• Developing Hacienda Dolores

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    Katrina Stuart Santiago

    Katrina Stuart Santiago

    The thing with issues of land grabbing and farmers’ rights is that it always seems so complex, so historically bound to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program of the 80’s, and too difficult to discuss without sounding like one is against development or feudalism, take your pick. It’s entirely possible that we do not discuss these issues at length lest we be called Leftists – and you know that is such a scary thing!

    But there is nothing scarier than living in the land you inherited from your ancestors, land you’ve tilled all your life, and to now live on that same land with the guns and goons that new large-scale development brings. Such is the case of Hacienda Dolores in Porac, Pampanga.

    Rewinding on land ownership
    Hacienda Dolores only caught my attention when news of the shooting of three farmers on January 12 was posted on Facebook and other non-mainstream newspapers. Noel Tumali, Reynold Tumali, and Arman Padino were on their way to their farm when they were shot. Padino has since died, while the Tumali father and son remain in critical condition.

    The following Sunday, January 19, farmers went to the security post of LLL Holdings Inc. (LLHI) – one of the developers of the land – and a confrontation ensued. Hacienda Dolores’s Village Chairman Antonio Tolentino, along with Ener Tolentino, Ed Tolentino, Erwin Tolentino and Eddie Tolentino were jailed and charged with a variety of offenses including malicious mischief and murder.

    This is an escalation of the kind of violence that has been happening in Hacienda Dolores. In December 2013, farmer Modesto Posadas survived a shooting – an attempt on his life. Earlier that same month, a grenade was thrown into farmer Jessel Orgas’s home. In November 2013, one of the elders of Hacienda Dolores, Ruben Zalta, told the story of being threatened by 20 armed men to sign a waiver that would give up his land to developers.

    It is not clear whether anyone was jailed and charged for these cases of coercion and harassment, and attempted murder, against the farmers of Hacienda Dolores. Farmers whose claim on this land go back more than a century, in 1835, when their ancestors cleared, farmed and developed it.

    But in 2004, alongside the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), LLLHI and FL Development Coporation (FLDC) started to claim the same 700-hectare agricultural land. In 2005, the two corporations had the land titled.

    The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had issued an Exemption Order that kept Hacienda Dolores from being covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). DAR’s Exemption Order also allowed for the land to be claimed and titled under the two private corporations, regardless of the farmer community that had developed it. The barangay captain of Hacienda Dolores helped this Exemption Order along, as Hacienda Dolores was reclassified based his certification that this was idle land (talahiban) without tenants.

    Disputed land and development
    No matter where we stand with regards agrarian reform and development, it should be clear that Hacienda Dolores is disputed land. It is land that farmers have been rooted in sine 1835. It is land that was developed and made productive by the community of farmers, and in 2004 was claimed and in 2005 was titled to two large private corporations. The circumstances under which this land was given to LLLHI and FLC was highly irregular, to say the least.

    Now it might be said that the case of Hacienda Dolores is nothing new in a country where bigger corporations and families have gotten away with keeping their lands intact despite the CARP, which seeks to redistribute land to farmer-tenants. But what is distinct about the case of Hacienda Dolores is that no one family owned that land to begin with, and it would’ve been easier to award the land of the farmers. Instead it’s been given to two big developers, outsiders to the productive land, which was not at all talahiban.

    Because really, were this idle land, why would the developers have to clear it of mango, guava and coconut trees, rice land and vegetable crops? If this were land that had no tenants, why was there a need to fence off the land to bar farmers from their crops?

    My bigger question is why would Ayala Land talk about its new development in Porac— right on Hacienda Dolores – as if it is not displacing farmers and their families, a whole existing community? I always thought Ayala to be far kinder, far more compassionate, than most oligarchs in this country, and this is why this is not only a surprise to naïve old me, as it is absolutely offensive. Why be part of the task of displacing farmers and a farmer community, why be complicit in the injustice that has been happening in Hacienda Dolores?

    The beauty of Hacienda Dolores
    It is ironic that Ayala Land’s press releases about its new Porac development speak of Hacienda Dolores’s beauty and peace, when the task of building a “residential and commercial estate” has meant violence against farmers and their families, and I mean too the fact that they have been displaced, and have lost their means of livelihood since LLLHI and FLCD came into the picture.

    With Ayala now talking about developing this piece of property, what we’ve gotten are some pretty words. Their press release calls the new development Alvierra, which is in the “peaceful agricultural town of Porac,” and describes Hacienda Dolores to be a “mix of hills, valleys and plains relatively quiet” and says that “majority of the land is still undeveloped with relatively rough terrain with natural pathways along the forested areas.”

    Oh it sounds beautiful doesn’t it? Until we realize the number of farmer lives lost and the farmer community stunted in the name of Alvierra. It takes very little to see the blood spilled in the name of this Ayala development. That ground is red with blood.

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    8 Comments

    1. A lot has been said and written on this issue..newspapers around pampanga had shared their opinions but non of them said it right… it is only you who made it clear and fearless in saying the truth. You are not a poraquenos but we felt you are one of us. Few may seem to be hopeless but knowing that there are people like you who are compassionate…it pushes us to be strong and believe that it may not be so soon but eventually everything will get back to normal again in our town…Thank you so much ms. katrina.

    2. Whoever are behind these groups of LLLHI and FLCD, I don’t think its humane what they’ve done to the farmers of Hacienda Dolores. I have done something in my own little way to help out and voiced my utmost concern with my fellow town mates (Kabalen). I’ve been praying earnestly and hoping that someday soon that these issues with land grabbing, killings and threatening will be solved and that justice be served to those who were badly affected by these very unfortunate and unfair happenings at Bgy. Hacienda Dolores, Porac, Pampanga. I, on behalf of the people of Hacienda would like to please ask for your help and support that you can extend them. WOULD YOU PLEASE HELP? THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND GOD BLESS!

    3. Dolores Magsasaka on

      LLLHI and FLDC are conduits of Ayala Land in Land Grabbing. News in tabloids failed to mention that three farmers were met with bullets while on their way to their farms and one was killed. The murder is then blamed to fellow farmers. What the big corporations are saying is that the farmers attacked security post with M-14 and M-16 and the security guards retaliated. If the farmers were really the ones with these arms, then security guards should have been the ones being hurt not the farmers. They are giving media wrong reports that majority is in favor of the development of Hacienda Dolores into a Nuvali like project, but the fact is, they are harassing the people and scaring them to give up their lands. I invite everyone to go and dialogue with the farmers so we would all know the truth! They landgrabbed the farmers, intimidate and scare them, harass them in their own lands.

    4. Is this fair? Is this justifiable? Farmers were tilling the land since 1835. It was planted with fruits and vegetables and crops. How could this be CARP-exempt? You must be joking! Another Luisita in the making…..

      • These corporations (land grabbers) bring violations and fear to the peaceful community of hacienda dolores. For almost 5 years now, people of Hacienda dolores have forgotten to sleep with peace. Worse scenario is, these corporations use emotional blackmail, grave threats the people who bravefully fights their land, barred tarmers to enter their land or visit their crops, destroying their bahay-kubos (rest house) their farm land, cutting farm trees, to name a few of the inhuman doings not to mention the killings and shooting of the residence like an animal. The worst thing is, the LGU officials of the town washes their hands to any relative issue to the case. I know the feeling because my family lives in there, I can feel their fears and yet the high hopes that these dilemma of theirs will end up the soonest. This has to stopped. This has to ended soon or else, farmers might lose all their “wealth” in their land that were cultivated and patiently farm for decades. I pray they wont lose the inherited land from their ancestors. Hopefully….