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11 groups call for rejection of Noynoy in 2010 polls

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Lollipop de los Reyes and Sugar Hicap

MANILA, Philippines-About 11 rural based organizations and agrarian reform advocacy groups urged the 50 million Filipino voters in the May 10, 2010 elections to reject the presidential bid of Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, asserting that electing the son of former President Corazon Aquino’s son to the presidency is like extending the term of outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In their statement, the peasant activist group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the agricultural worker group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the peasant women federation Amihan, the Hacienda Luisita based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), the Central Luzon wide Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon(AMGL), the legal NGO group Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra), the Tanggol Magsasaka human rights committee, the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates- Youth Sector (Nnara-Youth) and Anakpawis party list said it is politically necessary to frustrate the presidential ambition of Aquino.

“The rejection of Noynoy Aquino at the electoral box-office this May 10, 2010 is in the highest interest of the rural people— the farmers, farmworkers, peasant women, agricultural workers, indigenous people and fisherfolk. The collective view of landless farmers and marginalized rural folks is that bringing Aquino to the highest elective post in the land is like extending the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for another six years of injustice, betrayal, corruption, extreme puppetry to the United States and ultimate state terror,” the 11 groups said in their rural manifesto for real change.

“Please allow us to cite our basis why Noynoy is Macapagal-Arroyo in the making, why Noynoy is President Arroyo trapped in a man’s body and why an Aquino presidency appears like giving Arroyo another six year rule of extrajudicial killings, grave human rights violations, high crimes of corruption, puppetry and grand betrayal of national interest and public trust,” the 11 groups added.

In their rural manifesto, the groups said Noynoy and the entire Cojuangco-Aquino landed aristocracy will not yield their unlawful and immoral claim on Hacienda Luisita. At present, the Cojuangco-Aquino established Luisita Estate Management is engaged in round-the-clock campaign to stop free distribution of the 6,453-hectare sugar plantation to 10,000 farmworker beneficiaries.

“It is predictable- an Aquino presidency will just continue Arroyo and other previous presidents’ policy of land reform denials and reversals. The presence of anti-agrarian reform politicians in the Aquino camp is highly evident why agrarian reform will continue to serve the best interest of landed class like the Cojuangco-Aquino and the Roxas-Araneta families under an Aquino presidency,” they said.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said: “To set the record straight, LP senatorial candidate and former senator Franklin Drilon was the justice secretary of the late President Corazon Aquino. He instigated the infamous Department of Justice (DoJ) Opinion No.44 which allows anarchic and chaotic land use conversions all over the country. The anti-peasant measure was used by the Cojuangco-Aquino and the Araneta-Roxas family to evade land distribution and pushed the sale and conversions of their landholdings for the benefit of their foreign and private clients”.

The KMP leader recalled during Cory’s time, one of Noynoy’s current political lieutenants—former DAR secretary Butch Abad was instrumental in keeping Hacienda Luisita in the hands of Cojuangco-Aquino through the shameless Drilon opinion. The presence of Drilon and Abad in the Noynoy camp is a stern warning that no real agrarian justice will be undertaken by Aquino if he becomes President in 2010.

For his part, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said Noynoy was scored by a US-based human rights watchdog, hinting Aquino will not solve the problem of political killings and worsening human rights situation in the country. One indicator, Hicap said, is Noynoy’s desire to maintain private armies and paramilitary forces backed and supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The country’s human rights organizations said paramilitary troops were in cahoots with the military and were also responsible for the spate of politically motivated murder over the last nine years under Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and Oplan Bantay Laya II.

“Noynoy is one of the biggest opportunist politicians ever produced in the history of reactionary politics and reactionary elections in the country. In exchange for his family’s lifetime control of Hacienda Luisita including graft-ridden projects like the SCTEX, Noynoy and his feudal clan supported the presidential bid of President Arroyo in 2004 and Noynoy as congressman of Tarlac refused the playing of Hello Garci tape in connection with the massive election fraud perpetrated by the Arroyo mafia in 2004 presidential elections,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Pamalakaya said the massacre of 7 farmers and wounding of 134 striking farmworkers and their supporters in Hacienda Luisita on November 16, 2004 was part of the anti-farmer and anti-Left collaboration of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration and the fiefdom of the Cojuangco-Aquino. The Arroyo administration ordered DOLE to intervene through the anti-worker assumption of jurisdiction (AJ) during the strike and mobilized military and police forces to disperse and indiscriminately shoot Luisita farmworkers in the name of their political alliance with Cojuangco-Aquino.

