Monday, April 26, 2010

Left torn between Aquino and Villar

by Christine Herrera

Original Story:

Militant and moderate farmers’ groups have cast their lot with either the Liberal Party’s Senator Benigno Simeon Aquino III or his closest rival Senator Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party.

But Aquino’s 300,000 supporters pale in comparison with the two million farmers belonging to the militant Anakpawis and Bayan Muna that are actively campaigning against Aquino and quietly supporting Villar.

The militant farmers have mounted Lakbayan a 30-vehicle caravan from Central Luzon to the Department of Agrarian Reform main office in Quezon City to denounce the alleged oppression in the 4,972-hectare Hacienda Luisita owned by the Aquino and Cojuangco clan.

The anti-Aquino farmers started the caravan last April 19 and farmer-leaders yesterday held a dialogue with agrarian officials to press them to enforce the 2005 order of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council to distribute the lands in Hacienda Luisita to some 5,000 farmer-beneficiaries.

The farmer-leaders were told by the DAR officials that their hands are tied since the Aquinos and Cojuangcos stopped them from doing so after the influential family sought a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court in 2005.

The Luisita farmers dared Aquino to lift the TRO if he was indeed sincere” in his promise to distribute the lands.

While the militant farmers were picketing the DAR, the Aquino camp issued a statement saying that “despite an intense black propaganda campaign against them, farmers’ groups and agrarian reform advocates representing more than 300,000 farmers nationwide formally endorsed Aquino and Roxas as their choice to become the next President and Vice-President of the Philippines.

“The endorsement by the 47 groups followed the endorsement of the LP tandem by the farmer-beneficiaries of agrarian reform in the controversial Sumilao estate in Bukidnon province that marshaled public attention on their cause by marching from their land in Bukidnon to highlight the pestering issue of agrarian reform in the Philippines,” the LP statement said.

These farmers said they “trust” Aquino that he would keep his promise to distribute lands to the landless, including the Hacienda Luisita lands, and enforce the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in five years.

The 47 farmer-groups belong to the moderate Akbayan, whose representative in Congress, Risa Hontiveros is one of LP’s senatorial candidates.

Not to be outdone, the militant Anakpawis and Bayan Muna intensified their campaign against Aquino and pressed DAR to prod the Supreme Court to lift the Aquino-Cojuangco-sought TRO since their plea to have the restraining order lifted “fell on deaf ears.”

While the farmers have openly denounced Aquino as “not fit for President,” they were also quiet and not openly endorsing Villar although two of their leaders in Congress, Bayan Muna Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza are in the senatorial slate of NP.

Ocampo and Maza are said to have promised Villar “three million command votes” nationwide.

Apart from the two million farmers, the militant lawmakers claim to have a membership of one million more from multisectorial groups such as women, youth, urban poor and workers, among others.

Lito Bais, president of the United Luisita Workers’ Union, said the 300 farmers who joined the caravan would picket the SC today to press the high court to lift the TRO.

Bais said their trust rating on Aquino was way below zero because he has not lifted a finger to give justice to the seven farmers who were killed during a picket on Nov. 15, 2004.

Bais said Aquino was trying to mislead the farmers and the public in saying the Aquinos and Cojuangcos have already agreed to his plan to distribute the lands.

Original Story:

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