“The long and arduous struggle and sacrifices of Hacienda Luisita farmers for the land are slowly being repaid. The CLOA distribution to Luisita farmers is just the start.”
By CERES BUSY
HACIENDA LUISITA, Tarlac — The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) chose this day to grant Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to some 111 farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita in barangay Balete, Tarlac City.
“This is to show Luisita farmers that they are much-valued and their life-long efforts to fight for the land is now requited,” Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said as he led DAR national and regional officials in the distribution of land titles.
For almost four years, the latest recipients of land titles have been continuously pushed out of their farm lots after being disqualified by the previous DAR administration for refusing to sign the Application to Purchase and Farmers’ Undertaking (APFU). The APFU “manifests the willingness of the farmer-beneficiaries to abide by their obligation under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which is to (a) cultivate the farm lots allotted to them, (b) pay the amortization based on the lands’ assessed value as well as the real estate taxes, and (c) desist from committing prohibited acts.”
Mariano said the APFU should not be a ground for disqualifying an individual as a beneficiary of land reform. Early this month, DAR issued Administrative Order (AO) 1, suspending the guidelines that require farmworker-beneficiaries to sign the said document.
The move is part of the DAR’s calibrated actions to reverse the historical injustices committed by the former DAR, in collusion with the Cojuangco-Aquino family, to evade actual land distribution to farmers and to circumvent the 2012 Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of all agricultural lands in the 6,296-hectare sugar estate.
“This is a historic day for all of us. We remember all the martyrs of Hacienda Luisita who died and made the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle for land reform. We are all part of the life and death struggle in Hacienda Luisita,” Mariano declared before almost a thousand Luisita farmers who attended the ceremony.
Under Mariano’s helm at DAR, the land distribution process in Luisita underwent several stages and was almost stalled due to many circuitous problems and division among farmer-beneficiaries that stemmed from the Cojuangco-Aquino instigated ‘tambiolo raffle.’
“The long and arduous struggle and sacrifices of Hacienda Luisita farmers for the land are slowly being repaid. The CLOA distribution to Luisita farmers is just the start. To be able to realize and preserve our initial victories, the achievement of genuine land reform is imperative,” Rene Mendoza of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said.
Each of the 111 farmworker-beneficiaries will receive 6,600 square meters of allocated land located in Asturias, Bantog, Cut-cut, Mabilog, Mapalacsiao, Motrico, Pando and Parang villages according to Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer (PARPO) Ileona Pangilinan.
Mariano has encouraged the farmworker-beneficiaries who received individual titles to start collective farms that could eventually be developed into farm cooperatives and farm collectives. He added that farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries’ organizations in Luisita should organize further to achieve self-reliance through support services from the government.
The former chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reminded the Luisita farmers that strengthening and consolidating their organization is key in advancing genuine land reform.
Distribute more lands and support services
Mendoza said that aside from the distributed lands, Luisita farmworker-beneficiaries are also in need of state-sponsored support services and assistance to ensure the continuous cultivation of the lands.
Among the production support the farmworkers need include seedlings, farm equipment and machineries like tractors, driers, threshers and free irrigation services.
Mendoza said they plan to expand the farm lots planted with rice, corn and vegetables in the vast sugar lands.
The farmer-leader said they also need suitable technical skills to improve and develop their capacity for a more advanced and systematic agricultural production. “We are also looking forward to rural industrialization,” Mendoza said.
In response, Agrarian Reform Undersecretary for Support Services Rose Bistoyong said every barangay in Luisita will receive 120 horse-power and 35 horse-power tractors for the use of farmers in their collective farms.
PARO Pangilinan led the ceremonial turnover of seedlings to the farmer-beneficiaries. The seeds, valued at P300,000 ($6,000), were donated by the local unit of the Department of Agriculture.
Among the other demands raised by Ambala include the audit of the P1.3-billion ($26 million) proceeds of land illegally sold by the Hacienda Luisita Inc. to Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco).
Ambala said that Luisita farmworker-beneficiaries who received lot allocations in the deceptive ‘tambiolo raffle’ were either forced or coerced to engage in aryendo system, a form of lease-back arrangement with local investors due to lack of capital and government support for agricultural production.
Reports indicate that number of farmers belonging to the 111 CLOA recipients have been disenfranchised by the rampant arriendo system by “opportunists” in the hacienda.
In his visit to the land estate last year, the agrarian reform chief announced that DAR will definitely press charges against the ‘aryendadors’ who coerce, lure and swindle beneficiaries into this deceptive scheme.
Enact Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill
Meanwhile, Joseph Canlas, KMP chairperson, reiterated the need for a new land reform program. “Previous administrations have failed miserably to solve the land problem. Eleven agrarian reform programs did not realize genuine land reform. A truly redistributive agrarian reform is necessary and that is what House Bill 555 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) is all about.”
Florida Sibayan, Ambala chairperson, said they will continue to press for the accountability of the Cojuangco-Aquinos in Hacienda Luisita, the withdrawal of military troops and goons from Luisita villages and justice for all those who martyred for the cause of Hacienda Luisita farmers.