More Mindanao sacadas file complaints vs Hacienda Luisita employers

wanted-baitus

Peasant groups led by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and BAYAN-Central Luzon today staged a picket-protest in front of the National Labor Relations Commission Region III (NLRC-III) office in San Fernando City, Pampanga in support of Mindanao sacadas exploited in Hacienda Luisita.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos said that more sacadas or migratory sugar workers have filed complaints against their recruiters and employers, Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, Agrikulto Inc., and Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

Today’s picket coincides with the first hearing of labor complaints initially filed at the NLRC III by 36 sacadas before leaving for Mindanao.

A total 52 sacadas recruited from Bukidnon province were earlier rescued by UMA and its local affiliate, OGYON or Onyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa during the Christmas holidays.

On January 15, another 18 individuals – including women and infant children – escaped from slave-like conditions in Hacienda Luisita. They were also recruited by Greenhand from different Mindanao provinces – Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, South Cotabato and Compostela Valley. They will file complaints before the NLRC-III today.

The new batch of sacadas corroborate earlier testimonies that there were 800-1,000 sacadas cramped into a bunkhouse in Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita to cut and haul cane for Agrikulto Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac. The mill is now jointly owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos with Martin  Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo landlord family of Mindanao.

According to OGYON Secretary General Fructuoso Carpentero, new complaints have also been filed by 18 sacadas in Malaybalay, Bukidnon before the NLRC – Region X last Monday, January 23. Among the complainants are sacadas who had escaped Hacienda Luisita even before UMA’s rescue, and a lumad chieftain or datu that the recruiter, Billy Baitus of Greenhand, lured into enlisting the sacadas with the promise of assistance in their ancestral land claims. The first hearing is set tomorrow, January 26.

“Baitus, the Cojuangco-Aquinos and Martin Lorenzo are also ‘wanted’ for massive human trafficking and ill treatment of hundreds of sacadas from Mindanao. We have documented at least 4 minors among the victims,” said Ramos, who noted that Greenhand’s registration states that it is a cooperative exclusively engaged in job contracting for pineapple plantation operations in Polomolok, South Cotabato.

“National minorities – 24 lumad from the Manobo tribe and some Calagan Moros were also exploited to work for a measly P9.46 a day – the same paltry sum that the Cojuangco-Aquinos gave their ‘stockholders’ 12 years ago.

7

Agrikulto also responsible for sham land reform in Luisita

Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), UMA’s local affiliate in Hacienda Luisita also joined today’s protest to support the Mindanao sacadas.

“Twelve years ago, we were also paid only P9.50 for our toil as farmworkers and ‘stockholders’ of the oppressive Stock Distribution Option (SDO) land reform scheme,” said Francisco Dizon, one of the leaders from AMBALA.

“Our martyrs offered their lives so that we could take back our lands from the Cojuangcos. The Supreme Court already ruled for land distribution almost five years ago – but the Cojuangco-Aquinos and their new partner, Martin Lorenzo are still encroaching on our lands through the illicit aryendo or leaseback scheme,”

UMA emphasized that the plight of the sakadas proves that land reform in Hacienda Luisita is a total sham. “There would be no need to import sacadas from Mindanao if land reform was truly implemented – local Luisita farmworkers have been clearly disenfranchised by the illicit aryendo and the ‘tambiolo’ land reform scheme imposed by BS Aquino,” said Ramos.

The ongoing dismantling of AMBALA’s bungkalan or land cultivation area in Barangay Mapalacsiao, the same barangay where the sakadas were kept by Agrikulto, is seen as ‘landlord reprisal’ for the sakada expose.

“There must be a full-blown investigation on the sakada issue. Operations of Greenhand must be immediately stopped and its license forfeited, to prevent Baitus from recruiting new sacada victims. The perpetrators of human trafficking and exploitation of our sugar workers must be brought to justice,” ended Ramos.

 

Advertisements

More sacadas escape from Hacienda Luisita

sakada2

Sacadas recruited from Mindanao escape Hacienda Luisita

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 longer be discussed in whispers. There must be a full-blown investigation on massive-scale human trafficking of sacadas to Hacienda Luisita. The perpetrators Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, Agrikulto, Inc., and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) must be punished,” said Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General.

