Luisita farmers ask SC: Stop 'bulldozing activities'
MANILA, Philippines – The most famous case study of the country's land reform law faces more enforcement problems.
Farmworker-beneficiaries (FWBs) of the vast Hacienda Luisita cried foul over alleged "illegal acts" done by the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO). President Benigno Aquino III belongs to the Cojuangco-Aquino clan owning TADECO. And the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law was signed by his mother, the late President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.
Farmers' group Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) petitioned on Thursday, January 16, the Supreme Court (SC) to order a stop to TADECO's "bulldozing and fencing activities" of what they claimed to be farmlands.
The FWBs sought for a legal remedy after eviction notices were issued to them by TADECO – copies of which were provided to the Court.
The lots in question are residential on paper, with titles named to TADECO.
'Land should be ours'
Petitioners, however, insist that the lands are agricultural and should be covered by the SC's final ruling in 2012 ordering land distribution to 6,000 farmer beneficiaries.
This is because the SC ruling also ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to determine whether there are other agricultural lands – apart from the 4,335.60 hectares ordered distributed – that are still appropriate for agrarian reform coverage.
Farmers were faced with ejection cases due to the alleged failure of DAR to cover all other agricultural lands of the hacienda.
In what it regarded as dilly-dallying by DAR, AMBALA said the farmworkers have "suffered considerably" due to bulldozed lands.
"Crops, some of them ripe for harvest, were destroyed by TADECO," said AMBALA.
The eviction tactics of TADECO, they told the Court, led to the destruction of the agricultural character of the land. This, they said, was tantamount to premature and illegal conversion.
"To those acts, the DAR is doing nothing. They are acting as mere by-standers. They have allowed TADECO to commit with impunity those illegal acts," it said.
TADECO is expected to submit to the Court its reply to these charges.
'DAR lied to the Court'
AMBALA also filed direct contempt charges against DAR for failing to live up to the SC ruling ordering land distribution, which was twice affirmed.
DAR, said AMBALA in the 10-page petition, lied to the Court in its response-comment to AMBALA's July 23, 2013 Motion requiring DAR to explain a 200-hectare discrepancy in the total number of land hectares under agrarian reform coverage.
AMBALA's complaint was prompted by a July 12, 2013 report that stated 4,099 hectares were covered for distribution, instead of the 4,335.60 hectares as ordered by the Court.
"On its Comment to the said Motion, the DAR through the Office of the Solicitor General, reiterated and affirmed that only 4,099 hectares will be distributed to the FWBs," said AMBALA.
AMBALA in October 2013 lambasted DAR for allegedly keeping the 200 hectares of prime agricultural land from being distributed to farmers.
DAR is in charge of implementing the country's land reform program. – Rappler.com