Farmers start tilling in disputed Hacienda Luisita

Around 200 farm-workers from the disputed Hacienda Luisita flocked at the 500-hectare fenced land by the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., ignoring the risk of legal action against them, to turn the land into a community farm. (Photo courtesy of AMGL)

MANILA—Hacienda Luisita farm-workers had taken the risk of tilling the 500-hectare land sold by the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. of the Yuchengcos, claiming that the land, since 1956, is theirs as they were the ones who toiled, from morning till dusk, just to make the HLI “alive.”

Around 200 farm worker-beneficiaries from the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) flocked to the 500 hectare-land owned by the RCBC, saying that they were only reclaiming what was truly their own. Armed with pick mattocks and other farming tools, the farmers had transformed the RCBC land into a collective farming unit.

“Years it has been idle and non-productive so we decided that these would be the best start to continue our collective farming. Our priority is to provide farm workers lands to till and these 500 hectares is suited to our “kampanyang bawi’ [land reclaiming campaign] and bungkalan [land tilling] which signifies our legal claim and assertion for our right to land. We are not afraid of legal repercussions because we have the backing of the majority of farm worker beneficiaries,” said AMBALA spokesperson and UMA (Unyong ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura) secretary general Rodel Mesa.

The lot, which is located at Barangay Balete, will serve as one of the centers of the “Land not Referendum, Distribute Hacienda Luisita and Fight for Genuine Land Reform!” campaign launched not so long ago, when the High Tribunal had decided to push for a referendum to decide the “fate” of the disputed hacienda.

Meanwhile, the farm-workers assailed the RCBC management, and even the Supreme Court, for allegedly not looking into the matters about the hacienda with open eyes.

“Doing business transaction with banks such as RCBC involving money and properties requires many documents to ensure a clean cut deal. Hacienda Luisita was in a land row between the Cojuangcos and the contesting farm worker beneficiaries for more than two decades and the bank didn’t bother to investigate what was unacceptable and now recognized by the Supreme Court as “innocent purchase“ is absurd even!” said Mesa.

“Under the agrarian law such transaction is prohibited in areas land reform program is in effect. RCBC should file a case against the Cojuangcos for deceiving them to bought land that is intended for distribution,” Mesa added.

Mesa has also some words for the President:

“We are reminding the President and his relatives… it is government fund that is running on the sugar state’s veins since 1957 when Jose Cojuangco forged agreement with the state managed GSIS that within ten years the property should be distributed to the farm workers. The Cojuangcos violated the agreement using government influence and violence. That is why we are in a position to pursue what is legal and just. Our situation is academic, Hacienda Luisita is government land, subject to land reform, distribute it to farm worker beneficiaries, period. The Cojuangco’s are truly the one’s making all these complicated.”  (