Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) chairperson Florida “Ka Pong” Sibayan was arrested by the Tarlac Philippine National Police (PNP) while leading a protest action in Hacienda Luisita today.
In a media alert, AMBALA said Sibayan was “snatched by the police” as the group was issuing an “eviction notice” against the Rizal Commercial and Banking Corporation occupying 500 hectares in the sugar estate.
“Tension is high between [the] farmers and the RCBC security and PNP forces as farmers assert entry to the 500 [hectares] land parcel in Barangay Balete,” the alert said.
“Cops and RCBC security started to throw Rocks. Some Luisita [farmers’] supporters got injured. AMBALA chair Florida Sibayan snatched by police,” it added.
Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women said Sibayan was “abducted” by a man in civilian clothes.
“The commotion started when the police force threw rocks at the protesters. Protesters threw back stones while the police hit the protesters with truncheons,” Amihan said.
A day before the 13th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, hundreds farmers and their supporters again tried to dismantle the walls surrounding the disputed property.
Seven striking farm workers were killed while scores were injured in the massacre.
AMBALA said they served the “eviction order as the new Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) leadership is preparing the reverse revocation order issued by its former secretary Rafael Mariano on February 23, 2017 nullifying the land conversion deal between RCBC and the Cojuangco-Aquino family.
The new DAR leadership will conduct a two-day National Stakeholders Forum on Land Use Conversion at a hotel in Quezon City, ironically starting on anniversary of the massacre.
The forum reportedly aims to “harmonize and hasten the processes, procedures, guidelines, documentary requirements, and timelines of different agencies, with respect to the issuances of clearances which are required by DAR to properly treat an application for land use conversion or exemption from agrarian reform coverage.”
“This involves 384.12 hectares of land in the RCBC compound that was never converted to non-agricultural use for a period of more than 5 years when the previous DAR agreed to its conversion into industrial and commercial use,” AMBALA said.
Amihan said it strongly condemns Sibayan’s arrest.
“[We] strongly condemn the abduction of Hacienda Luisita leader Florida Sibayan by the PNP Tarlac headed by Major Razalan while the farmers were breaking the walls built by the RCBC,” Amihan said.
Hundreds of supporters have massed up at the gates of Camp General F. Macabulos, the Tarlac Provincial Police Office, to demand for Sibayan’s release. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)