Agricultural workers across the country cheer the people’s triumph, owing to unrelenting efforts which ultimately saved the life of a humble sakada’s daughter, Mary Jane Veloso.
Filipinos here and abroad together with supporters from other nationalities stood ground until the very last minute even with the firm stance made by Indonesia against Veloso.
The haciendero dispensation led by Benigno Aquino III, however, has no moral authority to claim that the stay in Veloso’s death sentence was due to their efforts.
When government was expected to rally the nation to make Indonesia spare an innocent Filipino’s life, intimidation and repression were inflicted by our own police force against Veloso’s sympathizers. Instead of keeping our hopes afloat, our own local officials fed the media with defeatist pronouncements and lies to once again cover up government’s criminal negligence and its bungled handling of Veloso’s case.
Aquino was never sincere in saving Mary Jane. His 5-minute appeal to Widodo during the ASEAN summit came to nothing. Bowing to local and international pressure, Aquino made a last minute call to Widodo, only to reveal yet again his brand of cacique arrogance by blaming and practically shaming the victim Mary Jane for “not cooperating with government” early in her ordeal.
The callousness of Aquino brings back memories of Flor Contemplacion, who was also treated by officials as a ‘mere domestic worker’, a dispensable pawn. Mary Jane, like the thousands of farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita, was treated by Aquino like trash. The Hacienda Luisita massacre is a stark reminder of how cheap our lives are for Aquino and his ilk.
Hacienda Luisita farmworkers and millions of other sakadas or seasonal workers, agricultural workers and their families across the country remain the poorest of the rural poor most vulnerable to slave wages and forced internal migration.
This is where MaryJane’s story began. The Veloso family suffered extreme poverty despite back-breaking toil in sugarcane fields endured by Mary Jane’s father, Cesar, and Cesar’s father, Emeterio before him. Without genuine land reform, the number of impoverished and landless farmworkers will continue to grow.
The labor-export policy which feeds on the desperation of our people will continue to produce many other Mary Janes who leave the country everyday.
We shall continue to fight for Veloso and the cause of social justice and freedom to save the lives of these Mary Janes, and to save the lives of our people.
John Milton Lozande
Acting Chairperson, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)