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CBCP asked to break silence on Hacienda Luisita row

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, senior reporter, The Pamalakaya Times
and Akihira Tatchu, contributor

Manila, Philippines-Two of the groups supporting the land claim of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers over the 6,453-hectare sugar estate in Tarlac on Monday said they were puzzled with the seemingly deafening silence of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) over the long running dispute inside the hacienda that led to massacre of 7 striking workers, injured 200 others and paved way for the arrest of 120 farmworkers and supporters on Nov.16, 2004.

“We ask the 117 archbishops and bishops of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to break their silence and issue a pastoral statement condemning the new machinations of the Cojuangco family to evict farmworkers and deny their legitimate collective land claim over Hacienda Luisita,” the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and the party list group Anakpawis said in a joint statement.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said while they join the CBCP’s all-out support to farmers affected by aerial spraying in Mindanao and the church support to the struggle of farmers and indigenous people against the Laiban Dam, the prelate, they said, should also back the struggling farm workers of Hacienda Luisita currently facing a new round of eviction from the sugar estate management.

Hicap and Clemente said the CBCP should also issue a statement upholding the rights of the farmworkers over the Cojuangco lands, which they said were acquired through deceptive, manipulative and coercive means.

“We are not asking for CBCP’s divine intervention. But we believe their moral involvement and their Gospel are politically and morally required to rally the Filipino public against the cruel intention and sinister agenda of the Cojuangcos,” they said.

The two leaders informed the CBCP on ongoing deployment of government troops inside Hacienda Luisita.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis said Liberal Party 2010 presidential candidate Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s hostile and incorrigible attitude on the land reform dispute is pushing farmers to reject his presidential bid next year.

The groups warned Noynoy of a massive peasant and rural people’s rejection of his presidential ambition next year if continues his arrogant and hostile attitude in dealing with legitimate demand of Hacienda Luisita farm workers to acquire the sprawling 6,454 hectare through urgent and free distribution.

“This presidential wannabe has resorted to traditional, shameless and Jurassic red baiting in order to evade an issue that needs politically correct, decent, lawful and moral response and this guy speak the same language of political terror spoken by his would be predecessors in case he wins the highest elective post in 2010. If he will insist on this kind of game plan, then he better forget his presidential ambition because rejection becomes him in 2010,” the groups added.

“Imagine, 7 farmworkers died on the spot, more than 200 strikers were injured and 120 of their co-farmworkers and their supporters were arrested during the Nov.16, 2004 violent dispersal of strikers. And Noynoy dismissed it as Leftist black propaganda. This is really mind-boggling, ridiculous and super incorrigible,” they said.

Pamalakaya lamented that while the LP presidential candidate was trying to pass himself off as champion of the Filipino people or a modern day messiah clad in yellow or in black shirt bearing the Philippine map, the hostile attitude displayed by the 49-year old politician against the legitimate demands for land and justice of Hacienda Luisita workers showcased what kind of a presidency Noynoy has to offer to 92 million Filipinos.

“How can he face and decently lead this nation of 92 million people if he cannot even face and contact eye-to-eye the 30,000 farmworkers and regular voters inside Hacienda Luisita? Give us a break,” added Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya and Anakpawis are two of the groups which participated in the 109- vehicle caravan to Hacienda Luisita last week in support to farmworkers demand for the immediate and free distribution of the sugar estate to Luisita tillers.

Clemente of Anakpawis said the scheduled caravan is jointly organized by Kilusang Mayo Uno, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) will also demand the immediate scrapping of Stock Distribution Option (SDO), the repeal of the recently passed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reform (Carper of RA 9700) and the passage of House Bill No. 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).

The 87-vehicle caravan will also demand the prosecution of government and military officials implicated in the Hacienda Luisita massacre. A case had been filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, but the latter dismissed the case against civilian officials, while criminal charges are still pending before the Ombudsman’s national office in Quezon City.

Clemente said international labor groups allied with KMU will also conduct simultaneous rallies in Japan, US, Europe, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in support of the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers. Also on the same day, regional chapters of KMP will also stage mass actions to demand the immediate and free distribution of the Cojuangco estate to hacienda farm workers.

“This is going to be a history in the making for Hacienda Luisita farmworkers. On Nov.16 a strong political statement will be delivered at the gates of the hacienda where the massacre took place five years ago,” she added.