The trafficking of Mindanao sakadas to Hacienda Luisita was first exposed by UMA, when it “rescued” a total of 52 sacadas during the Christmas holidays. Relatives of that batch of sakadas – who were all from Bukidnon province – first sought the assistance of UMA’s local affiliate, OGYON or Onyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa in Pangantucan town.

Around 1,000 sakadas were said to be recruited from Mindanao to work for Agrikulto, Inc., which controls vast sugarcane farms in Hacienda Luisita through illicit lease deals and encroaching on supposed land reform areas.

Agrikulto is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, which is now jointly-owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos with Martin Lorenzo, scion of the Lorenzo landlord family of Mindanao, owners of Lapanday Foods Corp (LFC).

Ramos said that the latest batch of sacadas come from different Mindanao provinces – Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato and Compostela Valley – also known areas of Lapanday plantation operations.

“They fared worse than those from Bukidnon because they had to stay longer in dire conditions,” said Ramos who noted that new payrolls obtained by UMA show that their salary ranged from P80.01 – P269.52 per week or only P11.43 to P38.50 per day. The first batch received up to P128.31 a day.

Slave-like conditions

The sacadas claimed that they were treated more strictly after most of the workers have already escaped. The security guards now carried long firearms. One of the sacadas said that he was beaten up by the guards just because they suspected that he would escape.

When the sacadas finally left Luisita, they initially planned to just walk from San Miguel, Tarlac to Manila because they had no money. However they were able to get rides from good samaritans. The sacadas corroborated earlier revelations that they were around 800 to a thousand of them housed in Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita and they were made to work in other sugarcane areas outside Tarlac, such as Pampanga.

“When we worked in one sugarcane area in Pampanga, we were made to sleep in a goat’s shed for weeks. We had no roof and we had to sleep on the cold ground. Once they seemed to forget to bring us back to the bunkhouse in Mapalacsiao, we just slept on the curbside for three days. We ate just salt with rice,” the sacadas narrated.

Ramos said that Secretary Bello of the Department of Labor must realize that this kind of inhumane treatment and exploitation is the reason why farmers take up arms. Bello is also the head of the government peace panel currently engaged in the third round of talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

“DOLE must immediately act to shut down the operations of Greenhand, which is reportedly recruiting new sugar workers from Mindanao to replace those who have left Hacienda Luisita,” said Ramos who emphasized that the welfare and safety of hundreds of others of sacadas trafficked to Tarlac must also be ensured by government.

“The sakada issue also proves that land reform in Hacienda Luisita is a total sham. The Department of Agrarian Reform must immediately investigate the operations of Agrikulto, Inc. which is openly encroaching on land reform areas either through the illicit aryendo, or by brute force,” said Ramos.

A few days ago, the headquarters of local farmworkers’ organization AMBALA was demolished. Destruction of crops in land cultivation areas in Mapalacsiao is ongoing. “There can be no peace until the Cojuangco-Aquinos and the Lorenzos are made to pay for their atrocities against farmers,”

“The issue of land reform in Hacienda Luisita and the plight of the sacada are important matters that should be tackled in the peace talks,” ended Ramos.

Protests over killing of peasant leader mark 30th year of Mendiola Massacre in Negros

justice-xander

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) condemns the killing of Alexander Ceballos, a leader of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Negros Occidental. Ceballos is the 20th peasant leader to fall victim to extra-judicial killing under the Duterte administration.

Ceballos was brutally shot in the head by a masked assailant in front of his home in Murcia town around 8 pm of January 20. The gunman sped off riding in tandem in a single motorcycle, escorted by two other men in their respective motor bikes. His wife and children witnessed the killing.

The killing coincided with protest actions in Manila commemorating the 30th year of the Mendiola Massacre. Today, farmworkers will march the streets of Bacolod City to condemn the killing of Ceballos.

Exactly 30 years ago, 13 farmers were killed when state forcers opened fire on a peaceful farmers’ march at the gates of Malacanang on January 22, 1987.

Ceballos is a regional council member of the NFSW and district area coordinator for Murcia and Salvador Benedicto towns where the bungkalan or land cultivation areas have been established by organized farmworkers.

