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Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA Pilipinas) is the national progressive center of unions, federations, associations and organizations of agricultural workers in the Philippines.

UMA works closely with other progressive people’s organizations in the Philippines such as the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May First Movement), and other organizations affiliated with the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN, New Patriotic Alliance).

UMA is a member of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura

Sugar farmworkers unite to dismantle various Cojuangco haciendas

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Nearly three decades after the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP, farmworkers under sugarcane haciendas launch simultaneous actions against the powerful Cojuangco landlord clan.

In Tarlac, national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) joined local farmworkers in a caravan yesterday in Hacienda Luisita barangays to assail undeclared “martial law” within the controversial sugar estate.

Hacienda Luisita is controlled since the 1950s by the family of former Presidents Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, who enacted CARP in 1988, and Benigno Aquino III, under whose regime the CARP expired in 2014. Large parcels of prime agricultural land in Luisita is still heavily guarded by private security and armed state forces.

Yesterday, around 100 policemen were deployed to guard a 500-hectare fenced area in Brgy. Balete which is claimed by commercial bank RCBC. SWAT teams were also seen toting high-powered firearms in checkpoints. Today, farmers and their supporters formed a human chain near an army headquarters located right smack in the middle of a thriving land cultivation area also in the same barangay.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos says successive land reform schemes under CARP failed to uplift the lives of downtrodden sugar workers in Hacienda Luisita. Instead, farmworkers were to exposed to various atrocities, including the Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004.

“First, Cory implemented the oppressive Stock Distribution Option or SDO. Today, despite a Supreme Court decision for total land distribution, Hacienda Luisita is still under the effective control of the Cojuangco-Aquinos through the aryendo or illicit leaseback set-ups. The Cojuangcos are now also business partners with another despotic landlord family, the Lorenzos of Lapanday, who controls thousands of hectares of banana plantations in Mindanao,” said Ramos.

Meanwhile in Negros, notorious landlord and Marcos crony, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., an estranged brood of the Cojuangcos of Luisita, still controls around 5,000 hectares of land under the CARP’s “corporative scheme,” another non-land transfer scheme akin to the SDO.

According to NFSW Secretary General John Milton Lozande, more than 200 farmworkers from 11 Cojuangco haciendas in Negros Occidental have set up a protest camp in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) local office in in Bacolod City to demand the termination of Danding’s corporative scheme and revocation of various joint-venture agreements forged with CARP “beneficiaries.”

The corporative scheme was enforced in the following haciendas in 1998: Hda. Balatong, Hda. Nieva, Hda. Bonifacia, Hda. Soledad, Hda.Candelaria, Hda. Fe, Hda. Caridad and Candaguet, Hda. San Antonio, Hda. Ara-al, Hda. Kaiyaman and Hda. Adelina and has since comprised the Eduardo Cojuangco Jr or ECJ landholdings. The protests in Bacolod City are led by the ECJ Farmers and Farmworkers Alliance in Negros or EFFWAN.

“The SDO, corporative scheme and joint-venture are onerous contracts and landgrabbing schemes made legal by the CARP. This is the reason why farmworkers reject any extension of this pro-landlord policy and instead push for a genuine land reform program composed mainly of free land distribution to actual tillers,” said Ramos.

Ramos is referring to the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill filed as HB 555 by Anakpawis Partylist and Makabayan bloc, a piece of legislation which is widely supported by farmers across the country.

UMA also said that before the cancellation of the 5th round of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the negotiations were nearing positive developments, especially since both parties have already agreed to free land distribution as component in the crafting of a Comprehensive Agreement for Socio-Economic Reforms or CASER.

“We are enraged that instead of addressing basic socio-economic problems to solve the roots of peasant unrest and armed conflict, the Duterte regime is gearing towards Martial Law and militarist solutions fed to him by ex-generals and other imperialist lapdogs within his Cabinet,” said Ramos.

“Duterte’s peace agenda now appears to be totally undermined with the piling up of various military atrocities in peasant communities in Mindanao and other parts of the country where state forces are under ‘red alert.’ The farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita and Negros have already showed us how to daring land occupation and cultivation actions. Farmers have no recourse left but to continue the fight and dismantle the centuries-old hacienda system,” ended Ramos.

