Ten Years, No Justice: Farmworkers Commemorate the Luisita Massacre with Protest Caravan

caravan

Thousands of farmers and their supporters arrive in front of the Gate 1 of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the site of the massacre ten years ago. Photo by Vencer Crisostomo.

A day before the 10th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre, survivor Florida Sibayan, now chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), led Luisita farmworkers in protests in Mendiola , Manila. Supporters from different people’s organizations marched along farmworkers with “blood-stained” yellow ribbons to mark a decade of injustice after the Hacienda Luisita massacre.

Farmers carried tarpaulin banners demanding justice, as speakers from different sectors paid tribute to the life and struggle of Jessie Valdez, Adriano Caballero Jr, Jaime Fastidio, Jesus Laza, Juancho Sanchez, Jhaivie Basilio and Jhune David, the Luisita massacre’s seven martyrs.

The Hacienda Luisita massacre is the bloody strike dispersal which occurred on November 16, 2004 — 10 days after farmworkers from the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and sugar mill workers of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) launched the People’s Strike (Welgang Bayan) participated in by tens of thousands of Luisita sugar workers and their families during its peak.

Sibayan and the rest of the delegation from Hacienda Luisita minced no words and pointed directly to President BS Aquino’s criminal accountability for the massacre. Aquino was a Representative of the First District of Tarlac and active manager of the Hacienda Luisita estate during the time of the massacre.

“Upang mabigyang hustisya ang mamamayan ng Hacienda Luisita, kailangang panagutin – at patalsikin – ang kriminal at kurakot na Presidenteng asendero na si Noynoy Aquino, (To grant justice for Luisita’s people, Aquino should face accountability – this criminal and corrupt landlord President must be ousted from power),” says Sibayan.

Farmers burned an effigy of President BS Aquino clad in a soldier’s camouflage uniform and riding a wayward bulldozer, symbolizing the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s “panloloko, pandarahas at pangangamkam” (deceit, violence and land grabbing) now prevailing in Hacienda Luisita.

“Instead of implementing land reform and the Supreme Court ruling on Hacienda Luisita, the Aquino administration has been very busy terrorizing and arresting farmers, bulldozing crops and destroying their organization’s bungkalan, burning homes, and erecting concrete fences around vast agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita. All Luisita villages are still militarized. Impunity remains,” says Ranmil Echanis, deputy secretary general of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

After the Mendiola program, AMBALA and  UMA  led a 30-vehicle caravan to Hacienda Luisita, composed of w orkers, students, educators and academic staff from  different universities, church people, cultural workers, migrants’ families  and other supporters. The caravan held short stops in Plaza Miranda in Angeles City and Capas, Tarlac. The delegation from Manila arrived early evening in Luisita and was welcomed by Luisita residents with thunderous drum music and a hundred burning torches. The people marched to the covered court of Barangay Balete for a solidarity cultural night.

Supporters decry the fact that ten years have passed after the massacre which killed 7 strikers and injured more than a hundred persons without any justice rendered to the victims. “Even reports from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) — which only surfaced in full this year — declare emphatically that state security forces unlawfully killed the strikers, that the police and military did not fire in self-defense as some in the government – including then Rep.  Aquino — have claimed,” says Echanis.

Echanis is referring to Rep. Aquino’s privilege speech delivered in Congress immediately after the Hacienda Luisita massacre. “Today, Aquino thinks it his privilege to use power as top government official and Commander-in Chief to go after Luisita activists. Aquino openly plunders government coffers through the anomalous Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) so that the murderous Cojuangco-Aquino clan may maintain control of Hacienda Luisita.”

The protest caravan swelled into a 60-vehicle delegation the next day, with more farmworkers from different Luisita barangays and other peasants from Tarlac joining the commemoration activities. An ecumenical service and program ensued in front of the Gate 1 of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the actual site of the massacre. Artists transformed the walls of the azucarera into a gallery of installations, murals, prints, and photos.

The protest caravan went around Tarlac City and held a short program in front of the AFP Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM). Protesters point to soldiers of Nolcom responsible not only for the massacre, but for the terror campaign and spate of extra-judicial killings of peasant leaders and supporters in Hacienda Luisita.

“Under Aquino, one of the ground commanders of soldiers during the massacre was even promoted to the top post in the AFP — Gen. Catapang of the NOLCOM,” says Echanis.

November 16 is also Global Action Day to seek justice for Luisita massacre victims and International Day of Action Against trade Union repression to be participated in by agrarian reform and human rights advocates in at least 20 countries.

Online, supporters use the hashtag #HLMX for content related to the Hacienda Luisita Massacre 10th year commemoration campaign. ##

 

Nov. 16 is Global Day of Action vs Trade Union Repression to Commemorate Massacre in Luisita

 statementThe Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) joins trade unions and labor centers all over the world in marking November 16 as global day of action against trade union repression to commemorate the 10th year anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.

 

“The people of Hacienda Luisita led by the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) continue to stand against state violence and repression as starkly demonstrated by the ruling class Cojuangco-Aquino clan in the massacre of peasants in Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita,” said Ranmil Echanis, deputy secretary general of UMA.  AMBALA is UMA’s local affiliate in Tarlac.

 

Survivors and kin of massacre victims gathered with supporters for an ecumenical service in front of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Gate 1, the actual site of the massacre ten years ago. Many Luisita survivors subsequently became victims of state sponsored terrorism and repression, particularly during the past year when the Aquino government implemented sham land distribution.

“AMBALA has been under constant attack from the Aquino regime with continued militarization in all Luisita barangays, filing of numerous trumped-up charges against AMBALA members and leaders, and even violent assaults, murder and murder attempts perpetrated by the Cojuangco-Aquino family.”

 

According to the Workers International Struggle Initiatives (WORKINS) and Commission 5 on workers Concerns of the International league of People’s Struggles (ILPS), which initiated the global action, Hacienda Luisita is emblematic of the conditions of the workers and peasants of the Philippines. On the 10th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, WORKINS encouraged “all (to) stand in solidarity with all workers facing trade union repression everywhere.”

 

Workers organisations from the Philippines, Australia, Venezuela, Argentina, Senegal, Canada and the United States of America constitute the above-named formations.

 

The Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR), Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI), and other groups outside the Philippines also endorsed this global day of action.

 

SIGTUR is an alliance and a movement of democratic unions in the Global South or Latin America, Africa, Asia and Australia. It has members in 35 countries in 4 continents. This includes the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), and Philippines foremost labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), among others.

 

CAWI on the other hand is a coalition of people’s movements, trade unions, NGOs and other support networks representing agricultural workers, peasants, small farmers, dalits and fisherfolk. UMA is a member of CAWI.

 

Other groups that will launch commemorative activities include the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP); Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of the Human Rights & Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP); United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-Migrante); Hwaseong Migrant Service Center in Korea; and FIRST Union in New Zealand. These include film showings, cultural activities and honoring the Hacienda Luisita martyrs.

 

It was in Columbia University, New York that President Aquino was confronted by Fil-Am youth Joelle Lingat, who spent time with Hacienda Luisita farmers during her stay in the Philippines.  She told Aquino: “I’ve been to HaciendaLuisita, I have seen firsthand the continuing plight of farmworkers & families of those massacred”.

 

Aquino is also questioned by other rights advocates abroad alarmed with the climate of impunity in Hacienda Luisita and the country as a whole.  Luisita farmers point to Aquino himself as one of the main perpetrators of the Hacienda Luisita massacre. Aquino’s labor policies also lean toward repression the rights of working people in the Philippines.

 

“Victims demand Aquino to face criminal accountability for the massacre, but they do not expect justice to prevail under a corrupt and murderous haciendero President.  Luisita farmers can only pin their hopes in the movement to oust Aquino, “ said Echanis.

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One thought on “Ten Years, No Justice: Farmworkers Commemorate the Luisita Massacre with Protest Caravan

  1. Pingback: #SONA2015 | Hacienda Luisita Under Aquino |

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