Ceballos has been receiving death threats for leading the land cultivation campaign in Barangay Igmaya-an, Don Salvador Benedicto town. A few days before the killing, a certain Jigger Costan, known as close-in security of Don Salvador Benedicto ex-Mayor Nehemias dela Cruz, was seen loitering near the NFSW office in Bacolod City, where a meeting of council members was then taking place.

Ceballos led the cultivation of a 25-hectare area in Barangay Igmaya-an which was made productive since 2013 through the efforts of around 50 farmworkers under NFSW. The area is now planted to rice, corn, cassava, and bananas.

This area is being coveted by ex-Mayor dela Cruz, whose camp directly issued threats against Ceballos and eleven other members of NFSW during a dialogue at the local agrarian reform office years before. Ceballos’ son Ariel and a companion survived an ambush in July 2015 where the elder Ceballos is believed to be the main target.

De la Cruz is also a former member of the RPA-ABB, a paramilitary group collaborating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

UMA Secretary General Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos said that the killing of Ceballos and other recent atrocities against peasants must be tackled by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in the ongoing peace negotiations in Rome, Italy.

“The killing of Ceballos is also a chilling reminder that the new counter-insurgency program of the Duterte administration called Oplan Kapayapaan is no different from those of previous regimes.  There can be no peace until gangster groups such as the RPA-ABB would be disarmed and disbanded. There can be no justice if the mercenary AFP and corrupt police force still exist to protect the interests of landlords and landgrabbers,” said Ramos.

 

Violent land disputes still hound agriworkers 30 years after Mendiola

 

lapanday

Photo from Facebook

 

“Intruders will be shot, survivors will be shot again”

Thus warned a tarpaulin sign put up at the wooden gates of a banana plantation in Madaum, Tagum City in Davao del Norte. Private security guards of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) manning the gates are also making rounds to keep the “intruders” and “survivors” out.

A few weeks before Christmas, the so-called “intruders” faced these armed guards in daring protests  – they successfully occupied the land but not before ten of them were shot and wounded by Lapanday. On New Year’s Eve, while the rest of the world drowned in revelry, the farmers of Madaum were violently driven away from their own land.

The rightful owners of the land – members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc (MARBAI), now affiliated with the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) through their local union, Unyon sa mga Mag-Uuma Alang Sa Tinood Nga Repormang Agraryo (UGMAD –TRA or Farmers’ Union For Genuine Agrarian Reform) – are forbidden by Lapanday to till the land already awarded to them by government land reform.  

Violent land disputes continue to hound agricultural workers 30 years after the Mendiola Massacre. On January 22, 1987, 13 farmers were killed right before Malacanang gates in a peasant march calling for land reform.

Because of the carnage, the peace talks – then ongoing between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) representing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) – collapsed.

Then-President Corazon Aquino, heiress of controversial sugar estate Hacienda Luisita, soon enacted the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the effectivity of which expired 26 years after in 2014, during the term of her son, Benigno Aquino III.

Still, unrest persists in Luisita and Lapanday areas in Mindanao. This reflects the brutality of feudal land monopoly in the Philippines which no government land reform law has ever resolved. But under Duterte, the next round of peace talks between government and NDF will resume today in Rome.  

“Those who joined the rally in Mendiola 30 years ago aspired for change through genuine agrarian reform, but the CARP has obviously failed our farmers and agricultural workers,” says Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General.

“Land reform should be the meat of the next phase of the talks, with a serious and thorough discussion of the country’s fundamental land problem and the forging of a comprehensive agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).

Non-stop abuses by Cojuangco-Aquinos, Lorenzos

Thirty years after Mendiola, the Cojuangco-Aquinos of Luisita and their new business partners, the Lorenzos of Lapanday, seem to be on a roll – non-stop and hell-bent in trampling upon the rights of peasants and agricultural workers from Tagum to Bukidnon to Tarlac.

The CARP has allowed for anomalous non-land transfer schemes such as the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) implemented in Luisita, and various Agribusiness  Venture Arrangements (AVAs) such as the lease agreement with agrarian reform beneficiaries imposed by Lapanday in Madaum.

In Luisita, hacienderos are still in control of vast tracts of land even after so-called “land distribution” through the aryendo or illicit leaseback practiced by Agrikulto, Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), firms owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos and Lorenzos.  