 

 

 

Agriworkers Call for Release of Detained Union Leaders in Mindanao

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) is calling on the Duterte government to order the release of 3 banana workers and their supporters who were arrested on June 2 in Compostela Valley.

According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of UMA, the arrests sends a chilling effect on the rights of workers to strike in the light of the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

Originally 14 workers and advocates were arrested by a combined force of 100 military men, 30 police officers and some 20 scabs. Most of those who were arrested were beaten up and the place where the workers stayed during their strike was destroyed.

Eleven of the workers were released on the same day except for three. Namely, those still detained at the Compostela police station are Vicente Barrios, union president of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (SUMIFRU Packing Plant 232).

Another is Pio Salar (President, Freshmax Workers Union) and Eric Noble (Vice-Pres, Shin Sun Workers Union) are detained in the Compostela Police Station. There has been no case filed against them.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had earlier declared before the workers strike on March 23 that their recruiter, ECQ Serve Human Resources was engaged in the forbidden practice of Labor-only Contracting (LOC). DOLE also ordered the immediate return of the 287 workers previously employed under the agency.

In a research made by Ibon foundation on the conditions of the Shin Sun workers, it found out the following. They are only paid by their recruitment agency at P291 a day, even if the minimum wage in Davao region is set at P307 a day.

Their actual wage though is a measly P135 a day because of various salary deductions. These are for supplies, working tools, and mandated contributions for welfare benefits. The workers, however, found out that their agency never remitted their contributions to the SSS, Philhealth, and Pagibig.

Those who conducted the arrests and destruction of the strike area told the workers that the Labor Law is not enforced because of martial law.

This is absurd as the constitutional rights of the workers and the people have not yet been suspended even if martial law was declared. Thus we reiterate our call that the 3 union leaders should be released immediately and that the DOLE implement its earlier decision that was favorable to the workers.

Sugar workers to Duterte: Fight for Peace

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Sugar workers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao march the streets of Bacolod City for genuine land reform and continuation of peace talks.

BACOLOD CITY — The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), which just successfully held its 8th National Congress here in city, expressed apprehension over President Duterte’s recent pronouncements that may negatively affect prospects for just and lasting peace in the country.

In a protest action in downtown Bacolod today, Rolando Rillo, newly-elected President of NFSW, said that “Sugar workers were eagerly anticipating positive developments in the peace process (between the government and the National Democratic Front), especially after both have declared that they agree to free land distribution and wide-ranging socio-economic reforms.”

“But Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao and his inclination towards militarist solutions will only worsen state repression that workers and peasants suffer even without his open declaration of martial rule,” he said.

“Duterte must stop fighting against our own people. He must fight for peace,” added NFSW Secretary General John Milton Lozande.  Sugar workers also fear that Duterte’s public threats against communist peace negotiators in a speech in front of Navy officials in Davao City yesterday would be tantamount to the termination of the talks.

NFSW, a national federation under the wing of national agriworkers center  Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), said its members are not afraid to voice opposition against the bogey of Duterte’s martial law. UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos called on its member-unions and associations nationwide to intensify campaigns for genuine land reform and a just and lasting peace, while launching bold protest actions against Duterte’s martial law.

“Bandying Martial Law about to solve deeply-rooted social problems should never be ‘normalized’ – no amount of government spin and fear-mongering will change the fact that the masses reject martial law,” said Ramos.

The military already admitted that the Marawi crisis is not the only problem that Martial Law seeks to solve – which could mean that it is geared towards Marcos-style fascist repression of people’s rights. “We will join ranks with those who have campaigned against the return of the Marcoses in Malacanang and those who protested against the Marcos burial, besides mobilizing our own members and networks nationwide,” said Ramos.

Aside from numerous active district chapters and local unions and associations in Negros Occidental, the NFSW Congress re-established its links to its organizations in Bukidnon, Socksargends, Panay, Batangas, Tarlac, and Cagayan Valley. NFSW was founded in 1971, and was immediately involved in the struggle against the US-Marcos dictatorship. Like other militant organizations during that time, NFSW members suffered human rights violations  such as arrests and torture under Marcos. The most appaling incident was the Escalante Massacre in 1985, where around 19 hacienda workers were killed, and many others were wounded.

