Senator Noynoy Aquino pressed to scrap Oct.30 deadline against Hacienda Luisita workers
Groups representing farm workers in Hacienda Luisita on Sunday pressed Senator and Liberal Party presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino to scrap the October 30 memorandum of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. management stopping all planting activities inside the 6,543 hectare sugar estate.
Leaders of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and the Alyansa ng Mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala)said Sen. Aquino and the entire Aquino and Cojuangco clans should recall the memo and allow farmworkers to continue the cultivation.
ULWU and Ambala made the call, a day after Sen.Aquino said their family will soon leave the Cojuangco sugar estate and relinquish its ownership because of huge debts, labor disputes and other issues surrounding the controversial land properties of the Aquino family.
ULWU acting chair Lito Bais said the current “bungkalan” (cultivation)campaign already covered nearly 2,000 hectares of the 6,453-hectare sugar estate and 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).
“The first thing Sen. Noynoy should do is to recognize the cultivation campaign of Hacienda Luisita workers is an assertion of farmworkers’ rights and therefore lawful and politically and morally correct. Based on that premise, the Oct. 30 management is patently illegal and contrary to national interest and collective sentiment of the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers,” Bais said.
The Hacienda Luisita leader said the next step Aquino should do is recall or withdraw his family’s petition for temporary restraining order (TRO) before the Supreme Court urging the high tribunal to stop the Presidential Agrarian Reform Committee (PARC) from distributing the Cojuangco lands to farmworkers and other qualified beneficiaries.
“The distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmworkers is long overdue. The Cojuangcos and the Aquino family should immediately withdraw their petition to allow PARC to immediately undertake land distribution. The farmworkers cannot wait for another half-century to realize agrarian justice,” the ULWU leader said.
Bais said despite the 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.
ULWU noted that land use conversions are prevalent inside Hacienda Luisita, saying hundreds of hectares of land in batches are being subject to open and discreet auctions and land use conversions.
“Some big companies like RCBC are encroaching Hacienda Luisita claiming ownership of hectares of land,” it said.
ULWU said the next agenda Sen.Aquino should address pertain to the Nov.16, 2005 massacre in Hacienda Luisita, including the series of extrajudicial killings allegedly perpetrated by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against political activists supporting the fight of farmworkers inside the Cojuangco estate.
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. #