PAMPANGA has been the hotbed of insurgency in Central Luzon.
Disputes over land ownership, tenancy rights, and agrarian conflicts fueled the pocket rebellions of the past and roiling today's unrest. The pages of Kapampangan agrarian history are written in blood.
Countless lives have been lost and sacrificed in three conflict areas of the including Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.
Already a gory chapter in history books is the deadly saga of the Pasudeco massacre before WWII. Sugar planters led by the now famous Timbol brothers stirred a tempest in the matter of crop sharing. When officials of the Pampanga Sugar Development Co. stalled a crisis meeting with sugar planters and refused a settlement resolution, a bloodbath ensued.
Since then Pasudeco suffered from endless labor problems and the throes of losses that periodically devastated the sugar industry. Blood-strewn Hacienda Luisita suffers the same spell of perpetual curse that continues to this day. Pasudeco, decommissioned after a series of environmental, management, and production problems, seems to carry on the curse of the past.
It is the same story of a deeply troubled farm estate called Hacienda Ramona in Porac town. Not a few lives had been sacrificed in age-old agrarian and proprietary rights disputes hallowed by the blood of peasants. They have fought- and are still in a legal brawl with the new owners of the hacienda. A curse on the land is the ghost that will haunt its developers, locators, lot buyers, local residents believed.
Alviera general manager John Estacio who met local media last week said the owners of the giant development project, are committed to find a final resolution to its conflict with the farmers.
The problems that the Ayalas and Partners are now are carry over conflicts since the inception of the estate by the US firm Warner, Barnes and Co. Then a change of ownership started a series of control and administration over the estate. Mentioned as presumptive legal owners included the Saenz, Champourcin, and the Puyat families. Their administrators waged bloody and ferocious engagement with the hacienda farmers who are in continuous and uncompromising hostility with perceived interlopers. The owners were emboldened by the belief the law was on their side and that the battle of attrition is won by those who have the resources and power with government.
The Ayalas and Partners are oblivious to the fact that the people of Barangay Dolores, seat of the hacienda, still nurture their collective sentiment and attachment to the land. Their sense of freedom is tethered to the urgency and demands of their material needs. This is the crux of the problem which the new owners take lightly, in the same way that pre-war Pasudeco and Luisita owners refused to give the commensurate shares to the militant sugar planters.
Each administrator, following a change of ownership of Hacienda Ramona in a carousel of takeover, brought his own carpetbaggers and profiteers. "Always, an inequitable and onerous landlord-tenant system, characterized by exploitation, impoverished the tenant-farmers," I was told by an elder of the Tolentino clan when I was a guest in their barrio fiesta.
He admitted the Dolores farm folk had been educated and politicized by the Department of Agrarian Reform and then agitated by first, the Huks, then the NPAs. Rebel teachings fired the farmers' awareness of the social injustice caused by the abominable wage and profit sharing system. The current differences are the unsettled compensation of the displaced families as well as justice for the slain farmers, reportedly killed upon the toleration of the new owners.
The Ayalas recognize the historical basis of the farm folk who want preferential rights to employment and income opportunities. The developers have second thoughts on the just compensation aspect for the dispossessed whose only last resort is their collective curse, the only effective and time-tested weapon against injustice and oppression.
From Manager Estacio's talk with the press, the Ayalas's aggressive corporate governance at Barangay Dolores promotes their economic interests but promise little to transform the village people as indirect heirs to a prosperous future. I hope that fair agreements between the disputants will not reduce the farmers and their descendants to mendicants, a curse their forebears had been subjected for ages.
Porac senior councilor and Pampanga councilors league president Michael Tapang assured all stakeholders of the viability and stability of the Ayalas's venture in Dolores. "It is a challenging period for them but as with past difficulties, the new owners of Hacienda Dolores will surpass this one and overcome birth pains to meet changing and difficult times."