Despite these challenges, NFSW still dared to continue its organizing work among sugar workers both in the field and mills, until its ranks swelled to 30,000 at the start of the 80’s. “NFSW’s contribution the downfall of the US-Marcos dictatorship is significant,”said Lozande. UMA and NFSW said that they are determined to solve the roots of unrest in the country such as land monopoly and the perpetuation of the hacienda system, and lack of basic industries.

“Duterte’s decision to cancel the 5th round of peace talks with the NDF, his threat to arrest communist consultants once they return to the country, and his toying with the idea of suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas, does not bode well in settling civil unrest. The masses of workers and peasants are most interested in forging socio-economic reforms through the peace process, and Duterte is undermining all the positive developments in the talks with his rash statements,” said Ramos.

“Duterte should not rely on militarists and neoliberal stalwarts in his Cabinet who are the most rabid supporters of declaring and expanding martial law, and scuttling the peace talks. Duterte’s coterie of rightists in his administration underestimate the strength of the masses who are struggling to end feudalism and imperialist control in the country,” added Ramos.

Lozande further emphasized that “NFSW was not cowed when martial law was declared a year after its formation in 1971. We only had only members in Negros island then. Today we are one with the rest of the Filipino people who are resolute in resisting further oppression and state repression.”

 

​Nat’l Sugar ​W​orkers ​F​ed​ ​r​e-established amidst Martial Law declaration

 

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The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), a nationwide federation which made significant impact among sugar mill and field workers’ unions during the Marcos Martial Law era, was reestablished through a National Congress on May 30-31 in Bacolod City.

NFSW, whose influence remained in Negros Island since the 1990s, was re-established as a nationwide federation of sugar workers amidst a martial law declaration in Mindanao

NFSW which was founded in 1971, was borne out of the sugar workers and peoples’ struggles in the late 60’s and start of the 70’s. NFSW dared to advance sugar workers’ issues during the dark days of Marcos Martial Law.

Around 150 delegates from prominent sugar areas across the country – including Bukidnon, Cotabato and Davao, where sugar workers are affected by the blanket Martial Law declaration in Mindanao – are expected to attend the NFSW national congress. Most delegates will come from Negros Island, while representatives of sugar workers’ unions and associations from Panay, Batangas, Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Isabela, and Cagayan, vowed to strengthen the NFSW.

According to John Milton Lozande, secretary general of NFSW, sugar workers are resolute in the aim to consolidate the federation as the militant national federation to forward the interests and well-being of workers in the sugar industry, strengthen and sustain coordinated mass campaigns, and advance the mass movement to attain victories for sugar workers.

“The NFSW now adds its voice to the campaign against Martial Law in Mindanao and its possible nationwide implementation. Our ranks emulate the fierce stance of the NFSW founders who dared to stand against the Marcos dictatorship,” said Lozande.

“Martial Law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus is tantamount to the surrender of our democratic rights. Sugar workers in the mills and sugarcane fields including the most-oppressed sacadas from Negros and Mindanao must now learn to stand up for their rights and get organized, especially amid this Martial Law declaration,” added Lozande.

Sugar workers fear that the snag in the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) would also embolden state security forces to further its repressive policy against organized workers, “But these unfortunate developments are not stopping NFSW from supporting the talks and pushing for genuine land reform and national industrialization. The roots of the armed conflict must be addressed for the country to achieve a just and lasting peace,” said Lozande.

NFSW must take pride in its history against the US Marcos dictatorship, according to NDF Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison, who sent a solidarity message for the congress. Even when many members were arrested during the said period, NFSW persisted in its organizing work. A number also joined armed struggle against the Marcos dictatorship after its leaders and members were arrested.

Because of its creative and daring organizing work, NFSW membership grew to 30,000 at the start of the 80’s. NFSW was also a founding member of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, which was established in 1980.

It could be said that NFSW’s mass struggles contributed to the downfall of the US-Marcos dictatorship, which was ousted in a popular uprising only months after the Escalante massacre in September 1985.

“Militarists and imperialist lapdogs in the Duterte Cabinet should never underestimate the people’s movement, including the organized ranks of the sugar workers nationwide. For so long, they have endured oppression and repression from hacienderos and compradors who have utilized state and private security forces to deny them of their land, labor and human rights. We are referring to the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004, and the recent killings of prominent sugar workers leaders and organizers, Ariel Diaz of Isabela, and Alexander Ceballos of Negros.

