By Bb. Joyce Cabral and Viva Regala-Alonzo
Manila, Philippines-Two militant groups supporting the striking farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita on Saturday reminded Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that on June 8, 1989, the senator, then Senate Minority Leader of the Corazon Aquino controlled Senate delivered a privilege speech questioning the late President Aquino’s insertion of Stock Distribution Option (SDO) in her outline for the land reform law.
In a joint press statement, the Hacienda Luisita based Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said 21 years ago, Sen. Enrile accused former President Aquino of usurping powers by signing Executive Order No. 229 to preside over the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), the body that placed and approved to place the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita under the SDO scheme.
“Will the Senate leadership under the Enrile presidency find time to re-open the long-running story of Hacienda Luisita and the controversial SDO in the name of farmers’ right to land and social justice? Is there a guarantee from Enrile that he will re-open the still unresolved cases and issues surrounding the sugar estate of the Cojuangco-Aquino family upon the request of Luisita farm workers?” the groups said in their joint statement.
In his speech, Enrile, then Senate Minority Floor Leader assailed the Aquino presidency for withdrawing the government case against owners of Hacienda Luisita, adding that the Arroyo presidency circumvent land reform to stay control of Hacienda Luisita.
“It is about time to re-open the Hacienda Luisita case. It will be moral and politically upright to have this case closed ahead of the 2010 elections with the free distribution of lands to 8,000 farmer beneficiaries and the punishment of those involved in the Nov.16, 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre,” said UMA spokesperson Lito Bais.
Bais noticed that presidential and senatorial candidates are exploiting the controversial C-5 road double insertion issue to gain media mileage and public attention for the advancement of their respective electoral chances and futures in the May 2010 polls, while on the other hand had deliberately ignored the demand of Hacienda Luisita workers to re-open the Hacienda Luisita agrarian dispute, including the still unresolved Nov.16, 2004 massacre that claimed 7 lives of farmworkers and injuring more than 100 others.
Last week, 10, 000 farmers and Manila-based activists who took part in rally at Mendiola posed this question to presidential candidates, except Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III: “How do you solve a problem like Hacienda Luisita.”
Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap scored Senator Aquino for treating the Mendiola Massacre a closed case, asserting that the perpetrators of the Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita massacres remain unpunished and free.
“Political arrogance becomes Noynoy. This guy is closet dictator passing himself off as a liberal politician,” he added.
The Pamalakaya leader lamented that Noynoy believes Hacienda Luisita is God’s gift to Cojuangco-Aquino clan, and therefore only God can take it back from them.
The United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) said the Cojuangco-Aquino clan is relying on the strength of Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme to prevent the free land distribution of the 6,453 hectare sugar estate to some 8,000 farmer beneficiaries. ULWU acting president Lito Bais said the SDO which transformed farmworkers into nominal stockholders, also compelled Luisita workers to accept the P9.50 net pay daily. #