By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Three farm workers of Hacienda Luisita were arrested by policemen, February 28.
Yesterday, leaders of Alyansa ng Manggawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) were holding a dialogue with Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) officials at La Majarica Hotel in Tarlac City. A simultaneous protest action was staged by some 300 members of Ambala outside the hotel. At around 4 p.m., Renato Mendoza, Wilson Duque and Jay Parazo were arrested by the police.
The three were charged with direct assault and robbery and have been detained at the Philippine National Police Camp Macabulos in Tarlac City. Police claimed the Ambala members stole a bag of one policeman, which contains a gun and cellphone.
“We condemn the illegal arrest and detention of Mendoza, Duque and Parazo. The accusations are not true,” Florida Sibayan, Ambala vice chairwoman, said. “This incident is a manifestation of the continuing harassment of farm workers who demand free distribution of land inside Hacienda Luisita.”
The charges, Sibayan said, were fabricated to intimidate the farm workers.
Joseph Canlas, chairman of Alyansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) said the incident is part of the efforts to persecute the farm workers in Hacienda Luisita.
“In 2012, leaders and members of Ambala were slapped with trumped-up charges but they continue fighting for their right to the land,” Canlas said.
In July 2011, the Rizal Commercial and Banking Corporation (RCBC) filed grave coercion and occupation of real property charges against 23 leaders and members of Ambala. Some 184 of the 500 hectares were turned over by the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to RCBC as payment for a loan more than five years ago.
Separate charges of robbery, grave coercion and malicious mischief have also been filed by RCBC against 17 other leaders and members of Ambala.
Canlas called for the immediate release of the three Ambala members. He also called on the public to continue supporting the Hacienda Luisita farm workers.
The dialogue between PARO, HLI management and Ambala on February 28 focused on the selection of an auditing firm that would audit the proceeds of P1.3 billion ($32.4 million) to be paid by HLI management to the farm-worker beneficiaries. In its final decision, the high court ordered the HLI management to pay P1.33 billion ($32.4 million) to the farm workers for the sale of portions of Hacienda Luisita land.