By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Jayjay Jaiho, Gloria Madonna Velarde and LivinLaVida Luna
MANILA, Philippines- A church backed broad formation will step up the campaign against any referendum that would seal the fate of the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita in favor of the family of Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Activist peasant lawmaker—Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano announced on Tuesday that a broad interfaith rally of farmers, farm workers, church people and cause-oriented groups supported by prelates of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will be held on Friday against the proposed referendum and pursue the immediate distribution of the disputed 6,453 sugar estate and the reversal of the Supreme Court’s deceptive ruling on Hacienda Luisita’s Stock Distribution Option (SDO).
On July 22, groups will gather at Kalaw and Taft Avenues and rally participants will march to the Supreme Court up to Liwasang Bonifacio where the interfaith and multi-sectoral protest rallies will be held from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm
“Farmers and farm workers of Luisita have all the just reasons to protest this social injustice and Cojuangco-Aquinos’ monopoly of Luisita. These broad mass actions will culminate on July 25 on the second State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Aquino III,” said Rep. Mariano in a press statement issued to all voices. com.
“Aquino miserably failed in addressing not only the Luisita problem but also other persisting economic problems in the country – landlessness and rural poverty, lack of employment and decent wages, increasing prices of petroleum products, utilities and services,” he added.
The solon said “a referendum to be conducted by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Hacienda Luisita is a direct affront to Luisita farm workers who are waging a life and death struggle to own the lands.” Farm workers will boycott the referendum should the SC and DAR continues with the proceedings despite rejection from farmers.
In 1989, a referendum was held in Hacienda Luisita for the approval of the SDO which was used by the administration of then President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino to evade land distribution of Luisita. In August 2010, another devious referendum was “cooked” by the Cojuangcos-Aquinos making farm workers choose between the land and the SDO retention. “We will not allow a repeat of these maneuverings by the President’s family, aided by the SC and DAR,” Mariano said.
“During the 1989 SDO, 1,538 hectares out of the 6,453 hectares of Hacienda Luisita were immediately exempted from coverage. In August 2010 under the compromise deal hatched by the Cojuangco-Aquinos, some 1,366 hectares were left for so-called distribution. Now, based on the SC ruling, more than 4,000 hectares of land will be distributed, said Mariano. “In reality, there will be no distribution of lands. The SC decision only strengthened the Cojuangco-Aquino control and monopoly of Luisita. This social injustice must stop, farmers – the rightful owners of Luisita, must have their rightful share of the lands.”
Mariano said Congress must pursue the amendment of Sections 3 and 31 of Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988. The Anakpawis solon said repealing these provisions of the law will remove any “legal basis” for the Cojuangco-Aquinos to maintain the SDO in contested lands. “SDO is still in effect and implemented not only in Luisita but also in 13 other haciendas across the country.”
Cultivation in Luisita
Meanwhile.farm workers belonging to the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita [AMBALA], the United Luisita Workers’ Union [ULWU] and the farm worker based group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura [UMA] took the fight for and justice right inside 6,453 Hacienda Luisita.
About 200 farm workers together with some village officials started to cultivate the 500 hectares Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation in the morning of July 15 to launched their invigorated campaign for right to land. Led by AMBALA and ULWU, they marched crossing a two kilometer village gap between Brgy. Mapalacsiao to Brgy. Balete where RCBC fenced lot is located.
“Armed only with our determination and guided principle we enter the RCBC premise and started what all our lives doing, to plant” said Rodel Mesa, AMBALA spokesperson. “We didn’t get justice in the high court so we brought justice to each and every Hacienda Luisita farm workers who have been victims of injustice for five decades by the Cojuangco’s and bungkalan is the expression of that justice that we sought. We are claiming the whole 6,453 hectares and not the 4, 300 that the Supreme Court wants to give, RCBC lot is part of Hacienda Luisita property”.
Now on the fourth day of the camp-out, the farm workers already cleared almost eight hectares ready to seed by vegetables and other cash crops. Members from baranggay’s Balete, Mapalacsiao , Texas , Bantog , Asturias and CutCut were collectively tending the lands. Other farm workers have already expressed eagerness to join the collective farming as this report is writing. Mesa who also the secretary general of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura also said “Our bungkalan or collective farming gained positive reaction from other farm workers.
In Brgy. Texas almost 200 farmer-residents attended our mass meeting, they are interested to know the situation in our fight. It was the same reaction on the brgy. Balete and based on reports we received other baranggay’s are calling for mass meetings too”. “Others will definitely follow as they are convinced that bungkalan will give them land to till. Bumgkalan gave them the steam to assert their right to land. While we are appealing for the court to change their stand on their 6-4 decision favoring a referendum through our motion for consideration that will be filed this week, our effort here inside Hacienda Luisita will stand. Subject all the remaining farm lands that has not been converted to bungkalan and gave it to the farm worker beneficiaries” Mesa snapped
Meanwhile for his part, Lito Bais, chair of the United Luisita Workers’ Union [ULWU] “We have the basis, all the rights and certainly the support of the majority of the farm workers to back this up. Bungkalan will be the symbol of our struggle to land and at the same time the expression of our defiance to the Cojuangco’s whims”. In the mid-90’s, Ithocho Company., a Japanese firm first acquired the land and developed it through its contractor HAZAMA Philippines. But after the 2004 strike,HASAMA passed it to RCBC through HLI. From then on up to the present, RCBC got the hold and fenced the said property in Brgy. Balete
He also said “As far as the farm workers are concern RCBC lot is not separate from Hacienda Luisita contrary to the high court’s contention that it was “innocent purchased”, for their information Hacienda Luisita property was in a legal row more than two decades, so how come they missed that?. “The farm workers are ready to fight this in court and inside Hacienda Luisita, we are the aggrieved party here not the Cojuangco’s. What we got here is failure to deliver social justice so we are going to make that happen and bungkalan would prove that we are on the right and just path to achieved it” Bais ended###