TARLAC CITY, NOVEMBER 16 — The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis Partylist led more than a thousand farm workers of Hacienda Luisita and their supporters from various sectoral groups from Central Luzon and Metro Manila in a mass action in front of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the infamous Hacienda Luisita massacre.
On November 16, 2004, ten days after the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) launched a massive strike, a bloody dispersal was carried out by the military and police, killing seven farm workers and injuring more than a hundred others.
The newly-formed Tanghalang Balen ning Luisita (Luisita People’s Theater) or TABLU, a group of young cultural activists from Hacienda Luisita and neighboring towns in Tarlac, led artists, cultural groups and activists in mounting a theatrical reenactment in front of the CAT sugar mill’s Gate 1, the actual site of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
The reenactment paid tribute to the life and struggle of Jessie Valdez, Adriano Caballero Jr, Jaime Fastidio, Jesus Laza, Juancho Sanchez, Jhaivie Basilio and Jhune David – the seven martyrs of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
The performance is inspired by the militant tradition of sugar workers in Escalante, Negros Occidental, where a reenactment of the Escalante Massacre is performed yearly by the community with the vow to carry on the struggle against state repression and fascism and for genuine land reform.
Cultural workers and prominent artists have been collaborating with TABLU in creative workshops and political discussions to prepare for this production. Among the artists involved in the Luisita massacre reenactment are choreographers Edwin Quinsayas and Joanna Lerio; visual artists Leeroy New and Antares Bartolome for production design; composer Edge Uyanguren, his band TUBAW and Tambol Bayan, a Tarlac City-based group of very young percussionists founded by Nick Sangil, for sound and music; and other artists from Sinagbayan, Sining Kadamay and the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). Theater veteran Katsch Catoy directs the production.
The activity was the culmination of a three-day people’s cultural caravan from Metro Manila to Tarlac which carried the theme “land, justice and peace,” highlighting the continuing demand of Luisita farm workers for genuine land reform in the vast Tarlac sugar estate, their call to finally bring to justice the perpetrators of the massacre, and their support for the ongoing peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“Twelve years have passed and the families of the victims continue to mourn and are still very much indignant as justice remains elusive. The perpetrators are not only left unpunished but are in fact being promoted to higher ranks,” UMA secretary general Danilo Ramos said, refering to, among others, current AFP Chief of Staff General Ricardo Visaya who was one of the field commanders during the massacre.
“Noynoy Aquino himself who at the time of the massacre was a Tarlac solon and was very much involved in the affairs of his family’s hacienda and sugar mill, got away with not having to face prosecution and even went on to become the highest official of the land,” Ramos said.
AMBALA Secretary General Renato Mendoza meanwhile said that the former chief executive’s clan is “answerable not only for the Hacienda Luisita massacre, but also for the rights abuses against Luisita farm workers and the bogus land distribution in Hacienda Luisita during the term of the last Cojuangco-Aquino president.”
According to AMBALA, Aquino, allegedly in cahoots with the previous Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary Virgilio Delos Reyes, effectively ensured that Hacienda Luisita remained in the control of the Cojuangco-Aquinos while cleverly making it appear that the government was implementing the 2012 Supreme Court decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita to the farm workers.
Mendoza also said that while they welcome recent statements made by present DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano regarding his current efforts to rectify his predecessor’s actions or to invalidate the so-called “tambiolo land reform” in Hacienda Luisita, the farm workers will continue to hold mass mobilizations, physically assert their claim on the lands and persevere in their collective tillage campaign or bungkalan.
Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao, who joined Luisita farmers in a solidarity activity last night in Barangay Mabilog, for his part said that landlessness, feudal exploitation, wage slavery, and other social and economic conditions that invariably lead to tragic episodes like the Hacienda Lusita massacre are still pervasive and are also the main causes of the continuing armed conflict in the country.
“Hacienda Luisita is a classic, living case study to prove the need for genuine land reform and national industrialization, for thoroughgoing social and economic reforms which is in fact one of the main concerns of the ongoing peace talks between the government and the NDFP,” Casilao said.
