by FLORIDA SIBAYAN, AMBALA
What kind of message is the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz sending to the public in conferring unprecedented distinction to the Luisita Industrial Park – a hub widely-known to be part of the still dispute-ridden and controversial Hacienda Luisita estate?
While it is up to the workers themselves in the Luisita Industrial Park (LIP) to contest the ostentatious designation made by the DOLE in naming the LIP as the very first “Labor Law Compliant Eco-zone” in the country, this does not belie the fact that aggressive land grabbing and brazen human rights violations are continuously being perpetrated by the LIP administration under the Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC).
The LRC is one among the many notorious corporate avatars of the Cojuangco-Aquino family in Hacienda Luisita, where presidential sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz is director while Pinky Aquino-Abellada and Viel Aquino-Dee sit as top stockholders.
DOLE’s conferment may be used to prop up the LRC’s pending application before the Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s (PEZA) Board to incorporate 260.4 hectares of agricultural land in Barangay Balete, Luisita to the existing Luisita Industrial Park complex. The PEZA granted the LRC a pre-qualification clearance on February 13, 2014, barely a week after the Cojuangco-Aquinos ordered the burning of farmers’ homes and the bulldozing of crops within the contested property.
Another Cojuangco-Aquino firm, Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) ordered the aggressive attacks against Hacienda Luisita farmers in Balete. Violent eviction of farmers, bulldozing of ready-to-harvest palay crops and fencing off of the 260-hectare area from its tillers continued even after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) affirmed the agricultural nature of the said property by issuing a Notice of land reform coverage (NOC) on December 17, 2013. The DAR did not lift a finger to stop TADECO’s assaults against Luisita farmers.
The headquarters of the 31st company of the 3rd Mechanized Battalion of the Philippine Army was constructed within this 260-hectare area last year with the blessings of the LRC. Soldiers have, since then, been practically deployed to serve in the Cojuangco-Aquino private army, intermittently mobilized to harass and evict farmers from the area. Bulldozers of the Cojuangco-Aquino family which were used to destroy farmers’ crops and homes are usually parked right beside the army headquarters.
In successive incidents from September 2013 to March 2014, TADECO was able to evict tillers even without a court order through the deployment of private security guards, local police and fully-armed SWAT teams. The attacks resulted in the death of one of our members, Dennis dela Cruz, several cases of mauling, attempted murder and unlawful arrest, and the filing of harassment suits against hundreds of farmers.
Personnel – thugs – hired by the Cojuangco-Aquino family from the Great Star Security Agency, one of the Luisita Industrial Park’s subcontractors, are directly responsible for the violent attacks against farmers in Barangays Balete and Cutcut. Great Star Security Services, Inc. was also declared compliant with General Labor Standards and issued Certificates of Compliance (CoC) yesterday, October 1, in a high-profile ceremony at the LIP compound which was graced by Baldoz herself.
Security guards from the Great Star Security Services Inc. are also involved in the shooting of a group of farmers in disputed farmlands in Barangay Maimpis, San Fernando, Pampanga on July 28, 2014. It seems that violation of human rights is their forte.
The Cojuangco-Aquinos are hell-bent on maintaining control of the Luisita estate and in implementing their grand master plan to convert the sugar plantation into a giant commercial hub, in contempt and complete reversal of the 2012 Supreme Court decision for total land distribution.
Ten years after the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, Luisita farmers are still denied land and justice. President BS Aquino’s alter-egos like Baldoz of DOLE and Gil delos Reyes of DAR, act like extensions of this insatiable landlord family in ruthlessly extracting every last drop of blood, sweat and tears from Luisita farmworkers.
FLORIDA SIBAYAN, AMBALA Chairperson
Contact Number: 09293201477