Tarlac farmers' group 'losing hope' amid Luisita unrest

Posted at 01/18/2014 12:14 AM

TARLAC -- Members of a farmers' group trooped to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila on Friday, saying they have "lost hope" with the local courts and other concerned agencies in Tarlac for the immediate resolution of alleged human rights violations at Hacienda Luisita.

Members of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), together with agrarian reform advocate Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap and AMBALA lawyer Jobert Pahilga, held a dialogue Friday afternoon with DOJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III at the DOJ compound in Padre Faura, Manila.

AMBALA said it decided to come to the DOJ because they have lost hope for the prosecution of Tarlac police officers and the private guards of the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) whom Luisita farmers are accusing of wanton destruction of their crops and properties and arrest of AMBALA members and supporters.

The DOJ has reportedly agreed to form a special panel to look into the growing number of reports of human rights violations at Hacienda Luisita.

According to AMBLAS, TADECO has aggressively been claiming ownership of more than 400 hectares of agricultural land in Luisita.

In August last year - around the same time that the DAR started announcing the imminent completion of land distribution in Hacienda Luisita - TADECO ordered the setting up of guard posts in Barangays Balete and Cutcut and issued eviction notices to a number of farmers who have long been positioned in the disputed areas.

On September 17, 2013, 11 members of a fact-finding mission including Hicap himself, were arrested and detained for three days by Tarlac police, the farmers said.

In October, around 80 farmer-residents of Brgy. Cutcut, all TADECO targets for eviction, were charged in court of unlawful detainer. More than 20 farmers in Barangay Balete are now facing the same charges.

Four days before Christmas, policemen and TADECO guards allegedly bulldozed ricefields in Brgy. Balete, destroying hectares of palay ready for harvest. They also arrested five farmers.

Undersecretary Baraan, for his part, promised that the DOJ will try its best to monitor the plight of the Luisita farmers.

The undersecretary assigned Fiscal Rodan Parrocha to the case.

"Seeking redress with the DOJ is just one way by which the farmers, given their very difficult circumstance with the powers-that-be in Tarlac, try to exhaust all legal means," said Pahilga.

"We have in fact also filed in the Supreme Court a motion to cite the DAR in contempt and to order it (the DAR) to put a stop to the illegal activities committed by Tadeco," the lawyer added.