Hacienda Luisita workers seek

Hacienda Luisita workers seek
CBCP’s divine intervention on Cojuangco sugar estate

Groups identified with Hacienda Luisita farmworkers on Tuesday asked the divine intervention of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in clinching free land distribution of 6,453 hectares of the sugar estate owned by the family of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.

The Hacienda Luisita farmworkers represented by the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Luisita (Ambala) and their supporters belonging to Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) appealed to CBCP President and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and the rest of the more than 100 archbishops and bishops of the prelate’s group to uphold the demand of farmworkers to acquire the sugar lands of the Cojuangcos’ for free.

“In the name of truth and social justice, we ask the archbishops and bishops of the CBCP to support the unconditional and immediate demand of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers for the entire free distribution of Cojuangco lands to landless farm workers across the sugar estate,” AMGL chairperson Joseph Canlas said in a press statement.

“The CBCP should rally the prelates behind the cause of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers. That’s what the Gospel of truth , justice and genuine agrarian reform says,” the peasant alliance leader added. The AMGL led the mobilization of 34 leaders of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers to Manila to seek an audience with the CBCP, according to Canlas.

The AMGL leader lamented that since the November 16,2005 massacre in Hacienda Luisita, the CBCP has yet to issue an official statement urging former President Aquino to surrender the lands to the rightful owners of the sugar estate— the sugar workers and farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita Incorporated.

“It’s about time the CBCP makes an official statement on the agrarian reform dispute in Hacienda Luisita and it should be on the side of the landless tillers and exploited farmworkers,” Canlas added.

In a joint statement ULWU President Rene Galang and Ambala chairperson Lito Bais told the CBCP that the Cojuangco family had issued a memorandum last December 18, 2008 ordering all farmworkers who occupied about 2,000 hectares of the 6,453 hectares of Hacienda Luisita to destroy their crops and vacate the lands on or before October 2009.

The leaders of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers said the memorandum was issued a day after the Senate and the House of Representatives approved Joint Resolution No.1 extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) minus the provision on compulsory acquisition.

“First the Cojuangcos used the bankrupt CARP and its provision on stock distribution option to evade land distribution, now they used the Joint Resolution to effectively deny the rights of the farmworkers to land they have been tilling for nearly a century,” Galang and Bais stressed.

ULWU and Ambala said the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita was exempted from distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Instead, the sprawling sugar estate was placed under the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a non-land transfer scheme, which converted sugar workers into stock holders and daily workers receiving P 9.50 per day without any share in the gross sales.

Jay Calaguing, UMA information officer said Hacienda Luisita farmworkers continue to cultivate more 2,000 hectares of the hotly disputed sugar estate outside the framework of the 20-year old CARP, which he said was bogus, bankrupt, pro-landlord and anti-farmer.

Calaguing added that despite the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court refraining the Presidential Agrarian Reform Committee (PARC) from covering and distributing the Cojuangco sugar lands to sugar workers, the farmworkers managed to assert their land rights and pursue the “bungkalan” campaign.

UMA said the current “bungkalan” campaign has already benefited 838 families or roughly 1,676 individuals spread in the barangays of Malapacsiao (244.5 hectares), Asturias (209.93 hectares), Bantog (258 hectares), Cut-Cut (275.9 hectares), Balite (153.4 hectares), Mutrico (248 hectares), Pando (163 hectares), Texas (140 hectares), Pasajes (60 hectares) and Parang (51.5 hectares).

On the other hand, UMA is also supporting the passage of Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059 authored by the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran and co-authored by his successor Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño and Gabriela Party list Reps. Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

Under GARB, Hacienda Luisita will be distributed for free to farmworkers and poor farmers and with guaranteed security of tenure and strong support mechanisms to make the 6,453 sugar estate productive and responsive to the need of farmworkers, poor farmers and the Filipino public in general. #

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