KMP and Pamalakaya also warned the economy will continue to suffer under an Aquino presidency. The economic managers of President Arroyo who were responsible for anti-people economic policies like the 12 percent Expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT) and Oil Deregulation Law to mention a few now composed the economic advisers of the Noynoy camp.

“For instance, LP vice-presidential candidate Mar Roxas and senatorial candidate Ralph Recto are orchestrators of the anti-poor EVAT and both are obsessed with the economic poisons prescribed by the IMF-World Bank and operators of World Trade Organization (WTO) or one-sided and anti-Filipino agreements like the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa),” the groups said.

The 11 groups said the appeal to the 50-million voters to rise above the occasion. Let us all frustrate the presidential ambition of Noynoy Aquino. “What we aspire and struggle for is genuine land reform and social justice. And we cannot have it under an extended Arroyo presidency in the political persona of Noynoy Aquino,” the 11 groups added.

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Noynoy told: “Distribute Luisita now, not in 2014

By Makisig Corrales, Lala Lichugas and Trinity Biglang Awa

Manila, Philippines-Rural based militant groups on Wednesday told Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Sen, Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III and his family– the landlord Cojuangco-Aquino clan they should distribute the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita sugar estate to 10,000 farm worker beneficiaries now and not on 2014 as proposed by the front running presidential candidate.

In a manifesto signed by the farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Luisita (Ambala), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Amihan peasant women federation, Anakpawis party list, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and the leftwing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said Aquino was merely taking Luisita workers into a roller coaster ride by making them believe that the Cojuangco-Aquino clan has decided to yield effective control of the sugar estate to farm workers by 2014.

“Why wait for 2014 if they can relinquish their immoral and unlawful control of Hacienda Luisita anytime today, tomorrow or next week? We will not buy this gimmick. He is politically hurt by issues ranged against him on hacienda, and he just issued this eyebrow raising, jaw dropping statement to stop the dropping trend in his ratings at the electoral box-office”, said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos in behalf of the groups.

At a press conference held in his family’s ancestral home in Concepcion, Tarlac, Noynoy told reporters that he had convinced members of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan to prepare for the turnover of the sugar estate to farm worker beneficiaries by June 2014.

Aquino spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said his principal is committed to distribute the land to farm worker beneficiaries at the end of the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carper). Lacierda stressed that the decision was made because of principle and not just a campaign promise.

“That’s baloney. Where’s the logic behind that promise? The free distribution of Hacienda Luisita should take place now. The 2014 agrarian deadline is highly questionable and grossly unacceptable,” added Ramos.

Before Congress recessed on Feb.5, leaders of UMA, ULWU and AMGL trooped to Senate and sent a letter of appeal urging Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to re-open the Hacienda Luisita case particularly the controversial Stock Distribution Option (SDO) which was sneaked in by former President Corazon Aquino to gain effective control of Luisita.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said said on June 8, 1989, Enrile, then Senate Minority Leader in his privilege speech questioned Executive Order 229 allowing Hacienda Luisita to evade distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farm workers by signing EO 229 placing the entire sugar estate under SDO scheme where farmers become nominal stock holders instead of having physical possession of lands.

“Hacienda Luisita is a history of long-running deception by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan. It is time to end this prime time and triple platinum betrayal of peasant interest and welfare,” he said.

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Inquirer asked to take up Luisita, land reform in 2nd edition of presidential debate

By Billy Javier Reyes and Kremlin Montenegro

Manila, Philippines-Six of the biggest rural based groups in the country– the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Amihan peasant women federation, the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Anakpawis party list on Tuesday proposed to editors and organizers of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s presidential debate to take up the issue of Hacienda Luisita and the state of land reform in the second staging of the presidential forum.

