More sacadas recruited from Mindanao – including women with infant children – recently escaped from slave-like conditions in Hacienda Luisita. According to the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a total of 18 individuals have sought the assistance of government agencies for them to be able to return to Mindanao. “This issue should no […]
Huts or kubol used as headquarters of the local farmworkers’ organization Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) in Barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita were reportedly demolished around noon today. Monggo crops were also reportedly destroyed. The huts are located within AMBALA’s bungkalan or land cultivation area in Barangay Mapalacsiao, the same village where […]
A total of 36 sakadas from Bukidnon filed labor complaints against their recruiters and employers Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, Agrikulto Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) at the National Labor Relations Office – Regional Arbitration Board (NLRC-RAB III) in San Fernando City last week, following their “rescue” from slave-like working conditions in […]
We’ve heard this story before: the farmworkers who cut and haul cane in this controversial sugar estate earn only P9.50 a day as ‘stockholders’ of Hacienda Luisita, Inc. The thousands who have had enough of this oppression decided to strike. This happened more than 12 years ago. Fastforward to 2017. Mario Bagnaran, 58, a farmworker […]
Hundreds of sakadas or migratory sugar workers recruited from Mindanao have become victims of a giant human trafficking scam when they were brought to Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac to work during the kabyaw or annual sugar harvest and milling season which started in November 2016. Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of the national […]
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)
Agricultural workers led by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) demand that President Benigno Aquino III exert stronger effort to appeal for clemency for Mary Jane Veloso, especially since her parents worked for decades at the Aquino-Cojuangco estate Hacienda Luisita as sakadas or seasonal sugar cane cutters.
Hacienda Luisita farmers under UMA and the local alliance AMBALA urged Aquino to be more forceful and determined in saving the life of Mary Jane Veloso. AMBALA Chairperson Florida “Pong” Sibayan reminded Aquino that Mary Jane’s father and grandfather’s hard toil as underpaid sakadas in Hacienda Luisita contributed to the Aquino-Cojuangco’s family fortune.
“The Aquino-Cojuangcos amassed huge wealth and power through the sweat and blood of sakadas and farm workers like Cesar and Emeterio Veloso. Aquino must remember this when he comes face to face with President Jokowi to seek clemency for Mary Jane,” said Sibayan.
Aside from appealing to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Aquino should also appeal to other ASEAN leaders to urge the Indonesian leader to stay the execution of Mary Jane.
“Aquino should extol French President Hollande whose efforts and strong statements resulted in the delay of the sentence of French national Serge Atlaoui, who is also on Indonesian death row with Veloso,” said John Milton Lozande, UMA Acting Chairperson.
“The Philippine government must also warn Indonesia that if its appeal for Veloso is ignored, it is prepared to recall its ambassador from Indonesia just like what Brazil and the Netherlands did after their citizens were executed in January. The Brazilian government even declined to accept the credentials of Indonesia’s new envoy,” Lozande added.
“The Veloso family endured extreme poverty despite back-breaking work in sugarcane fields. The utter lack of decent jobs and wages in the country pushed Mary Jane to seek opportunities abroad.”
“Due to the government’s bogus agrarian reform program, landless agricultural workers all over the country are now growing in number. Sakadas from Northern Luzon, Negros, Mindanao and other poor regions become victims of slave wages and forced internal migration literally hauled by illegal recruiters and lead men to harvest sugarcane not only in the traditional haciendas in Batangas or in Luisita, but also for the expansion of vast export crop plantations where they work under extreme or subhuman conditions.”
“The government’s labor-export policy is another trap that aggravates the dire conditions of peasants and the people under Aquino,” said Lozande.
The agricultural workers’ urgent appeal to stop the execution of Mary Jane Veloso was carried by UMA and its affiliate unions and organizations from Cagayan Valley (UMAMI), Tarlac (AMBALA), Batangas (KAISAHAN), Negros Island (National Federation of Sugar Workers), Bukidnon (OGYON), Agusan del Sur (PIGLAS-MAPAPI), Southern Mindanao and Far-South Mindanao (NAFLU-KMU) during its recently concluded national council meeting held in Quezon City.