“NFSW together with the rest of the Filipino people will never be cowed by martial law. We will resist it in all its forms and eventually prevail,” ended Lozande.

NFSW will stage a protest rally on June 1 in Bacolod City, to protest Duterte’s Martial Law declaration.

Military Should Pull Out of Workers Strike Area in Mindanao

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66th IB personnel entered back the packing plant of Shin Sun tropical Corp

If GRP chief peace negotiator to the NDFP, Sec. Silvestre Bello III is saying that martial law in Mindanao is not meant to target the left, then he should order the 66th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army to withdraw from a Korean owned banana plantation in Compostela Valley plagued by a labor dispute.

According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), elements of the 66th IB occupied the packing plant of Shin Sun Tropical Corp. on the night of May 24. Martial law was declared in Mindanao on the same day.

Earlier death threats were made on May 23 on the organizers of said strike. Its members are affiliated with Shin Sun Workers Union-NAFLU-KMU. 80 of its workers staged a strike on March 16 for being dismissed by the company because of labor only contracting.

The 66th IB has been harassing them and the workers have been accused of being members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA). It is just one of too many cases of legitimate labor disputes being criminalized by state security forces.

Ironically, Sec. Bello is also the head of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Besides ordering the military from pulling out of the strike area, the DOLE should also take jurisdiction of the case and act favorably on the demands of the workers.

Martial law or no martial law, this should be always the case.

Oligarchs and Multinationals to Benefit from Martial Law in Mindanao

Business as usual, that is the reaction today of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) in President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao as only oligarchs and multinationals will benefit from this.

This was ensured by one of the most rightist and pro-neoliberal member of President Duterte’s cabinet, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. He was one of those who persuaded the chief executive to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao, even if fighting on the so-called Maute and Abu Sayyaf Groups were only confined in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

UMA is also one with the people of Marawi City in condemning on the violence inflicted on them by these groups, but at the same time in using this as an excuse to declare martial law.

According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of UMA, it is calling on its members nationwide to oppose martial law in Mindanao and its possible extension to the whole country. He added that martial law will only further suppress the labor, land and human rights of agricultural workers and of the Filipino people.

Such is the case of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI). They were installed by Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Sec. Rafael Mariano back to their lands grabbed by Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) on May 18 this year on the orders of President Duterte himself.

Recent reports though indicate that LFC guards are harassing MARBAI members and their supporters. Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao might embolden said oligarch owned company to once again forcibly eject them from their lands.

Another is the continued harassment and death threats made on May 23 by elements of the 66th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army on striking workers of Shin Sun Tropical Corp in Compostela Valley.

The company is a Korean owned banana plantation and 80 of its workers staged a strike on March 16 for being dismissed by the company because of labor only contracting. Its members are affiliated with Shin Sun Workers Union-NAFLU-KMU.

All organizers and members of agricultural workers in Mindanao are at risk of being attacked by state security forces as Defense Chief Lorenzana branded the place as a haven of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).

Agricultural workers should emulate the example of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) which was organized in 1971 or a year before the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. NFSW in coordination with UMA will hold a Congress this coming May 30-31 in Bacolod City to re-establish itself as a national federation.

Even when Marcos declared martial law, NFSW continued to successfully organize sugar workers in the fields and mills across the island even with arrests made on their ranks. A number of them also joined the armed resistance against the dictatorship.

Because of the intense exploitation and oppression against the sugar workers, NFSW was able to expand up to the 80’s and it was even a founding member of the KMU. It also contributed immensely to the ouster of Marcos from power in 1986 despite suffering deaths during the Escalante massacre a year before that.

Agricultural workers already have their own organizations in Mindanao and have been steeled in struggle as their collective actions like in the rest of the country have been met by fascist attacks. They should be ready to face further attacks because of the declaration of martial law and engage in all forms of struggle necessary.

