Luisita: The promised land
Displaced farmers of Tarlac’s Hacienda Luisita remember the time they used to till the land promised by agrarian reform

TARLAC, Philippines – Displaced farmers of Tarlac’s Hacienda Luisita remember the time they used to till the land promised by agrarian reform.

Today, they live in makeshift shelters, embittered in the wake of the violent demolitions that destroyed what they once called home.
Pia Ranada reports.

Neat lines of tomato plants
Lush rice fields
36-year-old farmer Rudy Pineda used to tend to crops like these in his farm in Barangay Balete in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac.
But last February 8, guards demolished farmer homes and bulldozed their crops.
Now, he’s building a makeshift house beside the road.

RUDY PINEDA, FARMER, HACIENDA LUISITA: Malaki ang pagkakaiba nung nasa loob kami nagbubungkal hindi namin nararanasan ang ganitong kahirapan. Dahil meron kaming pananim na pwede naming anihin para sa ikabubuhay ng aming pamilya. Yung ginawa naman ng security guard sinira yung aming tirahan.
(Life was so different when we were inside our fields. We didn’t experience this kind of poverty. Because we had crops we could harvest to support our family. The security guards destroyed our homes.)

Now Rudy skirts around barbed wire fences an alien in his own land.
Pineda is one of 30 farmers displaced by February demolitions in Hacienda Luisita.

The ancestral land of the family of President Benigno Aquino it is one of the largest pieces of agricultural land being distributed by the Department of Agrarian Reform to 6,000 farmers.
Farmers like Pineda used to live on a 300 hectare portion of the land claimed by the Tarlac Development Corporation or Tadeco.
This wall was not here a month ago. It was built by Tadeco around the land they claim blocking farmers from reaching the crops they have cultivated for years.
Elevated guard posts look over the land.
Sibayan has only bitter memories of Tadeco guards.

FLORIDA SIBAYAN, CHAIRPERSON, AMBALA: Giniba din ang kubo namin sa gabi. Hindi makareklamo yung mgapamilya namin pati yung asawa ko dahil nakatutok yung baril. Parangtalagang pinulbos nila, pati yung mga itlog ng manok, talagang basag lahat.
(Our hut was also destroyed in the night. Our families and my husband could not complain because a gun was aimed at them. They really destroyed everything, even the eggs of our chickens. They broke everything.)

TADECO charged the farmers with trespassing, robbery and direct assault on guards. TADECO says the guards were merely doing their job in protecting TADECO’s land.
The demolitions come 4 months after the DAR distributed land titles to farmers willing to pay a 30-year amortization for the land.
But Sibayan calls the distribution a big sham.
She says the farmers shouldn’t have to pay for the land.

SIBAYAN: Ilang taon pa, ilang dekada na, sa dugo’t pawis namin. Naka- share nga kami. Hanggang ngayon pati 1.33 billion, pera ng magsasaka, hindi pa nabibigay. Bakit namin babayaran? 07:02 Bayad na kami.
(It’s been years, decades, we’ve spend our blood and sweat. We have a share. Until now, the P1.33 billion, money of the farmers, hasn’t been given to us. Why should we pay? We have paid.)

Only remnants of a former life can be found in the places where the farmers once lived.

PINEDA: Masakit po sa amin ang mawalan ng kabuhayan. Parang pinatay na rin ang pamilya ko sa ginawa nila.

(It’s painful for us to lose our livelihood. It’s almost as if they took my family’s life with what they did.)

Pia Ranada, Rappler, Tarlac


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