Agrikulto engages in sugarcane farming through aryendo or lease of farmlots in land reform areas to ensure the steady supply of cane for the CAT sugar mill. Only last week, it was revealed that Agrikulto “hired” via human trafficking around 1,000 sacadas or migratory sugar workers from Mindanao to cut and haul cane. The sakadas were given slave-like wages while working in deplorable conditions.

Sakadas from Bukidnon “rescued” by UMA and its local affiliate OGYON, have already filed labor complaints against their recruiters and employers.

But the landlords have no qualms in using brute force. Yesterday, in an act of bitter reprisal, farmhuts were demolished and crops were destroyed in Barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita by dozens of goons led by a known Cojuangco-Aquino aide, Lourdes Barangay Captain Edison Diaz, assisted by a certain Sgt. Bañaga of the local police.

The huts are within the bungkalan or land cultivation area of the local farmworkers organization, Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), also an affiliate of UMA. Diaz, who is directly involved in previous violent incidents against farmers, is also a known broker of the illicit aryendo or leaseback deals for the landlords.

“It is no surprise that farmers in Madaum have already sought the assistance of the Communist Party’s ‘people’s court’ to hear their case. Until powerful people like the Cojuangcos, Aquinos and Lorenzos are made to pay for their atrocities, feudal oppression will continue to push peasants to join the armed struggle waged by the NPA,” said Ramos.

UMA believes that the issue of land reform in Luisita, the plight of the sakada, and the monopoly control of powerful families and multinationals over vast agricultural plantations and haciendas especially in Negros and Mindanao, must be decisively tackled during the ongoing peace talks.

“There can be no justice for victims of Mendiola, no genuine peace to be had until the country’s fundamental land problem is addressed,” ended Ramos.

After “sakada” issue, Hacienda Luisita farmworkers’ huts demolished

 

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 around a thousand sakadas or migratory sugar workers from Mindanao were kept by Cojuangco firm, Agrikulto, Inc.

Reports from AMBALA say that the ongoing forcible eviction of farmers in Mapalacsiao was initiated by Brgy. Captain Edison Diaz of nearby village Lourdes, with assistance from local police led by a certain Sgt. Banaga.

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Secretary General Daniol Ramos said that Diaz has been using the claim of farmworker-beneficiaries from his barangay, Lourdes, who were awarded farmlots in Mapalacsiao through the anomalous ‘tambiolo’ system implemented by the previous haciendero administration of BS Aquino.

Diaz is a rabid Cojuangco-Aquino aide and broker of the illicit aryendo or leaseback scheme effected by Agrikulto, Inc. and other prominent ‘aryendadors’ engaged in maintaining sugarcane farms in supposed land reform areas.

“Diaz, the PNP and the Cojuangco-Aquinos cannot use land reform as an excuse for their atrocities. The dislocation and destruction of property of the organized ranks of farmworkers who fought so hard for land distribution is definitely not land reform,” said Ramos, who said that AMBALA was one of the original petitioners who called for land distribution and revocation of the oppressive stock distribution option (SDO) land reform scheme.

The petition led to the historic Supreme Court decision for land distribution in 2012 – but AMBALA laments that its implementation by the previous Aquino administration – done through a lottery raffle or ‘tambiolo’ – was designed to dismantle their land cultivation areas and cause chaos among the farmworkers.

The unannounced attack against AMBALA comes at a time when “rescued” sakadas have filed labor complaints against Agrikulto, Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) and are also mulling to file criminal cases for massive-scale human trafficking of sakadas from Mindanao.

AMBALA’s bungkalan area and the sakada bunkhouse are both located in barangay Mapalacsiao.

Fifty-two sakadas from Bukidnon were “rescued” through the efforts of national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and its Bukidnon affiliate, OGYON or Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa. AMBALA is UMA’s local affiliate in Hacienda Luisita.

“It is the haciendero’s bitter reprisal,” said Ramos.

The dismantling of the bungkalan and exploitation of sacadas in Hacienda Luisita are both intended to ensure the continued production and profitability of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) sugar mill which is now jointly-owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos with Martin Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo landlord family of Mindanao. Agrikulto, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CAT.

