Hacienda Luisita farmers defy Oct.30 deadline

By Roy Morilla, Jay Calaguing and Ms Gigi Babon

Manila, Philippines- The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines ) and farmworkers inside the 6,453 hectare sugar estate of Hacienda Luisita announced on Thursday that they will defy the October 30 deadline imposed by the management stopping farm workers from cultivating the lands.

The KMP and the Hacienda wide groups United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu) and Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said they beefing up their forces as they anticipate displacement measures of the Hacienda Luisita, Inc.

On call

“We are on-call starting today as October 30 nears. It is the deadline set by the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) on their letter to the agri-workers dated December 18, 2008 for them to leave the lands inside the hacienda. We believe that this letter is immoral, unjust and illegal as the case of Hacienda Luisita is at the Supreme Court, which means, they have no right to implement such order,” said KMP Secretary-General Danilo Ramos in a press conference today in Quezon City .

The letter signed by a certain Hernan M. Gregorio, Jr., claiming to be Assistant Estate Manager of HLI said that by the said deadline, farmers could have recover the costs they invested in cultivating the lands.

On the contrary, Ulwu and Ambala members have affirmed of no plans of discontinuing cultivation and said that the Cojuangcos’ only cling to the lands is a desperate Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court against the order of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) and Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) revocating the Stock Distribution Option (SDO).

“The only obvious measure that has come out of the Hacienda Luisita struggle is the immediate and free distribution of lands to the agri-workers, ” added Ramos.

Stock distribution option

Hacienda Luisita has been under SDO since the implementation of CARP in 1991 during President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino’ s regime which superficially classified the farmer-beneficiarie s as “stock-holders. ” History has shown that the Cojuangcos’ have no plans of distributing the lands to agri-workers instead they have commenced with the massive land use conversion (LUCs) that left only about 3,200 hectares of agricultural lands from the original 7,500 hectares in 1958.

The Cojuangcos have implemented LUCs without consultation to “co-owners” farmer-beneficiarie s, which led to the construction of Luisita Golf and Country Club, Las Haciendas Industrial Subdivision, Luisita Industrial Farm, Family Park Homes Subdivision, Don Pepe Cojuangco Subdivision, St. Luis Subdivision, a 500-hectare Central Techno Park and 66 hectare for Subic-Clark- Tarlac Expressway (Sctex).

“Stock Distribution Option (SDO) has been proven clearly to be useless for the agri-workers of Hacienda Luisita. It has caused poverty and misery, such as the daily take-home pay of P9.50. Thus, SDO and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) has been futile against the Cojuangcos’ landlord control of the lands,” said Ramos.

As massive LUCs reduced lands to be worked on by agri-workers, workload or man-days have been reduced and massive retrenchment and forced retirements have been implemented by HLI. As the economic well-being of the agri-workers are threatened by Cojuangcos’ management, they were compelled to launch a full-size strike on November 6, 2004 and followed the Hacienda Luisita massacre on November 16 which killed 7 striking agri-workers.

“There is no question the CARP which is now CARP Extension with `Reforms’ (Carper) has betrayed the agri-workers and veered away from genuine land reform. Thus, Hacienda Luisita agri-workers are calling for the immediate and free distribution of lands and the junking of Carper which we believe would be used by the Cojuangcos’ to displace agri-workers, ” said Ramos.

“The HLI letter was dated December 18 last year, which we believe prepared in anticipation of the passage of Carper, instead Congress passed the Joint Resolution No. 1. While Carper was signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on August 7, we believe that the Cojuangcos’ would revive coverage of the Hacienda Luisita lands to escape distribution, ” Ramos said.

Challenge to Noynoy

The group is also demanding Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to act decisively in favor of the agri-workers. Sen. Aquino has claimed that he has only 1/32 control of the HLI and hinted that his family would “leave” the hacienda.

“As of now, we are still waiting for Sen. Aquino to do the right thing, which is to convince his family to distribute the lands to the legitimate owners, the agri-workers who developed it. As he is running for president, being indecisive and favoring his family’s vested interest are not of the qualities the Filipino people would want for a president, actually the people would hate that,” said Ramos.

KMP also reminded that there is still no justice for the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre. To date, the Cojuangcos were involved in two historical massacres killing Filipino peasants calling for genuine land reform, the first was the Mendiola Massacre on January 22, 1987 during President Aquino’s term.

“Sen. Aquino is facing a heavy roadblock on the issue of Hacienda Luisita, his inaction on the issue of land and justice would totally lead to his loss on the presidential elections. The issue of Hacienda Luisita would not wither away, he should act determined and for the interest of the poor peasants, actually the whole country even the world is on watch on the issue,” said Ramos.

Classic model

KMP with Ulwu, Ambala and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) would be commemorating the anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre on November 16. They would be launching a series of action, set off by a protest action at the Jose Cojuangco and Sons Building in Makati on October 30, to oppose the issued deadline for the agri-workers.

This would be followed by another protest action in Mendiola on November 6, to call for the junking of Carper and condemn the Arroyo administration for inaction on the issue. On November 16, the group would join to the thousand-strong caravan headed for Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

“Hacienda Luisita is a classic model of landlessness in the country, also of the determined struggle of peasants for genuine land reform, thus, we are calling on all sectors to support the struggle of agri-workers. Social justice and fundamental reform in Hacienda Luisita would precede reforms in the country,” called Ramos.#

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Filed under agrarian reform, human rights, politics

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