peoples march

from the people against injustice in the society

LAND AND JUSTICE FOR THE PEASANTS AND FARM WORKERS OF HACIENDA LUISITA

Posted by ajadhind on November 21, 2009

Issued by the Office of the Chairperson

International League of Peoples’ Struggle

16 November2009

Today, the working people of the world are launching various forms of
protest actions to mark the International Day of Action against Trade
Union Repression. This provides a meaningful context for commemorating
and protesting the massacre of striking peasants and farm workers in
Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province in the Philippines in 2004. The
working people of Hacienda Luisita exemplify the plight and struggle of
the working people of semicolonial and semifeudal countries, who still
comprise the majority of the world’s population.

Hacienda Luisita is the vast 6,000-hectare tract of land in Central
Luzon owned by the wealthy and powerful Cojuangco family to which former
Pres. Corazon “Cory” Aquino belonged . It stands as a bulwark of feudal
and semi-feudal exploitation and oppression within the context of the
world capitalist system. It demonstrates how the big comprador-landlords
exploit the working people and wield state power to oppress them. It
exposes as a sham the so-called “comprehensive agrarian reform program”
that the Aquino ruling clique had launched since the 1980s.

Earlier the Cojuangco family bought Hacienda Luisita from the Spanish
Tabacalera corporation with a loan from the government in the 1950s..
The loan was granted with the provision that a major portion of the land
(2000 hectares) would be distributed later on to the peasants, within
the frame of the government’s “land reform” program.

The Cojuangco family not only failed to distribute the designated
portion of the land, it maneuvered to keep it and used violence to
suppress those who demanded land reform. In 1985, a trial court ruled
that the lands be distributed to the peasants, but 1986 saw the ascent
to the presidency of Aquino. The Aquino regime crafted an agrarian
reform program which was riddled with so many exemptions, including one
called the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) that was used to exempt
Luisita from land distribution.

In this context, we can fully appreciate the significance of the strike
launched by Luisita peasants and farm workers in November 2004. They
were protesting the P9.50 take-home pay per day at the hacienda – a
result of the Stock Distribution Option scheme hatched by the Cojuangcos
and the landlord class to gain legal exemption from the fake agrarian
reform program being implemented by the government. They were also
protesting the dismissal of 300 workers from the hacienda’s sugar
refinery, an act intended to bust the local union which was then
becoming militant.

Before and during their strike, the peasants and farm workers of Luisita
– with the active support of patriotic and progressive mass
organizations and alliances throughout the country, and with the help of
alternative media – won the attention and sympathy of the working people
of the country and the world. Many among the urban petty-bourgeoisie in
the Philippines were shocked to learn about concrete forms of feudal
exploitation and oppression that were persisting in the countryside. The
working people of the Philippines and the world applauded and encouraged
the working people of Luisita .

The Cojuangcos, the big comprador-landlord classes, and the reactionary
state were all shamed by the justness of the calls of the Luisita
peasants and farm workers. They reacted swiftly and viciously to the
strike. Patricia Sto. Tomas, then-labor secretary of the US-backed
regime of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, issued an Assumption of
Jurisdiction order on the issue, ordering the strikers to go back to
work and authorizing the deployment of military and police forces to
dismantle the strike. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., who was widely
believed to have been promoted to his post for helping Mrs. Arroyo cheat
in the 2004 elections, was the military’s chief of staff.

The military and police forces went to the hacienda, bringing tanks,
tear gas, and high-powered rifles. The Luisita peasants and farm workers
stood their ground. With their unity and militance, they repelled
various attempts at breaking the strike. Thousands upon thousands of
workers, peasants and farm workers, together with their women folk,
locked arms and pushed away with their bodies the military and police
who were armed with shields. After reaching the ground, canisters of
tear gas thrown by the military were immediately covered with soil. A
farmer, speaking to the military, summed up their spirit: “Since you are
already killing us, we might as well die fighting.” These could only
have aroused fear and panic in the hearts of the oppressors..

In the afternoon of November 16, 2004,after the strikers promised in a
negotiation with military and police officials to lay down the pieces of
wood they were holding for defending themselves and to defend the strike
with just their bodies, the military and police forces opened fire. A
few minutes of gunfire left Jhaivie Basilio, Adriano Caballero, Jhune
David, Jesus Laza, Juancho Sanchez, Jaime Pastidio and Jessie Valdez
fatally wounded. Some of them could have been kept alive, but hospitals
in Cojuangco-dominated Tarlac refused to admit patients from the
hacienda. Calling for land to the tillers, they died fighting for the
just cause of the peasants and farm workers of Luisita and the country.

The owners of the hacienda, the reactionary government and the bourgeois
mass media tried to spread the canard that it was the Luisita farmers
and farm workers who started the violence and that it was fighters of
the New People’s Army,.who started the shooting. Their propaganda could
not stand up to the truth of the audio-visual evidence taken by
progressive filmmakers who covered the strike. The bursts of gunfire
came from the ranks of the military and the police. Subsequently, death
squads of the military went on a spree killing strike leaders and
supporters, including a bishop and a city councilor.

While the touters of the reactionary justice system in the Philippines
often cite the adage that “justice delayed is justice denied,” justice
has clearly been delayed and has been denied to the peasants and farm
workers of Hacienda Luisita. Five years after the massacre, no one has
been punished for the crime. There are many victims, but none of the
criminal perpetrators is imprisoned. Investigation of the cases has been
proceeding at snail pace, and the only significant development is that
de facto president Arroyo, her labor secretary Sto. Tomas and the
military butcher Esperon have been removed from the list of those
charged. The ones remaining on the sham charge sheet are the police and
military officers who tested positive in paraffin tests. But they are
scot free and biding their time.