“Agrikulto’s aryendo actively targets to dismantle AMBALA’s bungkalan areas while brokers like Diaz swindle land reform beneficiaries into these illicit lease deals. Farmers who dare till the land through the bungkalan become targets of harassment,”

“The aryendo enables Agrikulto to maintain and control vast tracts of sugarlands for CAT but they can no longer get manpower from defiant local farmworkers, thus the need to ‘import’ sakadas from far-off places like Mindanao,” explained Ramos.

“This cycle of brutal oppression must stop. The hacienderos and their minions must be punished. We demand a full-blown investigation on the atrocities against farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita,” said Ramos.

Reference: Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General, Contact # 09994363493

 

Sugar workers challenge gov’t to stop trafficking of sakada

sakada-cdo

 

VALENCIA CITY, BUKIDNON – Forty out of the 52 sakadas or migratory sugar workers “rescued” from Hacienda Luisita are now back with their families in Mindanao.

But word is out that recruiters are already scouting for new sakadas to replace those who left Hacienda Luisita.

“The kabyaw or milling season in Hacienda Luisita will run until March or April. The biggest sugarcane planters – or ‘aryendadors’ like Agrikulto, Inc. – will definitely need manpower to cut and haul their cane,” said Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).   

UMA-affiliated farm workers’ unions and associations under the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) also condemned the trafficking of sakadas from Mindanao to Hacienda Luisita. NFSW is based in Negros Island, the country’s biggest sugarcane-producing area.

“NFSW strongly condemns the trafficking of sakadas which has long been practiced by the likes of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, Lorenzos and their big contractors. Until now, nobody has been punished for repeatedly committing this heinous crime,” said Rolando Rillo, NFSW Chairman.

“The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) must assure the public that it is doing everything to go after the perpetrators,” said Rillo, who also said that the rest of the victims from Mindanao – which could number from 800 – 1,000 sakadas according to eyewitness accounts of rescued victims – must be properly accounted for by the DOLE.  

UMA and NFSW noted that DOLE Sec. Bello seems to be still mum about the issue of sakadas, as they have not heard of any communication or public pronouncement coming from the Secretary himself.  

The sakadas, who were recruited from Bukidnon by a certain Billy Baitus of the Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative to work for Agrikulto, Inc., suffered slave-like working conditions in Hacienda Luisita.

The sakadas were made to work long hours for measly wages as low as P9.46 a day, and were kept in a cramped bunkhouse in Barangay Mapalacsiao, adjacent to the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) sugar mill.  Agrikulto is a subsidiary of CAT, which is now jointly-owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos with Martin Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo landlord family of Mindanao.

Ramos accompanied the sakadas in their homecoming from Cagayan de Oro City to Valencia City, where a “panagtagbo” (welcome), picket protests and solidarity activities were held to drumbeat the issue of the sakada in Mindanao.

UMA’s local affiliate, OGYON or Onyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa and other progressive groups in the Northern Mindanao Region (NMR) such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-NMR, BAYAN-NMR, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-NMR, KADAMAY and Anakbayan led the activities.     

However, a few of the rescued sakadas are still in Manila. One is still confined in a public hospital in Quezon City, while the rest are stranded due to technical problems with the shipping line signed by the DSWD. Among them is one sakada who was not able to attend the funeral of his father, Brixcio Bagnaran, another sakada who died of an illness reportedly contracted while working in Hacienda Luisita.

Feudal vestiges still alive

OGYON has also reached out to other “escaped” sakadas and their relatives to file labor complaints and criminal charges against Greenhand, Agrikulto and CAT for human trafficking. The victims are assisted by the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center for the complaints filed in Central Luzon, and the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) in NMR.

According to KMP-NMR and OGYON, sakada victims of human trafficking from Quezon, Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte have also sought their assistance.

“The case of sakadas in Hacienda Luisita is not isolated. The reign of hacienderos and aryendadors is still pronounced in other sugarcane areas such as Negros and Batangas. Sugarcane workers still endure serf-relations even in supposedly ‘modern’ ventures such as the flourishing bio-ethanol industry in the Visayas, Southern Tagalog and Isabela,” said Ramos.

