Luisita farmers file criminal complaints vs members of Cojuangco-Aquino clan

BRANDING the distribution of the 4,915-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac as a sham, various farmers’ groups on Friday filed 41 criminal complaints before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against some members of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan for alleged atrocities committed against supposed farmer-beneficiaries.

Charged were President Aquino’s uncle Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., sister Maria Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz and other board members of the Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco), former Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres, the National Police commander in Tarlac, Senior Supt. Alex Sintin and former Tarlac City police chief Supt. Bayani Razalan.

Among the complainants were farmer-beneficiaries belonging to Alyansa ng mga Mangagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala), lawyers from the Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo, National Union of People’s Lawyers, Public Interest Law Center  and the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center.

The farmers accused the Aquino-Cojuangco clan members of attempted murder, arson, child abuse, physical injuries, illegal arrest and arbitrary detention, theft, robbery and malicious mischief.

The complainants disclosed that they held a dialogue with Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan in January and the latter promised to  create a special panel to look into their claims of atrocities happening in Hacienda Luisita.

But they lamented that until now the DOJ has yet to fulfill its promise.

“With the local courts in Tarlac City, harassment suits lodged by the Cojuangcos are piling up against us farmers. Meanwhile, we still wait in vain for the DOJ to act out on legitimate complaints,” Ambala Chairman Florida Sibayan said.

Siyaban also dared the DOJ to investigate Torres, a known ally of Aquino, who is reportedly leasing lands from some beneficiaries who have received copies of titles to lots in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, but have yet to be cleared by the  Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

The report has triggered speculations that the Aquino-Cojuangco clan has employed a scheme to retain control of the vast property.

Sibayan also challenged the Senate, particularly Senators Antonio Trillanes, Alan Peter Cayetano and Aquilino Pimentel III, to also investigate the “crimes” committed against Hacienda Luisita farmers.

She said the said senators should conduct the investigation with the same level of passion shown in the investigation of the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay.

“Hacienda Binay and Hacienda Purisima pale in comparison with Hacienda Luisita—not only with regard to the land area but with gravity and obscenity by which the first family commits scandalous crimes against the farmers and the public,” Sibayan said.

The complainants recounted that Tadeco ordered the bulldozing of crops, demolition of huts, mauling and illegal arrests even when they were reeling  from  effects of Typhoon Santi and even during Christmas season in 2013.

They further claimed that another bulldozing of crops and burning of  homes happened during President Aquino’s birthday on February 8, which was followed by the alleged mauling and attempted killing of farmers and leaders of the Ambala by unidentified men in March.

“The public must be made aware that the worst atrocities are being committed by no less than the presidential family against hapless farmers despite—or as cruel retribution for—the Supreme Court ruling for total land distribution in Hacienda Luisita. They must be made to answer for those atrocities,” the complainants said.

It can be recalled that the Court, in a final ruling in 2011, ordered the distribution of the 4,915-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac to its 6,296 farmers.

The estate is owned by the family and relatives of  President  Aquino and managed by Hacienda Luisita Inc.

In exchange, the  farmers were ordered to pay just compensation to the Hacienda Luisita owners based on the 1989 land valuation.

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