By Roy Morilla, contributor
Manila, Philippines-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was principally liable to the bloody carnage in Hacienda Luisita that left 7 striking workers dead, injured 200 others and the arrest of 120 farm workers and activists on November 16 five years ago.
“Remember Mrs. Arroyo and the Cojuangcos were the best of friends then. In the defense of a political ally, President Arroyo mobilized 1,000 government troops and cops to quell the legitimate strike and pursued the campaign of annihilation in the name of the Cojuangcos and in the name of its rabid anti-Left campaign and incorrigible national security doctrine,” said Lito Bais, spokesperson of Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and acting president of United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU).
Bais said the Hacienda Luisita massacre was a political accommodation and political reward for the Cojuangcos for supporting President Arroyo’s reelection bid in May 2004 elections, before the two political clans parted ways in 2005 when the Hello Garci election fraud scandal rocked the Arroyo administration.
The agricultural labor leader recalled that Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas ordered the violent dispersal of striking farmworkers on Nov.16 on behalf of the Cojuangco family through the much abused pro-landlord and pro-capitalist tool known as Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ). Bais said the order was echoed by spokesperson of Hacienda Luisita management to justify the bloody massacre as a “legitimate exercise of state power,” saying the work stoppage was “illegal and left-inspired.
On Nov. 6, 2004, farm workers went on strike and demanded the reinstatement of some 327 unionists, including nine union leaders, who were fired ten days earlier by the management of the hacienda and the sugar mill –Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT).
This morning, some 50 supporters of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers identified with the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis party list trooped to Mendiola Bridge in Manila to begin the 10-day commemoration of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente led activists in lighting candles, offered prayers and delivered fiery speeches in the memory of Hacienda Luisita massacre victims.
Both leaders declared that Hacienda Luisita belongs to Hacienda Luisita farm workers and that is about time the Cojuangco family relinquish the hacienda to the collective and effective control of farm workers.
The KMP and Anakpawis leaders told Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, standard bearer of the Liberal Party in the 2010 presidential elections and son of the late former President Corazon Aquino should accept the fact that historically and lawfully, the Hacienda Luisita which his family refused to yield to farmworkers belongs to the collective ownership of hacienda workers and its transfer to farm workers is nearly a century overdue.
“Sen. Aquino should learn the history of Hacienda Luisita and stop making the usual run-around. It is time for the Aquino family to say goodbye to the sprawling 6,453 hectare sugar estate that does not really belong them and was acquired through dubious, manipulative and coercive means,” both said in a joint statement.
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. But later the management denied that such eviction order exists, and clarified that was issued was an order asking farmworkers to enlist on or before Nov.15 for proper identification of Hacienda Luisita workforce and agrarian reform beneficiaries
In response to the Oct. 30 deadline, some 50 supporters of Hacienda Luisita farm workers issued their own cease and desist order against the management and delivered their notice to the Cojuangco business building in Makati City.
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. #