Agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) added their voices to human rights defenders urging President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to drop Gen. Ricardo Visaya from the shortlist as new chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“Visaya deserves to be in jail with Aquino,” said UMA Secretary General Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos. Visaya was ground commander of the 69th Infantry Battalion involved in Hacienda Luisita massacre of November 16, 2004.
At least seven farmworkers were killed and hundreds more were injured in the violent dispersal of striking farmworkers, widely-believed to be ordered by President Benigno Aquino III and his family. Aquino was then a Congressman of Tarlac and active administrator of the controversial sugar estate.
Gen. Visaya is also notorious as the “right hand man” and “protégé” of Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan’s in the reign of terror in Central Luzon which claimed the lives of seven more supporters of Luisita farmers, including Tarlac City Councilor Abel Ladera, Father William Tadena and Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. Visaya is also implicated in lumad killings and harassment of agricultural workers and unionists in Mindanao.
After Luisita, Visaya’s infamous army unit was also involved in the massacre of lumads in Paquibato, Davao City in June last year. Visaya also headed the 27th IBPA in Polomolok, South Cotabato which perpetrated harassment against farmworkers of Dole Phils. during a union election in 2011, targeting leaders of the incumbent union affiliated with the Kilusang Mayo Uno.
The 2005 Ombudsman case filed by 52 survivors against perpetrators of the Hacienda Luisita massacre was “killed” twice during the BS Aquino administration. Immediately after BS Aquino held power in 2010, charges were dropped against police and military personnel including Visaya and retired Gen. Gregorio Catapang, whom Aquino later appointed as AFP Chief.
Ten years after the massacre, in 2014, survivors moved to reopen the case, but this was also immediately junked by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Luisita farmers also seek justice for recent rights violations perpetrated by the BS Aquino regime such as bulldozing of crops, burning of huts, physical assault and illegal arrests. Hundreds of complaints filed by farmers in 2014 are yet to be acted upon by the Department of Justice.
“Visaya and his men are murderers who prey on the poorest of the poor to favor the landed elite and the oligarchs. The people are truly counting on Mayor Duterte to make good on his promise to dispense justice and curb crime. As the incoming Commander-in-Chief, Duterte must not allow notorious criminals like Visaya to be at the helm of the country’s armed forces,” said Ramos.
REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA Media officer, 09166114181