UMA member unions and organizations mark November 16 as National Day of Protest of Farm and Agricultural Workers. The International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) Workers Commission has also declared this day as International Day of Action Against Trade Union Repression. UMA is a member of the ILPS.
Hacienda Luisita “bungkalan” thrives despite attacks by previous BS Aquino admin
TARLAC CITY, NOVEMBER 15 — Large contingents of agrarian reform activists, human rights groups, church people, peace advocates, artists and cultural workers joined a caravan to different barangay of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province today, to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
The caravan, dubbed #RememberLuisita, People’s Cultural Caravan for Land, Justice and Peace, is on its second day. Today, the supporters of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers will join the locals in the “bungkalan,” the land cultivation campaign initiated by the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) during the height of the Welgang Bayan (People’s Strike) in 2004.
The national agriworkers center, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), meanwhile condemned former President Benigno S. Aquino III for vicious attacks against the farmworkers’ bungkalan during his 6-year term. UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos stressed that the bungkalan still thrives despite relentless attacks unleashed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
“The fake land distribution scheme via tambiolo, bulldozing of farmers’crops and eviction of farmers through burning and demolition of huts almost eradicated the bungkalan. But Luisita farmworkers refused to give up. Today, AMBALA strives to expand the bungkalan initiative through unity and cooperation among farmworkers,” added Ramos.
UMA and AMBALA is calling on the Duterte administration to bring justice to the victims of the massacre which occurred 12 years ago, on November 16, 2004.
Ramos also expressed alarm over the recent spate of killings and harassment of farmers perpetrated by private goons and state forces. Some incidents were reported to be under the guise of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.
“Peasant killings must stop,” Ramos stressed.
The past week, farmworkers reported that an armored personnel carrier (APC) was seen roving around the bungkalan area in Barangay Balete, Hacienda Luisita. Ramos said that farmworkers have been clamoring for the complete pull-out of military and paramilitary troops in Hacienda Luisita.
The company headquarters of the 31st Infantry Battalion, 3rd Mechanized Division is located right smack in the land reform area in Barangay Balete.
BS Aquino killed the case
Ramos also scored BS Aquino for junking of charges against the perpetrators of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
A few months after former President BS Aquino assumed office, the Ombudsman silently junked the case against police and military respondents involved in the massacre, thereby closing all pending cases against alleged perpetrators. The Ombudsman ruling was released in December 2010.
The Ombudsman’s Military and Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) based its decision solely on NBI reports. Ironically, the particular NBI report states that there is basis to file charges against erring officials and that the testimonies of the survivors and protesters were more credible than that of the involved government personnel. The farmers’ complaints were junked without any other effort to conduct hearings or a more thorough investigation.
One independent eyewitness cited in the report, made by Dr. Restituto Bauvacieda Jr., then a city health physician and member of the emergency response unit of Tarlac City, was quoted as having witnessed a man wearing civilian clothes firing at the direction of the protesters, while he was inside the fence under the control of the Central de Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT).
This is an indication that elements of the yellow army or even then Congressman BS Aquino were directly involved in carrying out the massacre.
In August 2014, still under the term of BS Aquino, survivors and relatives of the victims filed a motion to reopen the case. The motion was junked only a few months later in October.
The said NBI report on Hacienda Luisita only became public in November 2014, ten years after the massacre. By that time, the Ombudsman already junked the motion to reopen the case.
Farmers vow to revive their complaints as they hope that the Duterte administration would be keen in dispensing justice for the victims of the massacre and other crimes committed thereafter such as the string of extra-judicial killings and the recent atrocities by the BS Aquino regime, including bulldozing of crops, burning of huts, physical injuries and illegal arrests.
Another violent incident involving Cojuangco-Aquino goons occurred last July 1, during the very first day in office of President Duterte.
UMA has declared November 16 as a National Day of Protest of Farm and Agricultural Workers, while the Workers International Struggle Initiatives (WORKINS) has declared it as the International Day against Trade Union Repression. A theatrical reenactment of the Luisita massacre will be presented at the actual site of the carnage, in front of the Gate 1 of Central Azucarera de Tarlac tomorrow, November 16, the 12th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
Farmworkers mark 12th year of Hacienda Luisita Massacre with Cultural Caravan
NOVEMBER 14 — Since last week, a group of young cultural activists have made Hacienda Luisita farmworkers go out of their way to watch performances mounted at busy side streets and basketball courts in different barangays within the sugar estate.