“How can change arrive if the oligarchs are still free to trample upon the rights of lowly peasants and farmworkers?  Feudal vestiges apparent in atrocities such as the Mendiola Massacre are still very much alive to this day. Government must decisively stop this despicable practice of labor exploitation and contractualization. The victims call for justice,” Ramos emphasized.            

Meanwhile, UMA and its local chapters nationwide will join peasant camp-outs and protests to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre, to be held in various regional centers all all over the country this month. Protests led by the militant KMP will be held in Mendiola on January 20.

Contractualization Allowed Cojuangcos, Lorenzos to Sign Sacadas as Slaves

3

A batch of sacadas rescued from slave-like working conditions in Hacienda Luisita joined protests led by militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno and the All Workers Unity (AWU) in Manila today, before boarding their ride back to Mindanao.

The sacadas, “rescued” by the national agriworkers center, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) will file criminal cases against their contractors and employers Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, Agrikulto Inc and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) for human trafficking, once they return to Bukidnon.

Sakadas already filed labor complaints against Billy Baitus of Greenhand, and their main employers Fernando Cojuangco and Martin Lorenzo of CAT last week at the National Labor Relations Commission in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

Thirty-six sugar workers and four rescued minors, are expected to reach Cagayan de Oro City today, where the local farmworkers’ union, OGYON or Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa, organized a “panagtagbo” or welcome.

Meanwhile, UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos, who accompanied the first batch of sakadas back to Mindanao today, expressed agreement with KMU and AWU in condemning the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) new Department Order (DO) 168.

“The sakadas were subjected to worst forms of exploitation and contractualization in Hacienda Luisita. This new DO 168 does nothing to end contractualization. Instead, it glosses over liabilities of despicable contractors like Greenhand and exploiters like the Cojuangcos and Lorenzos”

Ramos said that “modern-day slavery” is technically legitimized by such DOLE orders. “The Labor Department’s orders practically allow the Cojuangcos and Lorenzos to sign sakadas as slaves.

“There is even an order specifically for sacadas that institutionalizes the oppressive ‘pakyaw’ wages or group rates, and allows for the employer to oblige sacadas to pay for work tools and facilities,” Ramos noted.

In effect DO159, or the Guidelines for the Employment of Migratory Sugar Workers, which was signed on June 22, 2016 and reinforced by DO 168 institutionalizes labor-only contracting, unfair deductions and daily pay way below the minimum wage.

“These orders are rather puny attempts by the DOLE to make it appear that they are protecting sacadas – majority if not all of migratory sugar workers are paid below the wage rates of local workers who also receive meager pay.

Agrikulto Inc. had no qualms in making Greenhand ‘supply’ them a thousand sugar workers from Mindanao to work in Hacienda Luisita and in other parts of Central and Northern Luzon – the hacienderos behind this cult have been practicing the worst forms of contractualization for decades,” he said.

According to Ramos, DOLE officials such as Regional Director Ana Dione are fully-aware of the CAT’s appalling labor practices. Dione approved Greenhand’s permits in Central Luzon and told UMA that she already inspected the workers’ bunkhouse in Luisita last December. Dione even noted that Agrikulto, Inc. and CAT offer the “best accommodations” for sakadas.

“Why should this kind of cruelty and oppression exist to this day? All forms of contractualization must be banned,” ended Ramos.

 

Reference: Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General, 09994363493

DOLE dared to punish recruiters, employers of Hacienda Luisita sakada

 

IMG_20170106_133026.jpg

Sakadas file their complaint against Billy Baitus of Greenhand, Fernando Cojuangco and Martin Lorenzo of Agrikulto and Central Azucarera de Tarlac at the NLRC in San Fernando City last Friday.

 

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 Hacienda Luisita.

But Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Silvestre Bello III is still eerily silent on the plight of Mindanao sakadas, observed the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

“The public is outraged by this practice of modern-day slavery by despotic kontratistas (labor contractors) and the Cojuangco-Aquino and Lorenzo oligarchs helming Agrikulto Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac. We demand immediate action from the DOLE chief and the Duterte administration,” said Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General.

UMA assisted more than 50 sakadas or migratory sugar workers (MSWs) who have had enough of hard toil in Hacienda Luisita. They claim that they were made to work long hours for slave wages as low as P9.46 a day.