They have the support of the Filipino peasantry, workers and people in defending their labor, land and human rights and in shouting never again to martial law. President Duterte should lift martial law because even if it is very harsh, the people would definitely struggle and win against it.18698676_1385240054892079_833020321_o.jpg

MARBAI Farmers Serve Lapanday ‘Notice to Vacate’ Agrarian Reform Lands

vacateIn a protest action a day before going back to Mindanao to affirm their resolve to continue with their installation on the land, farmers belonging to the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) and their supporters today served a ‘Notice to Vacate’ to Lapanday Foods Corporation’s (LFC) Makati office today. The farmers also symbolically padlocked the main gate of LFC.
“These symbolic actions are a prelude to what will happen in the coming days,” said Danilo Ramos of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura.
One hundred MARBAI farmers served the notice together with supporters from multi-sectoral groups from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Anakpawis Partylist.
“Lapanday should abide by the President Duterte’s directive to return the land to us,” stated Antonio Tuyak, spokesperson of MARBAI.
During a dialogue with the farmers in Mendiola on May 9, Duterte said the lands do not belong to Lapanday and that it should be returned to its rightful owners. “We expect to be installed on the 145-hectares of land next week,” Tuyak said.
The determination and strong resolve of the MARBAI farmers to claim back their lands from LFC was crucial in persuading the President to give his support to their cause.
MARBAI, together with other farmers in Mindanao have been campaigning for almost a year which culminated in their reclaiming of their lands on Dec. 9 despite harassment and violence inflicted upon them by security guards and goons of LFC which resulted in the wounding of ten farmers in two shooting incidents on Dec. 12 and 14.
LFC guards were able to forcibly evict them on Dec. 31, but they did not falter as they held strong their camp outside the LFC compound in San Isidro Tagum City.
Fify-nine of them went to Manila and started a camp-out at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) main office in Quezon City to demand the fast-tracking of their installation.
However, the local Philippine National Police (PNP) refused to assist them in their installation, exposing its subservience to the oligarch Lorenzo clan, which owns the LFC.
After the failed installations on April 18 and 21, two hundred MARBAI members and their supporters decided to camp-out in Mendiola starting May 1, until President Duterte himself pledged his support to them.
“The rising agrarian unrest in Lapanday and other big landholdings is a testament of the need for a genuine land reform,” said Pedro Arnado of KMP Southern Mindanao.
MARBAI expressed resolve that they shall be installed to their lands next week.

#OccupyLuisita |  Farmers have all the right to occupy Luisita

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The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) reiterates that government must now immediately address the just demand of Luisita farmers for free land distribution, since land reform in this controversial sugar estate has been overdue for more than half a century.

Barangay Balete, where yesterday’s “Occupy Luisita” took place, is one of first settlements in the area, cultivated by farmers way before the Cojuangcos acquired the estate in 1957. It is named thus because the very first residents felled huge balete trees to build their community. It is but just for them to tear down the walls built by the landlords – the Cojuangco-Aquinos and their business partners, the Yuchengcos of RCBC and Lorenzos of Lapanday. These walls prevent farmers from tilling the land that is morally, historically and legally theirs.   

Despite the 2012 Supreme Court decision for total land distribution, the landlords with the backing of the previous administration of BS Aquino and his alter egos at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), transformed Barangay Balete into a virtual garrison. Balete became literally surrounded by concrete walls, barbed wire fences, elevated outposts guarded by armed security, a police detachment, and headquarters of a mechanized battalion where bulldozers and army tanks are occasionally parked.  

Residents of Balete and other barangays or villages in Hacienda Luisita are in constant threat of dislocation – the landlords have been planning to completely wipe-out the farming community to make way for ‘development plans’ that would further their business interests.

Out of the total 6,453-hectare estate, the SC explicitly ruled to distribute 4,335 out of the original 4,915 hectares incorporated in the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) stock distribution option (SDO) scheme, since 500 hectares were approved by the DAR for land conversion, and 80.5 hectares were utilized in the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). The Cojuangco-Aquino family sold these land assets and therefore owe their “stockholders,” the farmworkers, Php 1.33 Billion, according to the SC ruling.

There is no record proving that HLI has already paid farmworkers Php 30 million as their share of the sale. The audit of the assets is currently being undertaken by accounting firms which the SC chose from nominees of the Cojuangco-Aquinos and pro-Cojuangco supervisors like the renegade Noel Mallari, much to the chagrin of farmworkers.   

