By Jayjay Jaiho and Akihira Tatchu
Tarlac City, Philippines- Striking farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita will join the 10-day Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan to demand the re-opening of the Hacienda Luisita massacre case, including the current state of agrarian dispute in the 6,453-hectare sugar estate, which they said remains unresolved up to this day.
In a press statement, the hacienda based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said they will submit an official letter addressed to the Senate and the House of Representatives requiring house leaders to re-open the still unresolved issues involving the Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate, which was investigated by lawmakers in aid of legislation but failed to come up with a separate or joint committee report on the Nov.16, 2004 massacre that claimed 7 lives of farmworkers and injured more than 100 farm workers.
“Forgive and forget is not our cup of tea. We will pursue our case in the name of land, truth and justice,” said Lito Bais, spokesperson and acting chair of UMA.
The demand for the re-opening of Hacienda Luisita massacre and investigation on the current land reform status in the Cojuangco-Aquino estate by both chambers of Congress was supported by allied groups headed by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Amihan peasant women federation and militant party list group Anakpawis.
In a joint statement, the groups asked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to pursue the investigation of previous and present issues in Hacienda Luisita, including the encroachment of private groups occupying portions of the sugar estate like the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), which claimed some hectares of land representing foreclosed properties arising from Luisita management debts.
“Is Hacienda Luisita for sale? But according to insiders and highly well placed source, the Cojuangco –Aquino clan is hiring dummies and using paid hacks to sow intrigues and terror in the hacienda,” they said.
Bais said around 200 farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita will join the peasant caravan and long march from Tarlac to the National Capital Region, and they will converge with other farmers from Ilocos provinces, La Union, Benguet, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Isabela and provinces of Central Luzon—Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Aurora provinces on January 16 at Hacienda Luisita Park before the long march to Mendiola.
“The case of the farm workers of hacienda Luisita is not different from other sad stories of farmers in the whole North and Central Luzon were farmers for years became the unwilling victims of unjust relation between landlords and peasants accompanied by anti-farmer program policies and projects of the government and the national security group in Malacanang”, said Joseph Canlas, chair of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon [AMGL].
The AMGL chair stressed that this caravan-march for land and justice is very important because it highlights the plight of the peasantry by showcasing the local issues in our region and addressing it as a national concern.
Aside from hacienda Luisita, there’s also the issue of the Fort Magsaysay Military reservation were peasants are being thrown out on their farms by the military. Then there’s the landgrabbing case committed by Rep. Luis Villafuerte of Bicol in San Miguel, Bulacan and the displacement of Tungko Mangga farmers by the Araneta’s when MRT 7 will pushed through to their community.
“There’s a clear and present danger upon the situation not only on the gravity of the people and institution that we’re going to deal with but also its counter actions. Since GMA assume the seat of power, peasants are on the upper deck victimized by extra judicial killings and persecutions to this date, 560 out of 1050 victims of extra judicial killings were leaders and members of peasant organizations whose only crime is to organized their ranks and fight for their rights”, added Canlas.
“We’re going to start our caravan-march on January 17, after an overnight stay in Tarlac. From there, we’re going to San Fernando, Pampanga to meet with other peasant delegates and will march to the Department of Agrarian Reform region 3 to stage a protest action,” the AMGL official added.
On January 18 the Lakbayan march will proceed to Malolos and will meet the Bulacan contingent and onward to Manila. More groups will join the peasant marchers as they reach the Bonifacio shrine in Balintawak on the 20th.
The Lakbayan will then proceed to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office on the 21st of January where a cultural and solidarity night will be held. On January 22, the marchers will proceed to Manila coinciding with the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre.