Quezon City, January 5, 2015 — Farm workers from Hacienda Luisita today joined the People’s Committee to Welcome the Pope, composed mostly of sectors from the poor and the oppressed, in appealing to Pope Francis for solidarity. Together they called for Pope Francis to “hear the cry of the poor and to stand with us.”
Earlier, the farm workers, in a Christmas gathering held in Barangay Balete, Luisita on December 27, appealed to the Pope to fight with them for land and justice as they have completely lost their trust with Philippine government authorities and have instead found strength in the Pope’s words upholding the dignity of the working person.
Violent incidents against farmworkers have been ongoing since 2013, coinciding with the commencement of government’s “land distribution” activities in Luisita. Victims point to President Aquino’s kin, their goons and minions in the police and the military as the perpetrators.
In the most recent case before Christmas last year, it was the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board’s (DARAB) turn that sent summons to at least 8 farmers in Mapalacsiao for allegedly unlawfully occupying and possessing landholdings. The tillers have been cultivating the said farm lots since 2005 but the DAR awarded these to other farmers via a lottery drum (tambiolo) raffle last year, thus causing conflict among the “farmworker-beneficiaries.”
AMBALA Chairperson Florida Sibayan, a survivor of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre, said that they no longer trust the DAR, the courts or the police in Tarlac — they no longer expect these authorities to help them seek justice.
“We have been fighting for land and justice for decades. Ten years after the Hacienda Luisita massacre, we get nothing but more injustice, landlessness and impunity. Fight with us, Pope of the Poor!” Sibayan said.
Sibayan added that hopefully the Pope would at least give his support to the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita and the rest of the peasants in the country who are struggling for genuine agrarian reform, as well as to other poor and oppressed sectors of Philippine society. These sectors include local and migrant workers, the urban poor, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders.
All of these groups have written the Pope through postcards and other means to get his support. All of them have also found strength in Pope’s Francis words when he said:
Solidarity is a word that is not always welcomed; I would say that sometimes we have transformed it into a bad word, it cannot be said. However, it is a word that means much more than some acts of sporadic generosity. It is to think and to act in terms of community, of the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few. It is also to fight against the structural causes of poverty, inequality, lack of work, land and housing, the denial of social and labor rights.
It is to confront the destructive effects of the empire of money: forced displacements, painful emigrations, the traffic of persons, drugs, war, violence and all those realities that many of you suffer and that we are all called to transform. Solidarity, understood in its deepest sense, is a way of making history, and this is what the Popular Movements do.