Hacienda Luisita farmers tell Noynoy: Talk to us, not to Danding

By Roy Morilla, Jay Calaguing and Sugar Hicap

Manila, Philippines-Rural based groups representing farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita on Friday urged Liberal Party presidential candidate Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino to stop “flirting” with business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. and instead sit down with them to discuss the immediate and unconditional free distribution of 6,453 hectare sugar estate to farm workers and agrarian reform beneficiaries.

In a joint press statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the hacienda based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) accused Senator Aquino of evading the issue of Hacienda Luisita, including the October 30 deadline set by the management for agricultural workers to stop any tilling activities inside the disputed 6,000 hectare sugar estate.

KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos said Sen. Aquino on Wednesday announced on national TV that he was seeking a dialogue and reconciliation with Danding, while on the other hand remains elusive and non-committal to demands of Hacienda Luisita agricultural and farm workers for the free distribution of land, which he asserted, was acquired by the Cojuangcos through unjust, immoral, coercive and unlawful means.

“Senator Aquino wants to talk and exchange pleasantries with Danding. Now, what’s the big deal behind this sudden change of heart of the late President Corazon Aquino son? Is the senator and gentleman from Tarlac ready to smoke the peace pipe with Danding to gain the latter’s support for his presidential ambition in exchange for Hacienda Luisita and the land rights of agricultural workers and landless farmers?

In the same vein, UMA spokesperson and ULWU acting president Lito Bais theorized that the LP standard bearer wanted to gain either the open or discreet support of his uncle, knowing Danding’s role as political kingmaker in every presidential election, ranging from campaign funds to electoral machinery.

“It is public knowledge that Danding wants a considerable portion of Hacienda Luisita for the expansion of San Miguel Corporation, and a Noynoy presidency will make the Pacman’s dream to come true. Noynoy and Danding can deny this high heaven, but they cannot escape the sharp eyes and highly critical minds of Hacienda Luisita people,” Bais said.

On December 18, 2008, the Hacienda Luisita Management signed by Hernan M. Gregorio, Jr. — assistant Estate Manager of HLI imposed a deadline to farm workers that they only have up to October 30, 2009 to harvest and finish all land cultivation activities inside the hacienda.

In response to the Oct. 30 deadline, some 50 supporters of Hacienda Luisita farm workers staged a mass demonstration outside the Cojuangco business building in Makati City this morning, and issued their own cease and desist order against the Luisita management.
In their two-page cease and desist order, KMP and UMA declared the Hacienda Luisita Oct.30 deadline null and void, immoral, unlawful and fatally flawed.

Hacienda Luisita has been under stock distribution scheme since the implementation of CARP in 1991 during the Aquino administration, which the groups said superficially, classified the farmer-beneficiaries as “stock-holders. KMP and UMA said the SDO 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 land use conversions 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).

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. #

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