With familiar protest songs, some cardboard and bamboo props – and grit – members of the newly-formed group who call themselves TABLU or Tanghalang Balen Ning Luisita (People’s Theater of Luisita), created a short street play depicting the life and death struggle of farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita.
Mothers and relatives of those who offered their lives to the struggle could not help but weep and rage after watching TABLU’s skit. “Tuloy ang laban! (Onward with the struggle!),” they declare. “Let us remember the sacrifice of our martyrs and carry on with the struggle,” another performer emphasizes. After all, the farmworkers’ quest for genuine land reform and justice is truly far from over.
This year, the commemoration of the Hacienda Luisita massacre will take the form of a 3-day “People’s Cultural Caravan for Land, Justice, and Peace.” National agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), their local affiliate in Tarlac, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), and the network of land reform advocates Luisita Watch, will lead the caravan in coordination with various artists, musicians and cultural groups.
Participants of the caravan assembles early this morning in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Quezon City where an opening program will be held. Street performances and short programs will also be held in brief stops in Balagtas and Malolos City in Bulacan and in Angeles City in Pampanga.
Sining Kadamay, Salinlahi Collective and the UP Repertory Company will perform. A group of visual artists led by the Ugatlahi Collective and painters from the UP College of Fine Arts will also join the caravan.
The caravan will then pass through Capas town and San Miguel, Tarlac City where peasants, indigenous peoples and the farmworkers’ contingent from Hacienda Luisita will meet the caravan participants. A “Konsyertong Bayan” or concert for Land, Justice and Peace will be held at the Maria Cristina Park, near the Provincial Capitol.
The concert will feature progressive musicians and bands such as the homegrown Tambol Bayan, a group of young percussionists from Tarlac City. Tambol Bayan has been “touring” Hacienda Luisita barangays along with TABLU. Manila-based groups such as Tubaw, Talahib, Gazera, Exsenadors and Karl Ramirez at ang Pordalab will also perform at the Konsyertong Bayan tonight.
Inspired by the militant tradition of sugar workers in Escalante, Negros Occidental, a theatrical reenactment will be mounted in front of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Gate 1 on November 16, the actual anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
Cultural workers and artists have been collaborating with TABLU in creative workshops and political discussions to prepare for this production. Among the artists involved in the Luisita massacre reenactment are choreographers Edwin Quinsayas of Sining Kadamay, and Joanna Lerio; visual artists Leeroy New and Antares Bartolome; composer Edge Uyanguren and his band TUBAW, and other artists from the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). Theater veteran Katsch Catoy directs the production.
UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos meanwhile stated that there has been no justice for those killed and wounded in the Luisita massacre and in subsequent incidents of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances after the massacre.
“Some of the massacre perpetrators were even promoted and held the highest positions in government” Ramos said. He cited former President Benigno S. Aquino III, whose clan controls the Hacienda, and two AFP Chiefs, namely Gen. Gregorio Catapang and incumbent chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya, who were both at the “ground command” when the massacre occurred 12 years ago.
“Implementation of land reform through the lottery or ‘tambiolo’ scheme victimized those who had been tilling the land since 2005. The scheme was designed to reconcente lands back to the control of the Cojuangco-Aquinos. It also excluded more than 1,000 hectares of land for distribution,” Ramos added.
The so-called land reform area in Hacienda Luisita is back in the hands of the Cojuangco-Aquinos through the illicit aryendo and sale of farmlots, complemented by forced and violent eviction of farmworkers in bungkalan areas and the destruction of their crops.
“To boast that they are still in control, Cojuangco-Aquino goons were again involved in one instance of destruction of crops in Brgy. Mapalacsiao which occurred on the very first day of the Duterte presidency on July 1,” said Ramos. He added that the saga of farmworkers offer firm lessons from a real-life drama which inspire people to work for a better country and society.
“Farmers are still clamoring for land, justice and peace. These can only be achieved in Hacienda Luisita and the rest of the country after genuine land reform and social justice is realized,” he ended.