When a shower of gunfire rang across the vast Hacienda Luisita on November 16, 2004, blood spilled over the Cojuangco-owned sugar estate. Five years later, the culprits remain on the loose, ready to execute another killing spree.
The massacre in Luisita, which claimed the lives of seven striking agricultural workers, was a nightmare bound to happen with the sugar plantation heavily guarded with military and paramilitary forces. In fact, a few kilometers from Luisita is the Philippine Army’s Camp Aquino, which served as guardhouse of the Northern Luzon command, according to an article published by Bulatlat. Apparently, Luisita agri-workers, who are fighting against ridiculously low wages and union busting, have been held at gunpoint by the Cojuangcos since the start.
Luisita agri-workers did not give in despite the intensifying militarization. On Nov. 6, 2004, the 5,000-strong United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU, the sugarcane workers’ union) launched a strike at 11 a.m. over the illegal dismissal of its 326 members. The Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU, the sugar mill workers; union) also declared a strike at 3 p.m. on the same day after the sugar mill’s management turned down the P150-wage hike a proposal by the workers who take home only P9.50 a day, putting the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) into a deadlock. The simultaneous strikes “halted operations of the Hacienda Luisita Inc., the sugar plantation, and Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the hacienda’s sugar,” according to a Bulatlat article.
The strikers knew that at the root of their woes is the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme being implemented by the Cojuangcos. Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law signed by former Pres. Corazon “Cory” Aquino, who belongs to the family controlling the estate, tenants will be given stocks instead of getting what is due to them: land for the tillers and higher wages for farmworkers. With such understanding of how President Aquino used the law to keep Luisita immune to agrarian reform, the strikers from CATLU and ULWU forged an alliance which served as their sole weapon against armed units deployed in Luisita.
Land and justice for Luisita farmers on fifth anniv of massacre! – Anakpawis
Anakpawis Partylist, the country’s biggest partylist of workers, farmers and urban poor, announced today in a press conference in Quezon City the “Lakbayan ng Anakpawis para sa Lupa at Katarungan,” a people’s caravan to Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac on Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the massacre of seven striking agri-workers.
On Nov. 16, 2004, police and military brutally dispersed striking hacienda farmers and farm workers who were protesting the miserable take-home pay of P9.50 a day and the retrenchment of more than 300 workers tantamount to union-busting.
The caravan is the culmination of activities of various organizations such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), and Anakpawis Partylist to commemorate the said occasion.
“It’s all systems go,” declared Rep. Rafael “Paeng” Mariano, Anakpawis 1st nominee for the 2010 elections and KMP chairperson, about the caravan.
“More than 2,000 people from the National Capital Region and nearby provinces will troop to Luisita to express solidarity with the farmers and farmworkers there. We will be welcomed by more than 1,000 people from the hacienda for a program. The families of those who died in the 2004 massacre will be at the forefront,” he added.
For his part, Rep. Joel Maglunsod, Anakpawis 2nd nominee for the 2010 elections and former KMU secretary-general, reiterated the calls of the Lakbayan.
Included in the webpage are photos of the Luisita martyrs, video clips from the footage of the massacre and zip files of the video documentary “Aklasan.”
(Isang balita-lathalain mula sa website ng Kilusang Mayo Uno)
Gaano man pagtakpan ni Noynoy Aquino, imbes na tugunan ang mga hinaing ng mga magbubukid, mas umaarangkada ngayon ang mga iskema para ganap na silang palayasin sa Hacienda Luisita. Engrande kasi ang plano ng mga sakim na nasa kapangyarihan para sa hacienda, kung saan higit nila itong mapagkakakitaan habang tiyak namang masasalanta ang kabuhayan at buhay ng mahigit 5,000 magbubukid dito.
Tahasang pinatawan ng ultimatum ang mga magbubukid sa isang memorandum na nilagdaan ni Hernan Gregorio Jr., assistant estate manager ng Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) noong Disyembre 18 ng nakaraang taon. Sinasabi ditong “Magsisilbing Pormal na Paabot ang memorandum na ito para sa inyo na huwag nang ipagpatuloy, at itigil ang paggamit, paglilinang, pagtatanim o pag-aari sa nasabing mga bahagi ng lupa sa Oktubre 30, 2009 o bago nito.”
Tila nakakuha ng “go signal,” inilabas ang memorandum isang araw matapos aprubahan ng Senado at Kamara ang Joint Resolution No. 1 para sa pagpapalawig ng huwad na Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Nagrali ang mga magbubukid sa tanggapang pamprobinsya ng DAR noong Oktubre 30 para igiit ang lubos nilang pagtutol. Napaatras naman nang kaunti ang mga Cojuangco, ngunit iniurong lamang sa Nobyembre 15 ang ultimatum.
Ngayon, dahil sa sunud-sunod na kritisismo at sama-samang pagkilos ng mga mamamayan ng Hacienda, itinanggi ni Noynoy at ng pamunuan ng HLI ang inilabas na ultimatum. Sa halip, nagmamalaki pa ngayon ang HLI ng hungkag na iskemang pagpapalayas pa rin naman sa mga magsasaka ang tunguhin.
The online world, at least the virtual space binding those who subscribe to the ever-fluid landscape of Philippine politics and gossip, has recently taken notice of this sobering image: