Farmers-beneficiaries of Arroyo haciendas chided the plan of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to revoke the stock distribution option (SDO) of the 5,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac if investigations show that the Cojuangcos had violated provisions for that option.
Though scrapping the SDO was right, the timing was suspect as the announcement came a few weeks after former president Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino withdrew her support to the beleaguered Macapagal-Arroyo presidency. ï¿½What was the motivation behind the plan to scrap the SDO? Is it because of the short-changed farmers? Or is it because Cory stepped on Gloriaï¿½s feet already aching from ouster calls?ï¿½ asked 55-year old Jose Rodito Angeles, head of the Alyansa Sang Mangunguma sa Dutang Arroyo (ASM-DA), a local organization of the national peasant federation task Force Mapalad composed of farm workers of Arroyo lands in the said province.
ï¿½GMAï¿½s solution to agrarian woes reeks of hypocrisy. The plan to scrap the SDO appears to be more of a retaliation than a commitment to defend the rights of exploited farmers. Suddenly, GMA and her administration open their eyes on the agrarian problems besetting Hacienda Luisita but selectively blind themselves on agrarian problems plaguing several
Arroyo haciendas in Negros Occidental,ï¿½ said Angeles.
ï¿½It isnï¿½t only Cory who had evaded the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Gloria does it too as she tolerates the ploys of her family in evading CARP. This despite the fact that four years ago, she promised to distribute all Arroyo farm lands to tillers to set leadership by example,ï¿½ said Angeles, a farm worker of the 197-hectare Hacienda Grande in
Brgy. Robles, La Castellana, owned by Antonio Arroyo, uncle of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.
Based on TFMï¿½s research, there are at least four Arroyo landholdings in Negros that have yet been distributed to farmer-beneficiaries (FBs) mainly due to evasion of the CARP by the Arroyo family. These are:
Hacienda Grande. This which was chopped into 40 titles of five hectares each and named to 27 companies, seven individuals, a foundation and a homeownerï¿½s association to evade its acquisition under the CARP. Though the sugar land had been subdivided to various owners, it was leased to Antonio Trebol since 1994 violating section 6 of Republic Act 6657 which prohibits the lease of agricultural lands upon the effectivity of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law or on June 15, 1988.
the 97-hectare Hacienda Bacan in Brgy. Guintubhan, Isabela owned by Mike and Rep. Ignacio ï¿½Iggyï¿½ Arroyo earlier placed under compulsory acquisition (CA). The distribution to FBs of the hacienda was stalled because the Department of Land Reform tolerated the landownersï¿½ delaying tactics. Based on DLR data, the estate was sold to Mike Arroyo by Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corp. whose president was Iggy Arroyo. Mike voluntarily offered to sell (VOS) the land for CARP.
However, more than a year after Mike made his intention to place the land under VOS, he has yet signed a new VOS application form. This, however does not prevent the DLR from fast tracking the distribution of the land to the FBs based on DAR Memorandum Circular No. 2 series of 2001 which states that CARP should proceed under CA should the former
landowner fail to comply with VOS requirements within 15 days.
And even if there was change in ownership, as the hacienda was sold by Rivulet to Mike, the DLR could still proceed with its coverage based on Memorandum Circular no. 18 series of 2004 which states that even if there is change in ownership, the department could complete coverage by issuing notice of coverage (NOC) to old and new owners.
Portions of the 118-hectare Hacienda Olimbo in Brgy Calapi, Hinigaran owned by Mikeï¿½s uncle Pedro Arroyo. Some 48 has. of the land are still without certificates of landownership award. This remaining area for CARP was allegedly a subject of illegal subdivisions titled to new owners such as the Geronimos, Aranetas and Montenegros whom are relatives of the Arroyos.
89-hectare Hacienda Alipion in Brgy. Lalagsan, La Castellana, also owned by Antonio Arroyo which has not yet been issued NOC by the DLR.
Angeles said that in her recent photos, President Arroyo was often seen in deep prayers. ï¿½Praying is an inner activity. May she be enlightened to the fact that change has to start from within because it was also where the crisis in her government started,ï¿½ he added.
So while correcting Coryï¿½s faults, Angeles said that GMA must also learn how to clean her own backyard by swiftly distributing Arroyo lands and big private agricultural lands to farmers. ï¿½Her credibility has already collapsed. If she wonï¿½t act now to defend the farmers, what she would only hasten is her departure from Malacaï¿½ang,ï¿½ he concluded.
Nanay Mameng Remembered
Meanwhile, the Task Force Mapalad farmers commemorated the death anniversary of Teresa Mameng, a 60 year-old holder of certificate of landownership award (CLOA) of the 132-hectare Hacienda Conchita Villanueva in Brgy. Sag-Ang, La Castellana, Negros Occidental, who was slain exactly a year ago by the goons and security guards of former landowner Mario Villanueva.
ï¿½You will always be remembered and will always be an inspiration in our struggle for genuine agrarian reform.ï¿½ This, in essence, were the words uttered by the Mameng family as they lay wreath of flowers on the grave of their beloved Teresa Mameng early this
morning at La Castellana public cemetery.
ï¿½The wheels of justice roll so slow for my mother and for all of the poor farmers who suffered injustice from defiant landlords. Justice is only for the influential landlords. At their command, they could have an innocent farmer imprisoned, a blameless peasant woman killed ï¿½ just like what they did to my father and mother,ï¿½ said 36-year old Jimmy S. Mameng, son of Teresa, also a CLOA holder of the hacienda and a community organizer of the national peasant federation Task Force Mapalad (TFM).
Jimmyï¿½s father, 62-year old Manuel was imprisoned for six years starting in 1996 after he was charged by Villanueva of burning eight hectares of the hacienda. ï¿½The police immediately apprehended my father. There was not even a subpoena in his arrest. As if this were not enough, after eight years, they mercilessly killed my mother.
Whole family victimized Even Jimmy was victimized by Villanuevaï¿½s goons and security guards in 2002. A high caliber-bullet punched a hole in his stomach leaving him crippled for almost a year. Meanwhile, Manuel has almost lost his mind over the ill-fate suffered by his family.
ï¿½My mother is gone. My father often loses his sanity. He often cries in pain when he remembers how he lost his wife and how our family lives in constant grief,ï¿½ said Jimmy.
Juanito Suriaga, the farm encargado alleged to be the one who instructed the security guards to shoot Teresa and the houses of farmer-beneficiaries on the night of Sept. 3, 2004 is currently out on bail. Villanueva is reportedly in the United States.
Violence escalated in GMAï¿½s term
Agrarian-related violence in Negros Occidental did not end after Teresaï¿½s murder. Two more deaths of TFM farmers followed. Winifredo Matahum, 31, was shot to death on January 15, 2005 by security guards of landlord Oscar Anglo Jr. at the 188-hectare Hacienda
San Martin in Brgy. Hacienda Fe, Escalante City. Delia De Castro, 52, was killed on May 13, 2005 in front of her home in Sitio Wason, Brgy. Batobato, San Isidro, Davao Oriental. De Castroï¿½s death is believed to be related to her groupï¿½s claims to the 23-hectare Catada Estate amidst the former landownerï¿½s ploys to evade the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Agrarian-related violence in TFM haciendas worsened during the Arroyo administration. ï¿½There were more deaths, more land-related harassment in her term than in the previous administrations. Blood of farmers had to spill on the lands they themselves nurtured. GMA has failed to quell violence in Negros haciendas. Under her term, farmers were struck with the reality that the government has practically disengaged itself from its responsibility of protecting poor farmers,ï¿½ said Jose Rodito Angeles, TFM president.