Four of the rescued workers are minors, while one is currently confined in a public hospital in Quezon City for sustaining a head injury. Almost half, or 24 are indigenous people or lumad from the Manobo tribe whose datu or chieftains were allegedly duped to recruit workers with the promise of assistance in their ancestral land claims.

Contractor Billy Baitus, head of the manpower agency Greenhand based in Polomolok, South Cotabato is a notorious anti-worker dummy also employed by giant multinational plantations such as Dole Philippines.

Documents obtained by OGYON from local recruiters in Bukidnon show that in as early as August last year, Greenhand was requested “to supply Agrikulto Inc. approximately 1,000 migratory sugar workers to work in our farm as cane cutters for the coming crop year 2016-2017.” The information matches the testimonies of sakadas that they were 800 to 1,000 workers cramped in a bunkhouse in Barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita in November.

OGYON is UMA’s local affiliate in Bukidnon. The sakadas, represented by the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center or PLACE also plan to file criminal charges against their recruiters and employers for human trafficking.

 

agrikulto request.jpg

Request to Greenhand agency from Agrikulto Inc. Agrikulto, a subsidiary of CAT sugar mill, is the biggest proprietor of the illicit aryendo or leaseback scheme of land reconcentration which also disenfranchises agrarian reform  “beneficiaries” of Hacienda Luisita. 

 


“Luisita bunkhouse offers the best accommodations”

Ramos said that papers OGYON obtained also show that DOLE Regional Director Ana Dione approved Greenhand’s permits in Central Luzon. In a dialogue with UMA last week, Dione said she already inspected the workers’ bunkhouse in Luisita last December and noted that Agrikulto, Inc. and CAT offers the “best accommodations” for sakadas.

“Sakadas working in Central Luzon must be suffering extremely horrific conditions, if the subhuman living quarters in Hacienda Luisita is touted by DOLE officials as the best,” said Ramos.

Workers were promised a daily wage of P450 but received even less than this amount for their weekly toil. Numerous deductions for food, provisions, work tools, and ‘cheating’ further reduced their pay to as low as P66.21 a week or P9.46 a day.

According to one report, a P450 daily wage can be culled from the pakyaw or group rate of P250 per ton for an 18-ton daily quota which could be accomplished in 10 hours. This purportedly translates to P4,500 daily pay for a group of 10 cane cutters or P450 each.

“This rate that Hacienda Luisita planters – or aryendadors like Agrikulto – supposedly pay the sakadas from Mindanao or other provinces like Negros is a fantasy especially since the locals or workers from Tarlac and Pampanga are paid only P200-300 a day, still lower than the regional minimum of P334.

“Also note that the planters themselves admitted that sakadas must work more than 8 hours a day to fulfill the impossible daily quota. They assume that cane cutters must work 10 hours a day – but it could be up to 15 hours a day, as attested to by the sakadas,” said Ramos.

Sakadas said they were made to wake up as early as 2 am if they were to be transported to distant cane farms in Pampanga or Pangasinan which Agrikulto controls aside from Hacienda Luisita. Most say they work from 4 am up to 5 pm. Their leader, Mario Memper Jr, said sakadas were not allowed to stop work even on Sundays until they asserted that they should be granted one day for rest.

The sakadas of Bukidnon who are also from a known sugarcane-producing area, said that it was physically impossible to accomplish the 18 ton daily quota because of the poor quality of cane in Tarlac. Even if they did accomplish the quota, they were still cheated by CAT, Agrikulto and Greenhand.

“At times the trucks were already yielding to its side because of the weight of the cane, but we still get very low pay,” sakada Mario Bagnaran complained.

Rudy Mando Sr who came to Tarlac with his sons noted that they were never given copies of tonnage tickets that could prove that they were cheated of the exact weight of cane they were able to cut and haul to the CAT sugar mill.

A group of 9 more workers just recently escaped from Hacienda Luisita and are processing assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for them to be able to return to Mindanao. Meanwhile, the first batch of sakadas who have boarded trips back to Mindanao are currently stranded due to typhoon Auring.

“The hiring of sakadas who are made to endure slave-like conditions and wages is one of the worst forms of exploitation and contractualization, technically legalized and tolerated by government for years,” said Ramos.