On December 18, 2008, the Hacienda Luisita Management signed by Hernan M. Gregorio, Jr. — assistant Estate Manager of HLI imposed a deadline to farm workers that they only have up to October 30, 2009 to harvest and finish all land cultivation activities inside the hacienda. The deadline lapsed and another memorandum calling all farmworkers to register was issued and hacienda workers were given until Nov.15 to enlist in the new registration being called by the management.

Meanwhile, lawyers of striking farmworkers cited legal courses of actions which they could avail to stop the management from issuing memorandum to farm workers. Legal counsel Atty. Jobert Ilarde Pahilga, executive director of Sentro Para Sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra) and campaign officer of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said they will file petition for indirect contempt against the members of the Board of HLI before the Supreme Court in violation of the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the high tribunal against the revocation of Stock Distribution Option (SDO).

However, Atty. Pahilga said they will also file a motion with the Supreme Court for speedy resolution of the case and to recall the TRO, so that the decision of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) which revoked the SDO and called for the immediate distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands to farmworker beneficiaries.

The counsel for Hacienda Luisita workers will also file of a motion with the Office of the Ombudsman to resolve the multiple murders, multiple frustrated murders and multiple attempted murders filed against the military and civilian involved in the infamous Hacienda Luisita Massacre. #

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Militants seek CBCP divine intervention on GRP-NDFP peace talks

Militants seek CBCP divine intervention on GRP-NDFP peace talks

One of the groups supporting the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Saturday urged the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to intervene in the resumption of the talks, which is currently imperiled by the failure of the Macapagal-Arroyo government to comply with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) that could affect the resumption of the talks.

“We strongly appeal to the 117 archbishops and bishops of the CBCP to support the politically and morally correct position of the NDFP for the GRP to comply with and honor the spirit of the agreement so the stalled peace talks could start anytime between the last week of this month or first week of September,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

“We also appeal to the peace advocates to do the same and pressure Malacañang and the Arroyo peace panel so that the NDFP and its consultants can go back to the negotiating panel without being hostage, undermined or kept under duress by the Manila government,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Hicap reminded the CBCP that the resumption of peace talks is also in the interest of the Filipino people calling for political settlement of the ongoing civil war in the countryside, saying many stakes that represent the aspirations of the people like human rights and economic rights will be discussed at the resumption of the talks.

‘The resumption of the talks is important to the people. It is a venue for them to articulate their day-to-day issues and struggles including but not limited to human rights and economic rights. The NDFP consultants should be freed from any kind of harassment and that fabricated charges against them should be quashed and thrown to the dustbin of history for they are nothing but trumped up charges orchestrated by the militarist regime of President Arroyo,” added Hicap.

“The CBCP’s divine intervention is needed to stop Malacañang from imposing conditions or manufacturing roadblocks to place the talks in peril,” he said.

Pamalakaya said it will also raise different issues to the peace talks once it is resumed like anti-Filipino national agreements like the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) and across-the-nation offshore mining activities in the country which it said destroys the small fisherfolk livelihood and the marine environment.

The militant group will also raise the P 32-billion proposed production subsidy for the small fisherfolk when the two panels starts discussion of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio Economic Rights or CASER, the second substantive agenda after human rights.

Luis Jalandoni, chair of the NDFP peace panel criticized that since lifting of the government suspension of the Jasig since July 17, it has done nothing to comply in the spirit and intent of the agreement. “Instead, the GRP has further violated the Jasig, generated more impediments and deprived consultants of full immunity and safety guarantees,” he said.

The NDFP peace panel chair noted that alleged rebel leader Randal Echanis was conditionally release for six months which is calculated to turn him into a hostaged consultant under duress of the GRP. He is subject to arrest anytime at the whim of GRP.

Jalandoni also noted two others, Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad were issued safe conduct passes “whose text incriminates them and makes them accept they are criminal offenders. The two consultants have rejected the “shame passes” he said. #

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Hacienda Luisita workers seek

Hacienda Luisita workers seek
CBCP’s divine intervention on Cojuangco sugar estate

Groups identified with Hacienda Luisita farmworkers on Tuesday asked the divine intervention of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in clinching free land distribution of 6,453 hectares of the sugar estate owned by the family of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.

The Hacienda Luisita farmworkers represented by the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Luisita (Ambala) and their supporters belonging to Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) appealed to CBCP President and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and the rest of the more than 100 archbishops and bishops of the prelate’s group to uphold the demand of farmworkers to acquire the sugar lands of the Cojuangcos’ for free.

