Remembering Marcelino “Ka Marcing” Beltran

Ten years ago today, soldiers killed Marcelino “Ka Marcing” Beltran, Tarlac peasant leader and Hacienda Luisita massacre witness. Read more on the extrajudicial killing of Ka Marcing from the original Bulatlat.com story here.

Below is an excerpt from the 2013 Hacienda Luisita fact-finding report, “For Land and Justice” (click to download PDF)

Marcelino Beltran

Marcelino Beltran: Armyman turned Peasant Leader

On the night of December 8, 2004, Marcelino Beltran was brutally murdered in his home in San Sotero, Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac.

Beltran, 53, was chairperson of the AMT (Tarlac Peasant Alliance). He was a retired sergeant in the Philippine military before joining farmers’ groups.

Beltran’s son Mark, his wife, Simeona, and other children saw Beltran sprawled on the ground, bloodied but still breathing, 15 meters from the house. Bleeding in the arms of his wife, Beltran was able to utter his final words in the Ilokano dialect: “Suldado daggidyay nagpaltog” (Soldiers shot me).

Family members recount that as they were on board a tricycle to bring Beltran to the Camiling District Hospital some kilometers away, armed men in fatigue uniform accosted them and asked whether the patient they were carrying was Beltran. Fearing for their safety, they answered “no.” Those who had shot Beltran left nothing to chance.

Beltran died two hours after the shooting and never even reached the hospital. Beltran was about to testify regarding bullet trajectories in scheduled hearings on the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in Congress and the Senate. He was also preparing to attend the Human Rights March two days later on December 10, his birthday.

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Tribute to Hacienda Luisita martyrs, reminder that the struggle against hunger, landlessness and injustice continues

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Hacienda Luisita farmers march to pay tribute to martyrs. Photo by Tudla Productions.

An ecumenical service to pay tribute to victims of extra-judicial killings in Hacienda Luisita, organized by the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) was held today in Brgy. Mapalacsiao, Tarlac City, coinciding with the observance of World Hunger Day and the start of Philippine Peasant Week.

Among those given tribute were IFI Bishop Ramento who was killed on October 3, 2006, Bayan-Muna Central Luzon secretary general Florante Collantes, killed October 15, 2005, Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union president and Mapalacsiao brgy. chairman Ricardo Ramos, killed October 25, 2005, and local AMBALA leader Dennis de la Cruz who was killed in November 1, 2013.

“This tribute is a stark reminder that widespread hunger persists among those who toil the land but have no land of their own and that there is gnawing hunger as well for justice for the death of those who valiantly fought for genuine land reform,” said Ranmil Echanis, secretary general of UMA.

The event also inaugurated a marker for Ricardo Ramos, honoring the late village chief’s “principled leadership and militant advocacy for genuine unionism in the sugar workers’ struggle and for genuine land reform.”

After the ecumenical service, the participants joined a march around Brgy. Mapalacsiao which stopped at the exact spot where Ramos was shot by a sniper nine years ago. Witnesses at that time identified Private First Class Roderick U. Dela Cruz and another soldier, Romeo Castillo Jr. as perpetrators of the crime. The case against Castillo was immediately dismissed while de la Cruz was absolved of the killing on December 14, 2013 after spending 4 years in jail.

“Impunity still persists  in the same way that hunger remains widespread because those who produce food in the Philippines still wallow in poverty including the agricultural workers in Hacienda Luisita,” said Florida Sibayan, chairperson of AMBALA.

According to the National Statistics Office, “Farmers and fishermen are among the least paid workers in the Philippine economy with an average daily wage and salary of P156.8 and P178.43, respectively in 2011”.

“Most farmers don’t own the land they till while agricultural workers don’t get to work daily and usually have work for only six to nine months and are jobless during so-called seasons or tiempos muertos.  The liberalization of the agricultural sector adds to the woes of the farmers as imported agricultural products are sold more cheaply than what they produce,” Echanis said.

“Those who organize themselves, like the members of AMBALA and their supporters, to expose and oppose the prevailing exploitation of peasants are being labeled as trouble makers and everyday face the threat of being imprisoned or even executed,” Echanis added.

“”The tribute to the martyrs of Hacienda Luisita should inspire the ranks of the Luisita farmers to persevere in the struggle against the aggressive and violent moves of the Cojunagco-Aquinos and the Aquino administration to continue depriving the farm workers of land and justice. The best way to honor the bravery of our fallen comrades is to continue the struggle for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization,” Sibayan said.

Among those who participated in the activity included foreign delegates for an International Fact Finding Mission (IFFM), members of various trade unions, teachers and students organizations, religious groups, and human rights and peasant advocates.

 

Luisita farmers honor Bishop Ramento

Ramento

Bishop Ramento: “Bishop of the Poor Peasants and Workers”

The Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid ng Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) join the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) today in commemorating the 8th death anniversary of IFI Supreme Bishop Alberto B. Ramento who was killed by unknown assailants on October 3, 2006.

The late Bishop was honored as the “Bishop of the Poor Peasants and Workers”, when he earned the love and respect of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita for his staunch support to the historic sugar workers’ strike in 2004.

Bishop Ramento worked tirelessly to seek justice for the victims of the November 16, 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre. He actively joined international solidarity missions and consistently opposed the militarization of the sugar estate.

