By Jayjay Jaiho and Bb. Joyce Cabral
Manila, Philippines- “While Liberal Party presidential standard bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is no longer a hopeless romantic as far as the affairs of the heart are concerned, he is a hopeless case as far as striking workers of Hacienda Luisita workers are concerned,” according to leaders of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Anakpawis party list.
In a joint press statement, KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos, UMA spokesperson Lito Bais and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said the refusal of Sen. Aquino to recognize the rights of striking farmworkers and his rejection of the legitimate, lawful and morally upright demand for immediate and unconditional free distribution of the 6,453-hectare sugar estate to more than 8,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries betrayed the collective interest of the Filipino farmers all over the country.
“Noynoy will not give up their immoral claim and blood tainted control of Hacienda Luisita,” the militant leaders said.
The militant groups said the agenda calling for free distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmworkers and other agrarian reform beneficiaries will be posed to other presidential candidates in the May 2010 elections that include Manuel Villar of Nacionalista Party, the closest rival of Aquino according to various surveys conducted by independent poll groups.
“The issues concerning Hacienda Luisita like the revocation of Stock Distribution Option, the immediate and free distribution of the 6,453-hectare sugar estate to land reform beneficiaries and the quest for justice for victims of the massacre on Nov.16, 2004 will be included in the peasant electoral agenda for 2010,” the groups said.
They said the family of Sen. Aquino failed to address and improve the lives of Luisita workers over the last three to four decades. According to them, daily take home pay of every farm worker in Hacienda Luisita is
P 9.50, which is not even enough to buy a half kilo of NFA rice.
Bais, the UMA spokesperson and acting president of the hacienda based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) today announced that Hacienda Luisita will serve as a launching pad of Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan which will officially start on January 16 in Northern Philippines.
The Lakbayan will gather marching farmers from Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon regions on their way to National Capital Region on the occasion of the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre.
Bais said on January 16, thousands of farmers and farmworkers from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Abra, Benguet, Tarlac, Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Isabela and Cagayan will mass up in Hacienda Luisita Park to signal the 7-day Lakbayan from Northern Luzon to NCR.
The UMA spokesman said farmers will then hold a caravan from Tarlac City to Angeles City and San Fernando City in Pampanga and will stage a vigil near Pampanga’s provincial capitol. From the capitol, farmers will stage a long march on their way to Malolos, Bulacan. They are expected to reach Monumento in Caloocan City on the afternoon of January 20, according to caravan and long march organizers.
Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) secretary general Joseph Canlas said aside from Hacienda Luisita, Central Luzon peasants will also expose and oppose the continuing landgrabbing activities by big landlords and the military in San Miguel, Bulacan and Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.
Canlas said farmers in Hacienda Sta. Isabel and Hacienda San Antonio in Isabela will also join the caravan and long march to press for the immediate distribution of big landholdings to landless farmers in the province.
In the South, Lakbayan organizers led by KMP and Anakpawis party list said around 750 farmers, fisherfolk, peasant women, agricultural workers and indigenous people from 10 regions in Mindanao, Panay, Negros, the Visayas and Bicol are expected to reach Lucena City by January 17, where they are expected to hold a solidarity vigil, which the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan- Southern Tagalog chapter (Bayan-ST) will host and sponsor.
Kasama-TK and Bayan- ST representing over 1,000 mobilization from the region will later join the marchers on their way to the National Capital region.
“This is history in the making”, organizers added.
“Land monopoly in the country has further aggravated and intensified the exploitation of our farmers. Imagine, because of landlessness, they are perennially subjected to pay 50 percent, or 1/3 or 1/4 of their gross harvest as land rent. But only 19 to 21 percent of the total produce goes to farmers. This sorry state of agrarian reform in the country will be vividly depicted during the 10-day farmers’ march from all over the country,” they said.
Organizers said the Lakbayan will also engage in mobile dissemination and propaganda campaign about the sorry condition of farm workers all over the country. She said daily income of rice farmers for the entire cropping season ranges from P 23 to P 40 per day.
On the other hand, KMP’s Ramos said in defense of their rights to land in pursuit of social justice, farmers are perpetually subjected to various forms of human rights violations, militarization and repression.
Latest data from Karapatan human rights group revealed that 561 farmers were victims of extrajudicial killings, 119 of them were leaders and members of KMP, while scores of internally displaced peasants due to all-out war, militarization and massacre; and cases of abducted farmers and falsely charged rural activists continue to flood the monitoring bulletins of human rights groups and the concerned public. #