The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and its local affiliate in Tarlac, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), condemn in the highest terms Malacanang’s cruel and insensitive recent statements addressed to the victims of grave human rights abuses in Hacienda Luisita.
We are not surprised, however, that Presidential talking heads Abigail Valte and Manny Coloma have come to the immediate rescue of the President’s kin to downplay the crimes and to rub salt on the open wounds of beleaguered Luisita farmers. These obnoxious pronouncements only show that despite his denials, the President and his administration are very much involved in the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s crusade to maintain control of Hacienda Luisita.
Quick reaction statements against the Luisita farmers coming not from any spokesperson of TADECO or Hacienda Luisita, Inc., not from Peping or Ballsy, not even from Kris Aquino, but directly from Malacanang, send the public a clear and strong signal that the Aquino government will not allow truth and justice to prevail, even or especially within the President’s own backyard. Is it the policy of the Aquino government to block justice for Luisita farmers? Is it state policy to mock the downtrodden? Now we’ve just heard Malacanang practically say so.
We dare the Department of Justice (DOJ) to immediately act on the farmers’ complaints. The Office of the Ombudsman, the Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) must also order the immediate probe of erring officials and personnel in Tarlac province positively identified by the farmers. We also call on the members of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) in Central Luzon who have conducted field investigations in Hacienda Luisita in May to furnish the public with their reports and to continue investigating subsequent rights abuses in the area.
Serious abuses detailed by Luisita farmers in the complaints filed last Friday before the DOJ were committed by hired thugs, private security personnel, and armed state forces under the employ or with direct orders from the Cojuangco-Aquinos through their firm Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO). These abuses cannot be possibly “recycled from 2010” as Malacanang foolishly suggests, for they were committed only since last year, 2013, when the DAR commenced the implementation of the government’s bogus land distribution in Hacienda Luisita.
These abuses were committed despite, or in cruel retribution for, the Supreme Court decision on total land distribution in Hacienda Luisita. Most victims are local peasant leaders, activists and the ordinary tillers who have fought fearlessly for land and justice since the historic sugar workers strike in 2004. Some of them are survivors who have suffered gunshot wounds or have lost their loved ones during the Hacienda Luisita Massacre and to subsequent political killings and enforced disappearances.
The recent violations are documented and occasionally posted real-time on social media as alerts with pictures or videos from AMBALA, UMA and the Hacienda Luisita Peasant Supporters Network. The escalating tension and persistent abuses prompted advocates led by UMA, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis Partylist to launch national fact-finding missions in September 2013 and April 2014.
The disturbing situation in Hacienda Luisita also led to the establishment of Luisita Watch, a network of advocates for the land and justice campaign of Luisita farmers.
The reign of impunity in Hacienda Luisita has even compelled Filipino-American activists like Joelle Lingat, who was with Luisita farmers during the onslaught of Typhoon Glenda, to bravely confront President Aquino during his recent visit in the US.
Luisita farmers need all the help to keep the campaign for land and justice within the public eye. We call on the thousands of students, educators, artists, church workers, activists, alternative media groups, and advocates from North America, Europe and Asia who have seen the situation from recent exposure trips and visits to help the farmers expose grave abuses in Hacienda Luisita. Write about what you have seen, post your pictures, repost articles and share content with Luisita Watch through its blog and social media accounts and use the hashtag #LandJustice4LuisitaFarmers. Let us call the attention of concerned government agencies, international institutions and the mainstream media.
The Peasant Women International Fact-finding Mission on landgrabbing, initiated by UMA and Amihan, will further investigate abuses in Luisita from October 16-18. Complete affidavits with annexes of the most recent batch of Hacienda Luisita farmer-victims will be made available to the public by then.
Since the historic sugar workers strike and tragic massacre in 2004, thousands of human rights and agrarian reform advocates from all over the world have come to Hacienda Luisita to see the real condition of the farmworkers. We also call on them to join or initiate activities leading to the 10th year commemoration of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre (#HLMX) on November 16. The Luisita farmers’ fight is an enduring inspiration to all advocates of genuine agrarian reform and social justice.
To Malacanang we say, “Challenge accepted.” Abuses in Hacienda Luisita are real – thousands of supporters will help farmers prove it.
Deputy Secretary-General, UMA
Convenor, Luisita Watch
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