The SC indeed ruled that commercial bank RCBC is but an “innocent purchaser” which acquired 184 hectares of land in Hacienda Luisita on November 25, 2004 – and not in 1996, as reported. Note that the date is only a few days after the gruesome Hacienda Luisita massacre. What occurred way back in 1996, is the DAR’s  issuance of a land conversion order for 500 hectares of HLI property. In 2012, farmworkers under the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) challenged the RCBC and HLI’s other succesors-in-interest with a petition to revoke the said conversion order.  

 More than two decades after, the firms have failed to usher in any development in the area. The only form of employment that they have since provided only pits residents against each other. Desperate farmworkers are hired to build the walls that bar their fellow farmers from tilling the land. Luisita farmers are no strangers to years of violent eviction and confrontation perpetrated by landlords.    

However, the new DAR administration, under Sec. Rafael Mariano recently issued a partial revocation of the conversion of 384 out of 500 hectares of RCBC and areas under the Luisita Land Corporation (formerly Luisita Realty Corporation) removing all legal impediments for farmers to take back what is rightfully theirs. The pro-Cojuangcos like Noel Mallari contend that the payment of Php 1.33 B  to farmworkers would mean that the area will no longer be covered by land reform. But Luisita farmworkers are now legally entitled both to the proceeds of the land sale – and to the land itself – because RCBC and LLC have failed to develop the area under the terms of the 1996 conversion order.  

The outright opposition of despotic landlords like the Cojuangcos and their partners, who are behind heavy militarization, killings and terror in the area, has always been the biggest hindrance to genuine land reform in Luisita and all other haciendas and big landholdings across the country.  

MARTYR demands land and justice in Hacienda Luisita

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Mothers and Relatives against Tyranny and Repression or MARTYR, an organization of kin of victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre and other related killings, gathered in Tarlac last April 21.

The gathering was timed three days before the 5th year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision for total land distribution in Hacienda Luisita. On April 24, 2012, the SC ruled in favor of farmers with the principle “land to tiller.”

The Hacienda Luisita massacre occurred in 2004, leaving 7 farm workers killed and hundreds wounded. Survivors and kin of victims filed a case against the Cojuangco-Aquino owners of the estate, including Noynoy Aquino who was then a congressman, officials of the Department of Labor, and several PNP and AFP armed personnel.

Unfortunately, accused personnel were given only minor administrative sanctions. Aquino who was earlier cleared from the case, practically “killed” the massacre case during his reign as President. The Ombudsman dropped charges against police and military personnel in 2010, while an appeal by the victims’ families was junked in 2014.

Emy Ladera-Facunla, acting spokesperson of MARTYR, lamented that justice remains elusive after more than 12 years. No one was punished. More injustice was shouldered by farmworkers and the families of the victims with maneuvers of the Cojuangco-Aquino to circumvent the SC decision.  Facunla is the sister of Abel Ladera, a Tarlac City councilor vocal against injustices perpetrated by the Cojuangco-Aquinos. Ladera was shot and killed by unknown assailants in 2005.

“Our resolve to launch the bungkalan, or land cultivation initiatives in Hacienda Luisita is part of our quest for justice,” said Facunla who noted that the Cojuangco-Aquinos are still in direct control of more than a thousand hectares of land in Hacienda Luisita, aside from the more than 4,000 hectares supposedly allocated to land reform beneficiaries.

Last February, The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) issued a partial revocation of the land conversion order for a 500-hectare property made idle by RCBC, LIPCO and Luisita Land Co. (formerly Luisita Realty Corp.) since 1996.

“These lands should be rightfully returned to farmers to till. We are one with the struggle for land rights for the Hacienda Luisita farm workers no matter how long does it takes” said Erwin Laza, brother of Jesus Laza, one of the victims of Hacienda Luisita massacre. Laza said that most land reform beneficiaries in Luisita have become victims of the illicit aryendo or leaseback scheme.

MARTYR is one with farmworkers’ organizations in calling for free land distribution.

“This land was already paid for by sweat and blood of generations of farmworkers and our martyrs. The best way to honor them is to fight for genuine land reform. We must till and make the land productive for the benefit of the people and future generations,” said Laza.

The victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre were Jesus Laza, Jaime Fastidio, Jessie Valdez, Adriano Caballero Jr, Jhaivie Basilio, Jhune David and Juancho Sanchez. After the massacre, other leaders and advocates of the Luisita struggle were killed and forcibly disappeared. They are Marcelino Beltran, Abel Ladera, Fr. William Tadena, Ricardo Ramos, Tirso Cruz, Ronald Intal (desparecido) and Bishop Alberto Ramento.

