Farmers break Hacienda Luisita walls
TARLAC, Philippines – With their hashtag #OccupyLuisita, farmers and supporters of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and other militant organizations met at Hacienda Luisita on Monday, April 24.
Hundreds of protesters converged near a walled parcel of land allegedly belonging to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC). According to the group, the land should have been distributed 5 years ago.
The contested 348 hectare land, according to Joseph Canlas of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, should have been part of the land distributed as ruled by the supreme court. (READ: Hacienda Luisita: The struggle continues)
The property was excluded from distribution to farmers due to land conversion order granted to Hacienda Luisita Incorporated in 1996.
Rafael Mariano, secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform revoked the conversion order on February 2017. The cancellation was due to a complaint filed by farmers group AMBALA in 2012.
RCBC acquired the land from Luisita Industrial Park Corporation in November 25, 2004, as payment for a P431.7 million loan obligation. It claimed claimed the property should be exempted from the distribution plans as they were “innocent purchasers” that had nothing to do with the agrarian dispute.
Teddy Casino, former representative for Bayan Muna, said, "Iginigiit lang natin ang tunay na esensya ng tunay na reporma sa lupa, na ang lupa ay dapat na ibigay ng libre, ipamahagi ng libre doon sa tunay na nagbubungkal ng lupa at hindi sa mga panginoong may lupang nabubuhay sa pawis at dugo ng mga uring magsasaka. Yan po ang ipinaglalaban natin dito."
(We insist on the the true essence of actual land reform, that the land should be given and distributed freely to the people who till the soil, and not to the lords who live on the sweat and blood of the farmers. That's what we're fighting for here.)
The protesters destroyed around 100 meters of the wall with mallets and used a farm tractor to pull down portions of the wall.
A guard watchtower, located at the corner of the wall, was also taken down. Another fence was found within, just a meter from the damaged wall.
Casiño considered the breakage of the wall a success and promised to return sometime during the rainy season to help in the cultivation of the land.
In a statement by Danilo Ramos of UMA, "The bungkalan is lawful and morally historically justified. It is time that the farmers claim the land that is rightfully theirs."
Tarlac Provincial Police Office Director PSSupt Ritchie Medardo Posadas, said he has ordered his PNP personnel to practice "maximum tolerance" against the protesters and give them a chance to air their sentiments.
A skirmish ensued just before the wall was to be destroyed with rocks thrown by both parties but was immediately stopped by leaders.