“In the name of truth and social justice, we ask the archbishops and bishops of the CBCP to support the unconditional and immediate demand of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers for the entire free distribution of Cojuangco lands to landless farm workers across the sugar estate,” AMGL chairperson Joseph Canlas said in a press statement.

“The CBCP should rally the prelates behind the cause of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers. That’s what the Gospel of truth , justice and genuine agrarian reform says,” the peasant alliance leader added. The AMGL led the mobilization of 34 leaders of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers to Manila to seek an audience with the CBCP, according to Canlas.

The AMGL leader lamented that since the November 16,2005 massacre in Hacienda Luisita, the CBCP has yet to issue an official statement urging former President Aquino to surrender the lands to the rightful owners of the sugar estate— the sugar workers and farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita Incorporated.

“It’s about time the CBCP makes an official statement on the agrarian reform dispute in Hacienda Luisita and it should be on the side of the landless tillers and exploited farmworkers,” Canlas added.

In a joint statement ULWU President Rene Galang and Ambala chairperson Lito Bais told the CBCP that the Cojuangco family had issued a memorandum last December 18, 2008 ordering all farmworkers who occupied about 2,000 hectares of the 6,453 hectares of Hacienda Luisita to destroy their crops and vacate the lands on or before October 2009.

The leaders of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers said the memorandum was issued a day after the Senate and the House of Representatives approved Joint Resolution No.1 extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) minus the provision on compulsory acquisition.

“First the Cojuangcos used the bankrupt CARP and its provision on stock distribution option to evade land distribution, now they used the Joint Resolution to effectively deny the rights of the farmworkers to land they have been tilling for nearly a century,” Galang and Bais stressed.

ULWU and Ambala said the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita was exempted from distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Instead, the sprawling sugar estate was placed under the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a non-land transfer scheme, which converted sugar workers into stock holders and daily workers receiving P 9.50 per day without any share in the gross sales.

Jay Calaguing, UMA information officer said Hacienda Luisita farmworkers continue to cultivate more 2,000 hectares of the hotly disputed sugar estate outside the framework of the 20-year old CARP, which he said was bogus, bankrupt, pro-landlord and anti-farmer.

Calaguing added that despite the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court refraining the Presidential Agrarian Reform Committee (PARC) from covering and distributing the Cojuangco sugar lands to sugar workers, the farmworkers managed to assert their land rights and pursue the “bungkalan” campaign.

UMA said the current “bungkalan” campaign has already benefited 838 families or roughly 1,676 individuals spread in the barangays of Malapacsiao (244.5 hectares), Asturias (209.93 hectares), Bantog (258 hectares), Cut-Cut (275.9 hectares), Balite (153.4 hectares), Mutrico (248 hectares), Pando (163 hectares), Texas (140 hectares), Pasajes (60 hectares) and Parang (51.5 hectares).

On the other hand, UMA is also supporting the passage of Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059 authored by the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran and co-authored by his successor Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño and Gabriela Party list Reps. Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

Under GARB, Hacienda Luisita will be distributed for free to farmworkers and poor farmers and with guaranteed security of tenure and strong support mechanisms to make the 6,453 sugar estate productive and responsive to the need of farmworkers, poor farmers and the Filipino public in general. #

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Bishops told: CARP extension a wrong Gospel for social justice

Bishops told: CARP extension a wrong Gospel for social justice

The fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday warned Roman Catholic bishops that their support to the extension of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) could be a wrong Gospel for social justice that they would soon regret as church leaders.

“For 20 years CARP was at the epicenter of the government’s land reform program, which resulted to widespread denial of peasant land rights and across-the-country agrarian reform reversals. Extending this bogus, anti-farmer and pro-landlord land reform escapade is like prolonging the agony of millions of landless peasants,” the group said in a press statement.

Pamalakaya issued the statement a day after the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines announced that it would have a dialogue with the senators on March 16 to work out for the passage of CARP extension with reforms.

“Twenty years of fake land reform program is enough. The Catholic bishops should have learned their lessons well about the inutility and bankruptcy of CARP. For two decades, this land reform program peppered with loopholes and fatal flaws further entrenched landlord power and landlordism in the countryside, and any move to extend and breed the same kind of banana is nothing but a defeatist move and extreme retrogression,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said his group and staunch allies Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the agricultural labor group Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the peasant women federation Amihan are not supporting the proposed CARP extension with reform bills currently filed in the House of Representatives and the Philippine Senate.

