Luisita farmers vow raps vs Aquino uncle over arrests
MANILA, Philippines – Released from detention, farmers from Hacienda Luisita accused the President's uncle of having “directly ordered” their allegedly violent arrest, and vowed to file charges against him as well as the policemen who nabbed them.
Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr, an uncle of President Benigno Aquino III, denied their claim.
The farmers' coalition Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) made this accusation Tuesday, December 24, after authorities released 5 of them from detention.
In a statement, AMBALA said the 5 farmers secured their freedom after the Tarlac City prosecutor's office “junked the false and ridiculous charges filed by the Cojuangcos to justify the violent arrest and detention.”
AMBALA said the Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) tried to sue the 5 farmers for trespassing, coercion, direct assault, and physical injuries after the “violent” confrontation on Saturday, December 21.
The group said the prosecutor sided with the farmers. AMBALA said Tarlac City Prosecutor Hermo Manglicmot ruled in a resolution that the respondents “also suffered injuries” based on medical certificates.
One of them, Vicente Sambu, “bore signs of mauling,” while another, Jose Baldeviano, “still suffers from fever due to infection.” The group added: “Others bore prominent bruises, cuts and scratches."
Cojuangco: 'I was abroad'
AMBALA said Cojuangco “is believed to have directly ordered” the newly appointed Tarlac police chief Senior Superintendent Alex Sintin to have the farmers arrested.
“Supt Sintin was seen going back and forth to consult with somebody inside a closed van parked near the site of the confrontation,” the group said.
Belying this claim, Cojuangco told Rappler in a text message, “For your information, I was out of the country when they said I ordered the police.”
He declined to provide more information on the incident “because, like I said, I was out of the country.”
AMBALA said Cojuangco and TADECO should face criminal and civil charges, while the police officers should face criminal and administrative charges.
“Their abuse of power must stop. We will file charges against the Cojuangcos, their minions in the local police force, and even the prosecution attorneys who file these trumped-up charges against farmers and their supporters to justify their illegal arrests,” AMBALA lawyer Jobert Pahilga said.
Earlier, AMBALA also blasted the Department of Agrarian Reform for allegedly keeping 200 hectares of prime agricultural land in Hacienda Luisita from being distributed to farmers. (READ: Farmers: DAR keeping prime Hacienda Luisita lots.)
Hacienda Luisita is a 6,000-plus-hectare sugar estate in Tarlac that belonged to the family of President Aquino on his mother's side. For decades, the Cojuangcos successfully dodged government efforts to place it under the agrarian reform program.
In its final decision in April 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the total distribution of Hacienda Luisita to about 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries. (READ: It's final: Hacienda Luisita goes to farmers). – Rappler.com