For his work as a fearless human rights advocate, Ramento earned the ire of the military, and received threats from elements led by “the butcher” General Jovito Palparan who was assigned in Central Luzon from 2005-2006. He then became a target for extra-judicial killing. Bishop Ramento was brutally stabbed in his rectory in Tarlac City.

Farmworkers believe that the Philippine National Police (PNP) is involved in the systematic cover-up of the Ramento murder case. Police reports obscured the political motives of the masterminds of the killing and made scapegoats of ordinary street-corner thieves. According to official police statements, Bishop Ramento was simply a victim of robbery with homicide.

Eight years after his death, justice remains elusive for Bishop Ramento with the Aquino administration’s special treatment for criminals like Palparan and with unabated rights violations in Hacienda Luisita.

Luisita farm workers will honor Bishop Ramento with an ecumenical service and tribute on October 16, 2014 in Hacienda Luisita. AMBALA and UMA will also pay tribute to Luisita strike supporters and labor leaders who also fell victim to extra-judicial killings in the month of October — Bayan-Muna Central Luzon Secretary General Florante Collantes (killed October 15, 2005), Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union President and barangay Mapalacsiao Chairman Ricardo Ramos (killed October 25, 2005) and the most recent victim, Dennis dela Cruz of AMBALA who was found dead in the farmworkers’ collective farm on November 1, 2013.

The October 16 tribute to Bishop Ramento and other Luisita martyrs is part of a series of activities leading to the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre (#HLMX) on November 16, 2014.

Hacienda Luisita farmers join victims’ rally in Palparan hearing

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Luisita farmers demand justice for Cadapan, Empeno, Bishop Ramento and all victims of human rights violations by “The Butcher” Jovito Palparan. Photo by Angge Santos / KARAPATAN.

Farm workers from Hacienda Luisita trooped to the Malolos Regional Trial Court in Bulacan today to join victims in seeking justice for human rights violations during the “reign of terror” wrought by Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. in Central Luzon.

Palparan, who was arrested for kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges related to the enforced disappearance of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, is likewise responsible for numerous human rights violations in Hacienda Luisita as commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division from September 2005 to the last quarter of 2006, according to farm workers. Palparan is scheduled to be arraigned 10 am today at the Malolos court’s Branch 14.

Palparan not only “inspired” the spate of extra-judicial killings in Hacienda Luisita after the 2004 massacre. “The Berdugo had a direct hand in killings and human rights violations under Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya,” said Florida Sibayan, Chairperson of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA).

RicRamos

In October 2005, Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) President Ricardo Ramos, also barangay captain of Mapalacsiao in Luisita, was killed by army soldiers. AMBALA laments the acquittal last December of main suspect Pfc. Roderick dela Cruz of the 7th ID under Palparan, coinciding with the violent bulldozing of crops and eviction of farmers in Luisita by the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), a firm owned by Pres. Aquino’s family. “Impunity – with the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ relentless attacks against our livelihood and this murderer’s acquittal blessed by this hacendero President – is like salt on our open wounds,” said Sibayan.

Another labor leader and staunch Luisita advocate Florante Collantes, then-secretary-general of Bayan Muna in Central Luzon, was gunned down in his residence in Camiling,Tarlac, October 15, 2005 – ten days before the murder of Ramos.

Exactly a year after the Luisita massacre in November 2005, eleven persons manning a picketline in Barangay Balete – including two women and a minor – were nabbed by soldiers under Palparan, mauled and interrogated in a safehouse. The victims and dozens of other farmers and local officials who exposed and condemned the incident were slapped with various trumped-up charges.

Palparan is also directly implicated in another case of enforced disappearance in Hacienda Luisita. According to witnesses, Luisita youth leader Ronaldo Intal, then 24, was nabbed by Palparan’s soldiers while working in a farm in Barangay Balete. Intal’s parents later got leads from a Tarlac City official that Intal was under the custody of the AFP’s Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) but “Gen. Palparan will not release him yet because his appointment is not yet over.”

Ramento

In October 2006, another Luisita advocate, Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church was stabbed in his rectory in Tarlac City. Authorities wanted the public to believe that the killing was not politically-motivated. Bishop Ramento vehemently opposed overkill deployment of soldiers in Hacienda Luisita during Palparan’s reign. One file photograph shows Ramento blocking several truckloads of soldiers entering the estate for “combat operations.”

“Gen. Palparan made massacre perpetrator Col. Ricardo Visaya his ‘protégé’ and right-hand man in commiting human rights violations all over Central Luzon. Inside the hacienda, Visaya, Hilario, and Lobusta were some of the berdugos,” said Sibayan.

M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario, Palparan’s co-accused in the Empeno-Cadapan case, is notorious among residents as perpetrator of countless incidents of harassment with death threats to farmers, local activists and officials and whole communities in Hacienda Luisita. Hilario remains at large.

Today, military and paramilitary units under the 7th ID still maintain detachments in majority of barangays in Hacienda Luisita. In Barangays Balete, Cutcut, Lourdes and the Asturias-Mapalacsiao boundary, army units serve as “landlord security” with detachments strategically located in contested agricultural lands fenced by Cojuangco firms TADECO, Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) and Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC).

“The Palparan brand of impunity still reigns in Hacienda Luisita and the rest of the country under BS Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan,” said Sibayan. “We will not stop seeking justice for victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre, and all victims of human rights violations.”

Hacienda Luisita farmers and advocates have launched a year-long commemoration campaign for the tenth year of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre (HLMX) in November. ##

Reference:Florida “Pong” Sibayan, AMBALA Chairperson, 09293201477