Instead the fisherfolk group and its allies are throwing their support to the controversial House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) authored by the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran and co-authored by Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño and Gabriela party list lawmakers Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap asserted that GARB is the real social justice piece of legislation compared to the bankrupt CARP extension with reform bills pending in both houses of Congress.

Hicap said the meat of GARB is free land distribution, unlike in CARP extension with reform bills, the farmers will still be subjected to payment of monthly amortization, that in case they failed to pay their outstanding debts or obligations to the government, the awarded lands will be reverted back to the government, or to landlord or to any private entities interested in acquiring the land.

“In CARP extension with reforms, farmers will still be subjected to rigorous payment of lands awarded to them and would continue essaying their feudal roles as CARP beneficiary paying clients of the present landlord which is the government,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Pamalakaya said an example would be the 153-hectare Hacienda Bacan in Negros Occidental currently owned by the Arroyos. Under the CARP extension with reform (CARPer), if even the lands are awarded to farmers, the beneficiaries will continue to pay monthly amortization, and in case they failed their obligations, the lands would be reverted back to the state, which has the right to sell the lands back to the Arroyos or to any private interest.

“Is that land reform? No it is not. That is real estate business,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said under GARB or House Bill 3059, the 153-hectares of the Arroyos will be classified as sullied lands, meaning lands acquired through dubious, corrupt and forcible means, and therefore would be subjected to outright coverage, compulsory acquisition without compensation to the Arroyos and free distribution to landless farmers of Hacienda Bacan.

The militant group also said the one-year indefeasibility period in CARPer was a either a misnomer or an intentional provision to allow big landlords to maneuver. Under CARPer, the titles of lands awarded to the farmer beneficiaries could no longer be questioned once the landlords in dispute failed to challenge the acquirement of lands by the farmers.

“Landlords as proven by history always question the farmers’ insistence of their land rights twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and 360 days a year. This indefeasibility provision of CARPer is meant to allow landlords to stop any kind of land acquisition and distribution,” said Pamalakaya.

But under GARB, the farmers become the rightful person to till, explore and benefit from the land in the name of free land distribution and social justice, and any dispute or question about the land will be the official business of the state and the landlord as parties, totally liberating the farmers from any kind of hassle or problems. #

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CBCP asked to oppose appointment of ex-military generals to Arroyo bureaucracy

De facto Martial Law, says Pamalakaya
CBCP asked to oppose appointment of ex-military generals to Arroyo bureaucracy

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday appealed to the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to oppose the appointment of retired military and police generals to various government posts.

“The left and right appointment of ex-military and police generals to various civilian posts are enhancement of the prevailing de facto Martial Law across the Macapagal-Arroyo cabinet. The archbishops and bishops of the CBCP must rise above the occasion and deliver knock out political statement against the raging militarization of the civilian bureaucracy under the militarist gang of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

The fisherfolk leader particularly called the attention of Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales and CBCP President Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo to address the concerns raised by lawmakers, human rights groups, anti-crime watchdogs, civil libertarians and people’s organizations on the wholesale appointment of former military and police generals to various government posts.

“Please allow us to remind archbishops and bishops of the CBCP that these generals being appointed by President Arroyo to various government posts are not officers and gentlemen but ex-military and police officers condemned by the public for their crimes against the Filipino people, including but not limited to election fraud, extra judicial killings and gross violations of human rights and civil political rights,” added Hicap.

Malacañang last week announced the appointment of former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr. as head of the Presidential Management Staff replacing Cerge Remonde who was moved to the Office of the Press Secretary. On the other hand, former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Avelino Razon was named Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Also last week, the Palace floated the name of retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan to head the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) or as member of the Dangerous Drug Board.

“Like the Filipino public, the CBCP is well informed about the crimes of these former military generals in partnership with the ruling Arroyo clique from 2001-2008. It would be unfair and unjust for everybody, especially to the victims of election fraud and political repression to resurface in the national political scene as continuing partners in crime of the President,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

The militant group said the appointment of former military and police generals to government posts was also part of the exchange deal between President Arroyo and these generals loyal to the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

“The policy of political accommodation is very much in effect under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration with the no-surprising entry of hooligans like Esperon, Razon and possibly Palparan. The President can’t say no these generals because they share the same common dark secrets since Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001 and cheated the presidency in 2004,” said Pamalakaya. #

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