Violence erupts anew in Hacienda Luisita

ANG BAYAN
7 March 2012
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The Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) strongly condemned renewed violence at the estate. They expressed concern that the 2004 massacre where combined forces of the military, police and the hacienda's armed guards opened fire on striking farm workers.

On February 20, military and police elements and security guards of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) arbitrarily opened fire on some 300 protesting farm workers of the hacienda. The farm workers were stopping RCBC from fencing off a 184-hectare portion of the hacienda in Barangay Balite, Tarlac City that had been illegally sold by the Cojuangco-Aquino family to the bank. The next day, two truckloads of soldiers were sent to Barangay Balite to demolish a camp that had been set up by the farm workers who were collectively tilling the land at the disputed lot.

AFP forces have not pulled out of the hacienda since 2005. After the 2004 massacre, military forces were deployed to the ten barangays within the estate to continuously harass and conduct surveillance on the residents.

On February 22, more than 200 members of AMBALA and their supporters marched to the Supreme Court to demand a final decision on the distribution of the 6,435-hectare hacienda. They called on the Supreme Court to deny the Cojuangco-Aquino family-owned HLI's motion for clarification and reconsideration to stop the distribution of land to 6,296 beneficiaries on record.

It has been more than two months since the Supreme Court decided to distribute the hacienda lands and order HLI to compensate the farmers in the amount of P1.33 billion for its sale and conversion of 500 hectares currently being used for commercial purposes.

The Cojuangco-Aquinos and their representative Benigno Aquino III claim that they are ready to comply with the Supreme Court's decision but have not stopped maneuvering to delay and eventually put a stop to the land distribution.

The Cojuangco-Aquino family is opposed to the Supreme Court resolution defining "just compensation" on the basis of the land's valuation in 1989. At P40,000 per hectare, the "just compensayion" would come to P173 million for the distribution of 4,335 hectares.

But the Cojuangco-Aquino family wants to use 2006 as the base, when the land's value soared as a result of infrastructure built on the hacienda using government funds. The clam is thus demanding P9.8 billion and an additional P3.5 billion in interest. This means that the people would have to pay P580 million annually to pay off the P9.8 million, in addition to 6% interest.