PNoy, new AFP Chief, among respondents in administrative, criminal charges
Kin of massacre victims and survivors assisted by a battery of people’s lawyers trooped to the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City today to re-open the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre case, a few months before the 10th year anniversary of the bloody dispersal that killed at least seven (7) sugar workers in the controversial estate owned by the family of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
A motion for reconsideration prepared by a team of lawyers from the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA), Public Interest Law Center (PILC), and Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE), strongly questioned earlier resolutions by the Ombudsman, dismissing both administrative and criminal cases filed against perpetrators of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
Pastor Gabriel Sanchez of Barangay Balete and Violeta Basilio of Barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita, parents of the youngest massacre victims Juancho Sanchez and Jhaivie Basilio, and AMBALA Chairperson Florida Sibayan, who also sustained gun shot wounds during the November 16, 2004 massacre, led other survivors and victims’ kin in filing the motion.
The original complaint was filed by 52 victims in January 2005. The Ombudsman’s first resolution dismissing charges against civilian respondents DOLE Sec. Patricia Sto. Tomas, Usec Manuel Imson, Sherriff Francis Reyes and members of the Cojuangco-Aquino family was released only a few months after, on July 2005.
NO TEARS FOR LUISITA
President BS Aquino, who was both a Congressman and active administrator of his family’s sugar business during the Luisita massacre, is among the civilian respondents for charges of Multilple Murder, Multiple Frustrated Murder, Multiple Attempted Murder, Theft, and Malicious Mischief.
Also charged is Aquino’s newly appointed AFP Chief of Staff — Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr — who formerly held the reins at the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM). Catapang was responsible for the deployment of NOLCOM soldiers and armored personnel carriers (tanks) in the strike area as one of the ground commanders during the massacre.
A second resolution by the Ombudsman’s Military and Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) dismissing all charges against police and military respondents was released in December 2010, only a few months after BS Aquino assumed the Presidency. Cases were dismissed based solely on reports submitted by the NBI and without any other effort on the part of the Ombudsman to conduct a more thorough investigation. Copies of the Ombudsman’s resolutions did not reach most of the complainants and their lawyers.
“Every year we make a public appeal to the Ombudsman’s Office to actively probe the Luisita massacre case. ‘Yun pala na-dismiss na lahat ng mga kaso nang wala man lang imbestigasyon at hindi nalalaman ng mga biktima,” said Sibayan.
Massacre perpetrators, like Gen. Catapang and notorious Palparan henchman Col. Ricardo Visaya have since been promoted to higher posts in the military, while some of the original complainants like Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) President Ricardo Ramos, and United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) officer Tirso Cruz have become victims of the spate of extra-judicial killings (EJK) after the massacre.
Catapang immediately received flak as AFP Chief after he reportedly urged soldiers to “defend” the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). DAP funds were allegedly used by Aquino to bribe legislators and to compensate his relatives for Hacienda Luisita.
“Si Aquino, paiyak-iyak pa sa kanyang SONA, pero wala siyang awa para sa mga manggagawang-bukid na inaapi nila sa Luisita,” said Sibayan. “Sampung taon nang walang hustisya – at pati na ang lupa na ikinamatay ng mga martir, ipinagkakait at inaagaw pa rin sa amin ng ganid na pamilya Cojuangco-Aquino.”
Despite the Supreme Court decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita, farmworkers continue to struggle with landlessness and state terror. AMBALA described the Aquino administration’s land distribution scheme as a “monumental sham” designed to reconcentrate lands back to Cojuangco-Aquino control. The President’s relatives currently engage in aggressive landgrabbing, eviction of farmers, destruction of crops, burning of homes, mauling, illegal arrest and detention of farmers with the help of state forces and with ruthless impunity.
“The situation in Hacienda Luisita today is not unlike the period which led to the bloody massacre,” said Ranmil Echanis, deputy secretary general of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).
“We will commemorate the 10th year of the Hacienda Luisita massacre (HLMX) by continuing the fight for genuine land reform and justice,” said Sibayan.