their stranglehold over vast landholdings like Hacienda Luisita,” Flores said. With Sandy Araneta