By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Cherry de Belen and Billy Javier Reyes
MANILA, Philippines- A group of activist fishermen supportive of the cause of striking farm workers in Hacienda Luisita lamented that many presidential candidates are busy attacking one of the front runners– Nacionalista Party (NP) presidential candidate Manny Villar but scoreless and clueless on issues pertaining to the 6,453-hectare sugar estate owned by the family of Liberal Party (LP) presidential standard bearer Sen. Benigno Simeon ” Noynoy” Aquino III.
In a press statement, the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) urged presidential candidates who usually attack the NP presidential bet to tackle and discuss their position this time on Hacienda Luisita including but not limited the demand for the immediate, unconditional and free distribution of the sugar plantation to 10,000 farmworker beneficiaries.
“Some presidential bets and their political sidekicks continue to attack Mr. Villar, but obviously silent on the issue of Hacienda Luisita. Are they afraid of Noynoy and the feudal aristocracy of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan? Do they believe farm workers have attained land and justice for their five decade more struggle inside the sugar estate of the Cojuangco-Aquino?” asked Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.
The Pamalakaya leader noted national candidates like former President Joseph Estrada and his senatorial bet Juan Ponce Enrile of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and independent candidate Senator Jamby Madrigal are active in demolishing the presidential bid of Villar, but extremely silent on the issue of Luisita involving Sen.Aquino and his family.
“Since the election campaign started on Feb.9, Noynoy and his sisters, members of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan and their partners in crime in the civil society have been engaged in day-to-day distortion of truth about Hacienda Luisita. But critics of Villar never lift a finger to tell Noynoy and his camp to stop fooling the people and the general public and proceed with land distribution. And this political development is not only puzzling and mind boggling. It is extremely dangerous,” said Hicap.
“Why members of the anti-Villar syndicate are not taking up the issue of Hacienda Luisita and the massacre of 7 farm workers? That is really a major puzzle in election campaign. While the issues ranged against Villar could be valid or just mere black propaganda, still these are issues that should be addressed by the Villar camp. However, the anti-Villar crusaders still owe the public, the electorate and the Hacienda Luisita folks a honest-to-goodness explanation how they remain silent on Noynoy and Hacienda Luisita,” the Pamalakaya official said.
Before the weekend, militant farmer groups led by striking farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita staged a 30-vehicle caravan from Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office in Quezon City to the Supreme Court in Manila to ask the Supreme Court (SC) to lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) it issued in 2006 before the May 10 presidential elections and allow the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) and DAR to proceed with the distribution of 6,453-hectare sugar plantation to 10,000 farmer worker beneficiaries.
The caravan was led by Hacienda Luisita based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid ng Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and they delivered a two-page letter of appeal billed “Let the Promise of Land and Justice Reign in Hacienda Luisita” which asked SC Chief Justice Reynato Puno and 14 other justices to recall the TRO, revoke the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and order DAR to immediately proceed with the distribution of Cojuangco-Aquino sugar plantation.
In their letter of appeal signed by Lito Bais, acting president of ULWU, Wilfredo Marbella of KMP and Joseph Canlas of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers said the Supreme Court has yet to act on the motion filed by their lawyers asking the high tribunal to immediately lift the TRO, revoke the SDO and compel DAR to proceed with the free distribution of Luisita lands to farmworker beneficiaries.
The Luisita farmworkers asserted the TRO granted by the high court against the revocation of SDO was further used and abused by the Cojuangco-Aquino and the Luisita management to further exploit and oppress the farmworkers.
“Honorable Chief Justice, on the ground, cohorts and henchmen of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan are doing the dirty jobs for the feudal lords of Hacienda Luisita to fortify land control. The Cojuangco-Aquino corporation established the Luisita Estate Management (LEM) to supervise and administer the day-to-day affairs of the sugar estate. The LEM has also tolerated the terrorizing presence of government troops and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) conducting round-the-clock surveillance and harassment of leaders and members of farmworkers’ groups,” the groups said.
Anakpawis party list said the LEM has been disposing hectares of lands to commercial banks like the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) and other foreign commercial enterprises also had acquired hectares of the disputed sugar lands despite the TRO issued by the high court in 2006.
“The questionable entities sprouting like mushrooms inside Luisita have been constructing fences as if Luisita has been divided among them in the name of private property and their private security guards chasing away farmworkers who want to cultivate idle lands either for meager income or subsistence livelihood,” Anakpawis noted.
The 10,000 Hacienda Luisita farmworker beneficiaries believed the high tribunal is politically, constitutionally and morally obliged to correct a glaring fatal decision that justified the issuance of TRO on Stock Distribution Option, the effects of such judicial action further contributed to the long-running and intensifying campaign of injustice and landlessness in Hacienda Luisita.
“Honorable Chief Justice Puno and the 14 other members of the high tribunal, once again, we appeal to your sense of justice. Lift the TRO and allow PARC and DAR to proceed with the free distribution of Hacienda Luisita to the 10,000 farmer beneficiaries,” they said. #