In a press statement Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap appealed to Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot and editor-in-chief Leticia Jimenez-Magsanoc to have land reform issues discussed in the 2nd edition of the Inquirer presidential debate.

“We submit this humble appeal to the collective leadership and political wisdom of those behind the Inquirer presidential debate. Majority of the presidential wannabes are landlords and feudal chiefs of vast landholdings all over the country, so there’s already conflict of interest as far as land reform is concerned. We hope this proposal would merit the approval of the organizers,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader noted that the first edition of the presidential debate held yesterday at UP Diliman and attended by 2,500 people was a success, although there are more important questions that should have been asked to determine if public interest is really in heart and political mind of every candidate, rather than use the occasion as opportunity for political mudslinging against and between presidential wannabes.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap suggested a working title for the Inquirer regarding their proposal. “How about “how do you solve a problem like Hacienda Luisita as title of the next presidential debate?”

The Pamalakaya leader recalled that on June 8, 1989, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, 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.

Sen. Enrile said former President Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order No. 229 enabling the Aquino presidency 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.

“Senate President Enrile could be invited as resource speaker for the presidential debate on Hacienda Luisita,” Hicap suggested.

Pamalakaya said the debate should also include discussion on the plans of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)to distribute some 200,000 hectares of land to qualified farmer beneficiaries this year under the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Reforms (CARPer) with the return of the compulsory acquisition scheme in the five year extended land reform law.

“Secretary Pangandaman is the point person of landgrabbers and the land speculators in and out of Malacanang and in and out of the agrarian reform department. His statement suggests false hopes and political blackmail rolled into. He wants to convince landless farmers that everything is ok under CARPer which is not true,” the group said.

In its website (www.dar.gov.ph) the agrarian reform agency expressed optimism that the department will attain 200,000 hectare land distribution target for 2010 due largely to the restoration of compulsory acquisition as one of the modes of acquiring lands under Republic Act 9700 or the CARPer law. He said the increase in the budget of DAR will hasten the distribution of land to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“First the target is too low compared to the more than 6 million hectares of prime agricultural lands concentrated in the hands of landed monopolies like big landlords, private corporations and multinational plantations and military landlords in AFP military reservations,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said based on the data provided by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the country has 14.1 million hectares of prime agricultural lands, of said total 9.9 million hectares are farmlands and about 4 million hectares more or less are devoted to livestock production which were exempted from land distribution since 1988.

“There are about 7 million hectares of prime agricultural lands or more are concentrated in the hands of the few, and we DAR has no proof that five million hectares or more of these lands were already distributed to farmer beneficiaries under the reactionary CARP regime,” the group said.

Pamalakaya noted that in the September 2007 report of DAR, that following data were uncovered: 5,049 emancipation patents (EPs) and 103, 092 certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) were cancelled by the agrarian department covering 204,579 hectares of land. But think tank Ibon Foundation said at the middle of 2004, DAR cancelled 2,000 land titles of farmers involving 380,000 hectares of land. #

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Sugar groups told: Recall EO on importation

By Jay Cuesta, Roy Morilla and Sugar Hicap

Lawyers Atty.Jobert Pahilga and Jules Matibag of National Union of Peoples' Lawyers discussing the bitter pills the Cojuangco-Aquino clan has in mind for striking farmworkers

Manila, Philippines- Asserting that there is no legitimate basis to import sugar from foreign sources abroad, five of the biggest rural based groups—the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Amihan peasant women federation, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Negros and the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to recall Executive Order No. 857 authorizing the National Food Authority (NFA) to import sugar together with the private sector.

In a joint press statement, the groups pressed Malacanang to stop NFA from importing 150,000 metric tons of sugar tax free, saying that such move will pave way for the massive dumping of foreign sugar products at the expense of local sugar producers all over the country. They said, the situation does not merit the importation of sugar from sources abroad.

“There is no dramatic indicator for the retail price of sugar to increase as mill gate prices are relatively lower at P1,700 to P1,900 per 50-kg, very far from government lies that it is P2,000 upward,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos.

Citing the report of Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, composed of sugar millers and big planters, Ramos said raw production rose by 14.7%, refined production by 41.74%, even the milling rate of sugarcane to sugar increased by 4.19%, in short, where is the shortage the government is drumming about?” said Ramos.

