TARLAC CITY, Philippines – More than 2,000 militant farmers and their supporters trooped to Hacienda Luisita in this city Monday to help occupy a portion owned by the Cojuangco family which was not distributed despite a ruling by the Supreme Court five years ago.
Farmers and supporters from as far as Manila met at the covered court of Brgy. Balete for a brief program, after which they went to the corner wall of the disputed 384-hectare area allegedly belonging to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC).
A skirmish ensued when rocks were thrown from both sides of the protagonists, but organizers immediately called for sobriety. The militants, armed with mallets, then began destroying portions of the wall, only to find two other layers of wall inside.
According to former party-list Rep. Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna, “Ang ginagawa natin ngayon ay winawasak natin ang simbolo ng kanilang pangangamkam. Bakit ba sa ating bayan bakit pag ang mayaman ang nangangamkam ay okay lang? Pero pag mahirap ang nagkakamkam ng kinamkam ng mayayaman, sasabihin masama [We are here today to destroy the symbol of their illegal seizure of what belongs to the farmers. Why is it that when the rich illegally take what is not theirs, it’s okay. But when the poor take back what the rich wrongly took, we say that’s a crime]?”
Casino added: “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 stress here the true essence of land reform: that land must be given free to those who truly work the land and not the gods who live off the sweat and blood of farmers. That is what we’re fighting for here],” added Casino.
A watch tower by the RCBC at the corner of the wall was also taken down by militants.
The director of the Tarlac Provincial Police Office, Senior Supt. Ritchie Medardo Posadas, ordered “maximum tolerance” among PNP personnel and told them to give the militants a chance to air their sentiments.
The activity is also in line with the fifth anniversary of of the Supreme Court decision to distribute parts of Hacienda Luisita, said Joseph Canlas of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
Just reclaiming what’s ours: KMP
Video footage made available by the militant peasant-leaning organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) showed some of their followers in Barangay Balete swinging hammers and mallets at a concrete perimeter wall of Hacienda Luisita, owned by the family of former president Benigno Aquino Jr. in the so-called Occupy Luisita attempt.
Similar to the action that the home-occupying Kadamay group recently took in Pandi, Bulacan, forcing their way to unoccupied housing units meant for soldiers and policemen, the KMP group asserted that they were just claiming what was rightfully theirs as agrarian reform beneficiaries, alluding to the court’s ruling that land reform should be carried out at the sugar estate of the Cojuangco clan.
One of the leaders of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala), Rudy Corpuz, said, in Filipino: “If we are to depend on pieces of paper, we will never win. It is by this occupation that we manifest we are prepared to fight for the land.”
The Supreme Court had ruled in 2012: “The Court, by a unanimous vote, resolved to maintain its ruling that the [farm worker-beneficiaries] FWBs shall retain ownership of the homelots given to them with no obligation to pay for the value of said [4,915.75 hectares] lots.”
KMP pointed out that the case has not moved forward in all this time since 2012, and a concrete perimeter wall was even built.
The former tenants and farm workers have had to find other jobs to make a living, as those receiving a four-thousand pesos Social Security System pension can hardly get by.
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