Farmworkers from Hacienda Luisita, the controversial sugar estate controlled by the family of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, are among the most eager supporters of the growing clamor for the President to step down from office.
The call for Aquino’s resignation is being echoed by various quarters, including kin of the fallen police officers, progressive groups, personalities and church leaders following the tragic Mamasapano fiasco and the Supreme Court’s ruling affirming the unconstitutionality of Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
“Saludo po kami sa mga obispo, mga artista, at sa iba pang makabayan na matapang na naglalabas ng kanilang saloobin laban kay Noynoy,” (We salute the bishops, showbiz personalities and other patriotic figures who are bravely speaking out against Aquino) said Florida Sibayan, chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA).
AMBALA, an affiliate of national peasant groups Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), has been calling for Aquino to step down since last year, due to what farmers call “sham land reform” and wanton human rights violations in Hacienda Luisita.
“Alam po namin na sanay na sanay na si Aquino sa cover-up at whitewash, (We know for a fact that Aquino is very used to conducting cover-ups and whitewash) said Sibayan, referring to the controversial Hacienda Luisita massacre case which was denied due process twice during the Aquino administration.
Charges against military and police respondents were dropped in 2010, while the massacre victims’ kin and survivors’ plea to reopen investigation was denied by the Office of the Ombudsman in October last year. Sibayan suffered gunshot wounds during the massacre in 2004, and is one of the 52 complainants who filed charges against suspected perpetrators, which include President Aquino himself.
Aquino, a Tarlac representative and active administrator of the sugar estate when the bloody dispersal in Luisita occurred in 2004, washed his hands of any responsibility and callously attempted to justify the carnage in a privilege speech in Congress only hours after the massacre.
“Sa masaker ng mga manggagawang-bukid noong 2004, ginamit ng mga Aquino-Cojuangco ang mga pulis at militar laban sa amin. Ngayon kitang-kitang na po ng buong bayan na walang kwenta ang buhay ng tao para sa asenderong pangulong ito. Tinatrato lang na pain ang mga pulis na isinubo ni Aquino sa tiyak na kamatayan para lang masunod ang layaw niya at ang utos ng amo niyang Amerikano.”
(In the massacre of farmworkers in 2004, the Aquino-Cojuangcos used the police and military against us. It is now very clear to the whole nation that human life has absolutely no value for this cacique president. The police were treated as mere pawns which Aquino led to certain death just to satisfy his whims and the orders of his American imperialist bosses).
“Uniformed men are now challenged to question the police motto ‘to serve and protect.’ They should serve and protect the people, and respect the rights of unarmed civilians. There is definitely no honor in serving and protecting a corrupt, incompetent and murderous brat of a President,” said Ranmil Echanis, Deputy Secretary General of UMA.
Echanis also pointed out the role of state forces and the use of public funds funneled through DAP to advance Aquino-Cojuangco landlord interests in Hacienda Luisita. Since the implementation of Aquino’s sham land distribution in 2013, farmers were violently evicted with their huts and crops razed to the ground with the help of police SWAT teams. Complaints of harassment, mauling, illegal arrests and detention have been reported but government institutions have failed to take action to dispense justice to victims.
Farmers also say that DAP funds were used to compensate the Cojuangcos with a whopping P 471.5 M for Luisita which until now, is still under the effective control of the President’s kin.
“The stories of thousands of Luisita farmers who currently face injustice and poverty are muted, like the plight of thousands of peasants and civilians in Mindanao who are victims of landgrabbing and militarization, and of those who were particularly displaced in Mamasapano after the botched police operation,” said Echanis.
“Kung dito sa Luisita, sa sariling bakuran ni Noynoy, wala kaming hustisya na nakakamit, paano pa kaya sa Mindanao at sa buong bansa?” (If here in Luisita, in Noynoy’s own backyard, we do not get justice, how can we expect it in Mindanao and the rest of the country?) said Sibayan.
Luisita farmers will be present in mass actions calling for Aquino to step down, said Sibayan: “Dapat managot si Aquino para sa lahat ng kasalanan niya sa taumbayan. Patalsikin si Noynoy! (Aquino should be held accountable for all his crimes against the people. Oust Aquino!)”