Price manipulation

Likewise, leaders of UMA and NFSW accused officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) of engaging in price manipulation of sugar prices in the domestic market to justify sugar price hikes, enrich the pockets of big sugar traders, make commissions and justify the importation of sugar from foreign sources abroad.

They said agriculture and sugar officials for misleading the public on the actual price of sugar in the domestic market which they said had allowed big traders and sugar cartels to jack up prices of their products and promoted panic buying among consumers to further justify the skyrocketing prices of sugar.

UMA acting chair Butch Lazonde said the SRA and the Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap had some explaining to do as to why sugar price is going up to an unprecedented levels of P 52 per kilo despite of the government assurance of sufficient supply of sugar for the crop year 2009 and 2010 respectively.

“The general public has the right to know the real score behind the sudden hike in the prices of sugar since the situation does not merit for any sharp increase. Last December sugar price tops only for P42.00 per kilo but this January alone it had reached to P52.00 fearing the price will vault as high as P60.00. Such drastic hike on its price is very unlikely considering that we have enough supply for local consumption,” the UMA official asserted.

“This is a clear case of price manipulation. It shows unscrupulous big sugar traders and millers are behind this sudden sugar price hike. They are the ones who are benefitting from it. This is sheer profiteering. SRA and DA officials connived with big millers and traders to push this major disarray in the local market to benefit a few paved way for this sugar fiasco. Lazonde added

NFSW asserted the upsurge on the price if sugar as “fake” and had no really basis for the increase.

Ronald Dagu-ob NFSW national council member explained that “The province of Negros supplies 60% of sugar requirements and if we combine the supplies from other sugar producing provinces like Leyte, Pampanga, Tarlac and Mindanao this crop year, we think we’re going to have more than enough supplies to last all year round. So why the Department of Agriculture is eager to push for the importation of 150,000 MT of sugar?”

Lazonde said that “Both agencies are treating the situation just like another day in the office. Acting in a casual business like attitude without considering its effect to the general public”.

“As far as we are concern, sugar price should be not higher than the suggested retail price of P43.00 as the Department of Trade and Industry conveyed. If we follow the price of sugar last quarter of 2009 there have been increase of demands because of the holiday season for just only P2 to P3 top. But this January the price of sugar spiked four times, an increase of P14 to P20. This preposterous price frog leap, SRA and the Department of Agriculture can’t concretely explain to the worried stricken public”. Lazonde added.

“What the SRA, DA and the government do is to support our local sugar industry by subsidizing small sugar planters and at the same time help farm workers to increase their wages and benefits. Importation of sugar will only weakened our local sugar industry. To ensure a sufficient supply, we are urging the agencies concern to impose a moratorium not only on sugar but also with all agricultural products that is considered as basic commodities”. Lazonde said.

Special session

Meanwhile, the Pamalakaya asked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to call special session on the issue of sugar following reports that the government will resort to sugar imports to the detriment of the local sugar industry and the sugar consuming public.

“Let this massacre of sugar industry by anarchic importation of sugar be discussed in a special session by Congress. We understand it is already the start of the campaign season, but this should not prevent lawmakers from taking this highly explosive commodity and issue and address the concerns of sectors affected by the looming sugar catastrophe characterized by massive importation and all-out price manipulation of sugar,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap. #

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JPE told: “Remember June 8, 1989”

By Bb. Joyce Cabral and Viva Regala-Alonzo

Manila, Philippines-

Supporters of striking Hacienda Luisita farmworkers commemorated the 5th year anniversary of Luisita massacre

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. #

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Luisita workers urge Congress to re-open massacre case, agrarian dispute

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.

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Luisita workers say Noynoy a hopeless case

By Jayjay Jaiho and Bb. Joyce Cabral

Manila, Philippines- “While Liberal Party presidential standard bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is no longer a hopeless romantic as far as the affairs of the heart are concerned, he is a hopeless case as far as striking workers of Hacienda Luisita workers are concerned,” according to leaders of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Anakpawis party list.

