HLI leaders and farmers victims of both Arroyo and Aquino

“It’s plain and simple harassment of the farmers, who are the legitimate owners of the land in Hacienda Luisita,” said Karapatan today on the warrant of arrest  issued by the Tarlac Municipal Trial Court against Lito Bais, chairperson of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU). Bais, along with 22 other farmer-leaders in Hacienda Luisita were charged with ‘grave coercion’ after they occupied parts of the Hacienda Luisita which was sold by the Cojuangcos to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan, said the harassment of Bais is nothing new. “Bais was a victim of military harassment even during the time of Arroyo, under Oplan Bantay Laya. He was among the leaders frequently visited by soldiers under the command of former Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. who is now a fugitive.” 

Earlier, ULWU filed a petition in the Supreme Court to include the so-called RCBC property in the distribution of lands to the hacienda farmers. The farmer leaders believe that the warrant issued against them cannot stand because the petition is still pending resolution in the Supreme Court and the case is actually under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). 

“P-Noy and the Cojuangcos, and their allies are putting a squeeze on the farmers and continue to deny them ownership of the land that is rightfully theirs. They use all sorts of tactics, including the use of brute force and the courts, especially because the farmers in the hacienda are asserting their rights and have vowed to meet the ‘mass arrest with mass protest’,” said Hilao-Enriquez. 

The current situation in the hacienda and of the farmers, according to Hilao-Enriquez, is a “sad testimony that nothing has changed under the P-Noy administration. Landlessness continues to be the main problem of the peasantry, not only in the hacienda but all over the country. And when the people assert their rights to land, the State uses its might to suppress the people’s demands. For as long as the P-Noy government continues to serve the interests of its own landlord class, human rights violations will continue despite Aquino’s so-called ‘matuwid na daan’, ” concluded Hilao-Enriquez.