by Ellalyn De Vera
A team of agrarian reform officials will meet with Hacienda Luisita farmer-beneficiaries next week to try to end the dispute between farmers and alleged armed men in the vast sugar estate.
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano ordered the team to meet with the farmers on December 14-15, while the mediation process between the opposing parties will start on December 19.
Mariano met with DAR Central Luzon Director Arnel Dizon and the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officers of Tarlac last December 6 at the DAR Central Office in Quezon City.
Members of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita has said drunken men fired gunshots and evicted the farmers in Barangay Mapalacsiao in Tarlac City.
Mariano ordered an investigation to enforce the status quo order he issued in his first day of office last July 1.
The order prohibits acts leading to the eviction of farmers occupying Luisita landholdings regardless as to whether or not they are holders of certificates of land ownership award.
The DAR has reported numerous conflicts between local farmers over land distribution.
In the dialogue between the farmers and the DAR Provincial Office in Tarlac City last November 29, the farmer called on Mariano to resolve the dispute.
“We need the cooperation and assistance of all the stakeholders and the police in implementing the DAR’s status quo order. The farmers there have continuously suffered despite the land reform programs of previous administrations. Our duty is to defend and assert their rights by keeping them on the lands they till,” Mariano said.