• Luisita farmers clash with police

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    CLASHES erupted between Hacienda Luisita farmers and the police on Thursday morning when the former stormed the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office.

    The ruckus occured during the second anniversary of the Supreme Court (SC) decision ordering the distribution of lands of Hacienda Luisita which the farmers labelled as a hoax.

    They called for the resignation of the President and claimed the land remains undistributed despite the High Court’s ruling.

    “The President and his family have been bastardizing the SC decision for two years now. Control over the lands remains with the Cojuangcos despite the government’s payment of almost half a billion pesos,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Chairperson Rafael Mariano said.

    Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) is 70 percent owned by the Cojuangco family’s Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco).

    While most of the farmers managed to reach the DAR gate, others were blocked by members of the Quezon City Police District and DAR security guards.

    The farmers were angered when DAR officials failed to keep their promise to meet them on Thursday.

    Mariano claimed the President’s relatives were “maneuvering” to maintain control of the sugar estate through land-use conversion among others.

    Recently, Tadeco asked the Tarlac City government to reaffirm the non-agricultural classification of 358 hectares of Hacienda Luisita, allegedly to prevent the national government from acquiring it for agrarian reform.

    However, Malacanang said the President should no longer be dragged into the issue since he no longer has any interest in the corporation.

    Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda insisted that the SC’s decision to distribute the land of the Hacienda Luisita estate is being implemented by the government.

    Citing DAR reports, Lacierda said that, to date, 87.5 percent of the monumenting work has been completed.

    Around 6,024 farm lots have been monumented and about 4,716 farm worker-beneficiaries have been installed in more or less 5,500 lots or almost 76 percent of those in the master list, he said.

    He added that the DAR is confident that the remaining 860 lots will be distributed shortly and the remaining farmer beneficiaries will be installed next month, barring any further acts of harassment or obstruction.

    With Report From Catherine S. Valente

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