In a joint press statement, KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos, UMA spokesperson Lito Bais and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said the refusal of Sen. Aquino to recognize the rights of striking farmworkers and his rejection of the legitimate, lawful and morally upright demand for immediate and unconditional free distribution of the 6,453-hectare sugar estate to more than 8,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries betrayed the collective interest of the Filipino farmers all over the country.

“Noynoy will not give up their immoral claim and blood tainted control of Hacienda Luisita,” the militant leaders said.

The militant groups said the agenda calling for free distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmworkers and other agrarian reform beneficiaries will be posed to other presidential candidates in the May 2010 elections that include Manuel Villar of Nacionalista Party, the closest rival of Aquino according to various surveys conducted by independent poll groups.

“The issues concerning Hacienda Luisita like the revocation of Stock Distribution Option, the immediate and free distribution of the 6,453-hectare sugar estate to land reform beneficiaries and the quest for justice for victims of the massacre on Nov.16, 2004 will be included in the peasant electoral agenda for 2010,” the groups said.

They said the family of Sen. Aquino failed to address and improve the lives of Luisita workers over the last three to four decades. According to them, daily take home pay of every farm worker in Hacienda Luisita is
P 9.50, which is not even enough to buy a half kilo of NFA rice.

Bais, the UMA spokesperson and acting president of the hacienda based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) today announced that Hacienda Luisita will serve as a launching pad of Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan which will officially start on January 16 in Northern Philippines.

The Lakbayan will gather marching farmers from Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon regions on their way to National Capital Region on the occasion of the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre.

Bais said on January 16, thousands of farmers and farmworkers from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Abra, Benguet, Tarlac, Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Isabela and Cagayan will mass up in Hacienda Luisita Park to signal the 7-day Lakbayan from Northern Luzon to NCR.

The UMA spokesman said farmers will then hold a caravan from Tarlac City to Angeles City and San Fernando City in Pampanga and will stage a vigil near Pampanga’s provincial capitol. From the capitol, farmers will stage a long march on their way to Malolos, Bulacan. They are expected to reach Monumento in Caloocan City on the afternoon of January 20, according to caravan and long march organizers.

Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) secretary general Joseph Canlas said aside from Hacienda Luisita, Central Luzon peasants will also expose and oppose the continuing landgrabbing activities by big landlords and the military in San Miguel, Bulacan and Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

Canlas said farmers in Hacienda Sta. Isabel and Hacienda San Antonio in Isabela will also join the caravan and long march to press for the immediate distribution of big landholdings to landless farmers in the province.

In the South, Lakbayan organizers led by KMP and Anakpawis party list said around 750 farmers, fisherfolk, peasant women, agricultural workers and indigenous people from 10 regions in Mindanao, Panay, Negros, the Visayas and Bicol are expected to reach Lucena City by January 17, where they are expected to hold a solidarity vigil, which the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan- Southern Tagalog chapter (Bayan-ST) will host and sponsor.

Kasama-TK and Bayan- ST representing over 1,000 mobilization from the region will later join the marchers on their way to the National Capital region.

“This is history in the making”, organizers added.

“Land monopoly in the country has further aggravated and intensified the exploitation of our farmers. Imagine, because of landlessness, they are perennially subjected to pay 50 percent, or 1/3 or 1/4 of their gross harvest as land rent. But only 19 to 21 percent of the total produce goes to farmers. This sorry state of agrarian reform in the country will be vividly depicted during the 10-day farmers’ march from all over the country,” they said.

Organizers said the Lakbayan will also engage in mobile dissemination and propaganda campaign about the sorry condition of farm workers all over the country. She said daily income of rice farmers for the entire cropping season ranges from P 23 to P 40 per day.

On the other hand, KMP’s Ramos said in defense of their rights to land in pursuit of social justice, farmers are perpetually subjected to various forms of human rights violations, militarization and repression.

Latest data from Karapatan human rights group revealed that 561 farmers were victims of extrajudicial killings, 119 of them were leaders and members of KMP, while scores of internally displaced peasants due to all-out war, militarization and massacre; and cases of abducted farmers and falsely charged rural activists continue to flood the monitoring bulletins of human rights groups and the concerned public. #

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