By Billy Javier Reyes
Manila, Philippines- Supporters of striking Hacienda Luisita farmworkers on the eve of Christmas Day chided sisters of Liberal Party standard bearer Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and urged them to refrain from talking and acting like clean folks in the country, reminding them that the ongoing dispute over the 6,453-hectare represents their family’s crime of corruption and greed.
The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) was reacting to the statements issued by Aquino’s sisters—Aurora Corazon” Pinky” Aquino-Abellada and Maria Elena “Ballsy” Cruz that their brother—Noynoy represent the country’s hope against corruption and greed, and the people’s quest for clean government.
“Pinky and Ballsy should exercise extra prudence in issuing public statements, because later on these slogans and rhetoric excuses will boomerang on them. The case of Hacienda Luisita and the decades old denial of peasant land rights in the Cojuangco estate is a lucid testimony to Cojuangcos’ running crime of corruption and greed,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.
The Pamalakaya leader: “We beg to disagree to their grandstanding and early political campaign to their presidentiable brother. The people of Hacienda Luisita knew the real score and they cannot deny that”.
The Aquino sisters recently interviewed in Victorias City while attending a birthday celebration of a Liberal Party congressional candidate in the third district of Negros Occidental that they continued to get warm and enthusiastic welcome from people who are spending their own money to put up headquarters around the country for their brother’s campaign.
Abellada said the people were telling them they are helping Noynoy because they want a better government and they have hope for change with her brother running in the May 2010 presidential elections. She said the people were sad about corruption and greed in the country and Noynoy’s entry to the presidential race next year revived memories and sparked hope for clean government for the Filipino people.
“We will not question their love for Noynoy but we will ask them what they have done to ensure that the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita enjoy the fruits of their labor. Where is social justice in Luisita? The lands still belong to the Cojuangcos, the criminal minds and actors behind the Hacienda Luisita massacre are still free and enjoying a beautiful life,” Pamalakaya’s Hicap lamented.
Last month, representatives of Pamalakaya, the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Amihan peasant women federation were in Rome, Italy and launched an international signature campaign in support of the land claim of striking farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita.
Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz said the signature campaign initially solicited the support of 400 rural based activists in the United States, North America, South America, Europe, Canada, South Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, who attended last month’s World Summit on Food Security held from Nov.16-18, and the parallel activity billed as People’s Forum on Food Sovereignty from Nov.13-17 also in Rome.
“The struggle of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers for land and justice was one of the highlights of the rural people’s participation in the UN FAO World Food Summit on Food Security and the parallel forum organized by civil society groups and peoples’ movements all over the world,” said Corpuz.
The signature campaign both urges President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senator Aquino to act in accordance with the interest of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers by declaring the 6,453 hectare sugar estate free the Cojuangcos and ready for urgent and unconditional free distribution to farm workers.
The signature campaign also highlighted the demand for speedy trial of those involved in the Nov.16, 2004 massacre that includes top government and military officials of the Arroyo government and the Cojuangcos.
Pamalakaya’s Corpuz said despite the decision of the Ombudsman clearing the civilian officials and the Cojuangcos from their culpabilities in the Hacienda Luisita massacre, the demand for their inclusion in scores of criminal charges shall be pursued by their groups in the international court of public opinion. #