The power of the labor secretary to issue Assumption of Jurisdiction
(AJ) orders remains in place – despite the graphic demonstration by what
happened in Luisita of its lethal consequences for working people. After
the massacre, the labor secretary issued AJ orders for numerous
workplaces in Central Luzon, thus facilitating the militarization of
that region. Since it was approved as part of the Labor Code in 1989,
the AJ has been used as license to suppress workers’ actions in
workplaces throughout the country. It is being imposed even before a
strike is initiated – when collective bargaining negotiations end in
deadlock or when notices of strike are filed before the government.

Pressured by the strike and the widespread condemnation of the massacre
locally and internationally, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council
(PARC), in December 2005, revoked the Stock Distribution Option (SDO)
scheme being implemented in the hacienda and placed the lands previously
under the SDO into the “compulsory coverage” scheme of the government’s
agrarian reform program. The Hacienda Luisita management, losing no
time, filed for a Temporary Restraining Order in January 2006 against
the resolution. In June 2006, the Supreme Court issued a TRO and ordered
the PARC and the Department of Agrarian Reform to implement the
revocation of the SDO.

Seeing the opportunity in this deadlock, and knowing that waiting for
government intervention will get them nowhere, the peasants and farm
workers of the hacienda took the initiative and launched their
“kampanyang bungkal” or campaign to till, which called on all working
people of the hacienda to plant crops that are necessary for everyday
nourishment, such as rice and vegetables, and can be sold for added
income, such as fruits. With the participation of more than a thousand
families, the hacienda land, which used to showcase sugarcane, now
boasts of golden fields of rice. The campaign caused an improvement in
the lives and livelihood of the working people of Luisita.

The Cojuangco family, however, has not given up on the fight to own the
Luisita lands. Last December 2008, emboldened by the passage of a law
extending the government’s anti-peasant agrarian reform program – which
still contained the SDO as one of the (non-)distribution schemes – the
Hacienda Luisita management issued a memorandum to the peasants tilling
the 2,000-hectare portion of the hacienda which ordered them to stop
using the lands for whatever purpose. After a public clamor directed at
Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III – a member of the Cojuangco family
who’s running in the 2010 presidential elections – the Hacienda Luisita
management was forced to backtrack.

Now, the Hacienda Luisita management is carrying out what it calls an
“enlistment” of peasants who would become the “beneficiaries” of
agrarian reform in the hacienda – as if it were the authorized body to
implement agrarian reform in that area and as if it were authorized to
do so despite the TRO. It is complaining of “illegal tillers”
encroaching upon the hacienda, who are actually the working people of
Luisita. It is also undertaking land-use conversion schemes in various
parts of the land. The creation of a vast highway that passes through
the hacienda is being seen as an opportunity to increase the value of
hacienda land and an opening to commercial uses of portions of the
hacienda.

Five years after the massacre, the struggle of the Luisita peasants and
farm workers for justice, including the junking of the Assumption of
Jurisdiction power of the labor secretary, and land continues. They
deserve the full support of the working people of the Philippines and
the whole world. We hope that our International Day of Action against
Trade Union Repression and the fifth anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita
massacre will be an occasion for working people everywhere to discuss
and raise the issues of trade union repression in their work places and
countries. We should not allow trade union repression to weaken our
ranks and spirit. It should goad us to fight back and gain strength
through struggle.

We have to continue and intensify our struggle not just against trade
union repression but also against the forms of feudal and semi-feudal
exploitation which are aligned with the world capitalist system. Let us
keep in mind that monopoly capitalist control of global agriculture and
the food system has now created a global famine afflicting over a
billion people for the first time in world history.

The struggle of the Luisita peasants and farm workers is instructive. It
is only through the militant struggle of working people that they can
gain strength and aim for their national and social liberation. We may
win victories in our struggle for reforms within the present world
capitalist system but these will continue to be at risk until we, the
people of the world, are strong enough to overthrow the exploiters and
oppressors.

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2 Responses to “LAND AND JUSTICE FOR THE PEASANTS AND FARM WORKERS OF HACIENDA LUISITA”

  1. great insight keep it up 🙂 i will visit ur site daily if i want to design site like yours i wonder how long it will take me

  2. Maria Elizabeth Embry said

    tweaked by Maria Elizabeth Embry)

    Hacienda Luisita, 42 years Blowin’ in the Wind (1968-2010)

    How many more Hacienda Luisita farmers must die

    Before we can call ’em owners of their land?

    Yes, ‘n’ how many Laws they must passed

    Before you can call it an Agrarian Reform Law?

    Yes, ‘n’ how many more farmers the guards must slay

    Before you can say it is enough?

    The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,

    The answer, indeed is blowin’ in the wind.

    How many times must Hacienda Luisita farmers fight

    Before they can see the end of their plight?

    Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have

    Before he can hear the farmer cry?

    Yes, ‘n’ how many massacres will it take till Noynoy wakes up

    That too many Hacienda Luisita sakadas have died?

    The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,

    The answer, indeed is blowin’ in the wind.

    How many years can the Hacienda Luisita farmer’s plea exists

    Before it’s heard by y’all?

    Yes, ‘n’ how many years can Hacienda Luisita farmers complain

    Before they’re allowed to be right?

    Yes, ‘n’ how many times can some people turn their heads,

    Pretending they just do not see?

    The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,

    The answer, indeed is blowin’ in the wind.

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