MARTYR members also include kin of activists who died in the course of the struggle due to sickness and other causes.

Mga magsasaka ng Hacienda Luisita, ginigipit pa rin 5 taon matapos ang desisyon ng Korte Suprema

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Patuloy na ginigipit ang mga magsasaka ng Hacienda Luisita, limang taon matapos ang makasaysayang desisyon ng Korte Suprema para sa kumpletong pamamahagi ng lupa sa naturang asyenda.

Matatandaang noong April 24, 2012, ibinaba ng Korte Suprema ang desisyon para ibasura ang Stock Distribution Option (SDO) na porma ng reporma sa lupa na ipinatupad ni Cory sa asyenda. Kasabay nito, ipinag-utos ng Korte na pisikal na ipamahagi ang lupa sa mga magsasaka at bayaran sila ng P1.33 bilyon na pagkakautang ng mga Cojuangco-Aquino mula sa mga lupaing ibinenta nito.

Gayunman, namataan ang presensya ng dagdag na pwersa ng pulis at militar sa erya kasabay ng nakatakdang makasaysayang pagsasama-sama ng mga magbubukid at mamamayan ng Hacienda Luisita. Ang aktibidad sa bungkalan ay nasa pangunguna ng Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA),  Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), at Anakpawis.

Lalahukan ng iba’t ibang sektor ang sama-samang bungkalan na magaganap ngayong Abril 23-24, 2017 sa Brgy. Balete. Ang pagkilos na ito ay kasabay ng ika-5 anibersaryo ng desisyon ng Korte Suprema. Ayon sa AMBALA, ang lupain ng Hacienda Luisita ay wala pa rin sa kontrol ng magsasaka.

Ayon kay Danilo “Ka Daning”Ramos, pangkalahatang kalihim ng UMA, “Ilulunsad ang sama-samang bungkalan upang bawiin ang lupa at kabuhayan na matagal nang ipinagkakait ng Cojuanco-Aquino at upang paunlarin ang kooperasyon at kasanayan sa agrikultura.”

“Ang mga magsasaka ay matagal nang sinusupil – hinaharas, pinagbabantaan, sinasaktan at ipinipiit. Bukod pa ito sa ginawang masaker noong 2004. Pinag-away-away din ang mga magsasaka sa pamamagitan ng mapanlinlang na tambiolo, pananakot at panunuhol upang isuko ang laban,” ani Ramos.

Ilang dekada nang nagpapasasa ang Cojuanco-Aquino sa pawis at dugo ng magsasaka at manggagawang bukid ng Hacienda Lusita. Patuloy na ipinagkakait nila ang mahigit 1,000 ektarya pang lupain kabilang na ang 358 ektarya ng TADECO, 500 ektarya ng RCBC at Luisita Land Corp. / Luisita Industrial Park 3 at higit pang 200 ektarya ng CAT upang hindi ito maipasakamay ng mga magbubukid.

Ipinatupad ni dating Pangulong Aquino ang mapanlinlang at mapanghating “tambiolo land reform” upang takasan ang desisyon ng Korte Suprema. Ang dagdag na deployment ng pulis at militar sa Hacienda Luisita ay nakikita ng mga magbubukid na tahasang pagpalag sa mga utos ng bagong pamunuan DAR. Sa ilalim ni Ka Paeng Mariano, nagpapatupad ang DAR ng mga utos na pabor sa mga magsasaka, kabilang na ang pagbasura sa conversion order sa 384 ektaryang sakop ng RCBC at LLC.

Tulad din ng nagaganap sa iba’t ibang panig ng bansa, dinarahas ng mga yunit ng AFP, PNP, CAFGU ang mga magsasaka. Mula sa tahasang pagpaslang at pagbabanta sa kanilang buhay hanggang sa makailang-ulit nang palihim at lantarang paninira sa mga pananim sa mga lugar na bahagi ng bungkalan.

Mariin na panawagan ng UMA ang pagpapalayas ng militar sa Luisita at sa iba pang lugar sa kanayunan, kung saan apektado ang buhay at kabuhayan ng milyon-milyong magsasaka.