Farmers from three prominent haciendas in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon that include farm workers from Hacienda Luisita urged President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to give up his family’s control over the 6,453 hectare sugar estate and have its distributed for free to some 10,000 farmer worker beneficiaries at the soonest possible time.   

At the same time, the farmers pressed the 50-year old bachelor president to certify the congressional approval of the controversial House Bill 374 otherwise known as Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) as the 50-year old bachelor president takes the center stage this afternoon for his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Some 2,000 striking farm workers and landless farmers from the 7,100 hectare coconut plantation Hacienda Yulo in barangay Canlubang in Calamba City and the 8,650 hectare prime agricultural estate Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas and farm workers in the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family said it is highly predictable President Aquino will evade issues surrounding Hacienda Luisita and other high profile cases involving land use conversions and landgrabbing escapades of the few landed elite in the country.   

“President Aquino is the President of Hacienda Republic. He will use his sugar coated and illusion-driven SONA to escape and evade all political inquiries and commentaries pertaining to his family’s illegal and immoral control of Hacienda Luisita”, said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos in a press statement.

“He is serving as feudal icon to other hacienda owners who have been resisting agrarian reform beneficiaries demanding land rights and social justice. It is for this reason, why Noynoy is not touching Luisita and other haciendas on his first SONA, and perhaps in his succeeding addresses in the next five years,” the KMP official added.   

Ramos further said:”Big hacienda owners are supporting Aquino’s use of state power to protect their unlawful and immoral control on the 6,453 hectare sugar plantation in Tarlac province. The hacienda oligarchs are all happy with Aquino and like the landed family of the President, they don’t want to hear any policy statement on agrarian reform that would benefit landless and land-lacking farmers in the country.”  

The KMP , the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK), the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and the Hacienda Luisita based groups United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid ng Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said Aquino’s refusal to honor and recognize the land rights of Filipino farmers would mean an open declaration of war against Filipino farmers as early as this period.

“Hacienda Luisita and bigger issues on land reform are intentionally omitted in his 1st SONA because Aquino is politically allergic to discuss Luisita and other Luisita like cases such as the 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo controversy in Barangay Canlubang and the 8,650 hectare perpetual land use conversion of prime agricultural land in Hacienda Looc,” Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin said.  

Pinpin said if Aquino really wants to address Luisita and other high profile issues involving haciendas in favor of the land reform beneficiaries through appropriate legislative action, the President could easily send marching orders to Congress to repeal the extended CARPer (CARP with reforms) law and enact GARB or HB 374.

The controversial GARB was re-filed in the first week of July by its main author—Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, a farmer himself and current KMP chair. The re-filed bill was co-authored by the progressive bloc in Congress led by Bayan Muna Reps. Teodoro Casino and Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares, Gabriela Women Party (GWP) Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmy de Jesus, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party list lawmaker Antonio Tinio and Kabataan party list Rep. Raymond Palatino.

The bill if enacted will automatically cover vast landholdings for free land distribution that includes Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Yulo, Hacienda Looc, scattered thousands of agricultural lands owned by business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, the vast tracts of plantations leased to multinational companies like Del Monte in Mindanao the  and the controversial 3,100 hectare Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

“But President Aquino is not listening to the legitimate cry and agrarian demands of Hacienda Luisita farm workers and Hacienda Yulo farmers and this is the real score at the moment. We dare him to come up with a strong presidential instruction urging congressmen from both side of the political equation to certify HB 374 as urgent and necessary, and his first SONA is the right time for this,” said AMGL chair Joseph Canlas.  

Canlas said the official response of President Aquino so far was the violent demolition of peasant camp-out in Mendiola Bridge and the dispersal of striking farmers on July 3 that led to the mass arrest of 41 farmer activists and the injury of 13 other Southern Tagalog activists.

“So far this is the concrete step taken by Aquino as far as the agrarian issues surrounding Hacienda Luisita and Hacienda Yulo are concerned and for the farmers the act is simply incorrigible and extremely reprehensible,” he said.

“The Southern Tagalog and the Central Luzon regions have become the regional laboratories for land reform reversals, land reform denials and land use conversions since the dictatorial regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos.  Hundreds of thousands of prime agricultural lands have been subjected to automatic control of big landlords and were primed for land use conversions at the expense of land reform beneficiaries and other land tillers across the region,” Canlas noted.

Citing a report filed by Ibon Foundation, the KMP said as of December 2006, DAR has cancelled at least 108,141 CLOAs and Emancipation Patents (EPs) involving 204,579 hectares.  CLOA and EP cancellations are increased by 3,790% from 1995 data of 2,780, while land area increased by 1,162% from 16, 213 hectares. Of the cancellations, majority or 87% were due to subdivision of mother-CLOAs into individual CLOAs.  It involved about 82% of the lands to 167,486 hectares.#

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