“Government cannot make true its promise to end contractualization if the most horrible conditions we’ve seen in sugarcane plantations here in Hacienda Luisita and in the whole of Negros Island still exist,” said Ramos.

UMA also urged Congress to conduct full-blown investigations on the plight of the sakada. Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, a labor leader from Mindanao, filed a resolution to initiate a probe.

Agrikulto and CAT is now jointly-owned and managed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos led by Fernando Cojuangco with Martin Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo landlord family also currently embroiled in land disputes with farmworkers in banana plantations under Lapanday Foods Corporation in Mindanao.

Reference: Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General, 09994363493

 

 

Mindanao Sakadas Still Get P 9.50 a Day in Hacienda Luisita 

6

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 in pineapple plantations in Maramag, Bukidnon decided to accompany fellow workers from his barangay recruited by Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative for a “livelihood project” in Tarlac last November.

Yesterday, he was among those who filed a complaint against his employers. A few minutes after leaving the Labor office, he received an urgent call. He was told that his elder brother, Brixcio Sr, 64, had died of the illness he contracted from working in Hacienda Luisita. His nephew, Brixcio’s Junior, was still in Tarlac, waiting to be “rescued.”

Mario is among the 43 sakadas from Bukidnon who decided to leave Hacienda Luisita only two months into their supposed work contract. They were assisted by the national office of the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) through communications from a local farmworkers union in Bukidnon, the Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa or OGYON.

According to UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos, the sakadas are clearly victims of human trafficking. Among the sakadas “rescued” from December 25-31 are 4 minors, while 24 are indigenous people or lumad who belong to the Manobo tribe.

Early this morning, Junior Bagnaran and eight (8) other sakadas finally had the chance to leave Hacienda Luisita. They had been camping out in the sugarcane fields for days because they refused to go back to their bunkhouse. After they saved enough for their fare to Manila, they went straight where the others sought temporary shelter.     

Human trafficking

In as early as August last year, the recruiters from Greenhand, headed by a certain Billy Baitus based in Polomolok, South Cotabato, said that it was already milling season in Tarlac. Mindanao had been reeling from the dry spell and sugar plantations in Bukidnon have yet to escape from the curse of tiempo muerto or dead season.

The workers were promised wages higher than the rates in Bukidnon, a province also known for its sugarcane plantations and mills. The recruiters said they were to be housed in a hotel very near a hospital so that all their medical needs would be properly attended to. They would have free provisions and benefits. Transportation to and from Hacienda Luisita would also be free. They will get a cash advance that they could leave with their families.

Mario went to Hacienda Luisita in November with five other men with the Bagnaran family name. Instead of a hotel, they were housed in a cramped bunkhouse owned by the Cojuangco firm Agrikulto Inc. with hundreds of other sakadas from different Mindanao provinces. Everything had to be paid for – even kitchen supplies and work tools were deducted from their measly pay. They had to work even before first light and they were hauled back to the bunkhouse late afternoon when it become too dark for them to cut cane.

And then they were paid – based on pakyaw or group rates that could yield slave wages averaging only P 180 each week. One payroll even revealed that they earned only P66.21 from December 5-13. That’s only P 9.46 a day.

Within weeks of hard toil, they have had enough. His elder brother Brixcio Sr. contracted a lung illness en route to Hacienda Luisita and was not able to work in the fields. After days of complaints, he was finally brought to a clinic, but was only given analgesics to ease his condition. He was made to stay in the bunkhouse for a month before the supervisors were finally convinced that he must be sent home immediately if they would not allow him proper medical care. Brixcio Sr. died yesterday in Bukidnon.

“We could not send any money home, we did not even earn enough for our daily sustenance,” Bagnaran complained.

“The locals we met asked us – ‘Why did you even have to come here? Don’t you know how many people have been buried in this very ground we tread on?’ That was when I started to really worry,” Mario narrated.

Impunity and day-to-day violence have become common occurrence in Hacienda Luisita, that the case of these Mindanao sakadas exposed by UMA is but an open secret to the locals.

“This despicable practice of exploiting sakadas for the kabyaw season has long been uninterrupted in Hacienda Luisita. The hiring of sakadas who are made to endure slave-like conditions and wages is one of the worst forms of exploitation and contractualization, technically legalized and tolerated by government for years,” said Ramos.

“Government cannot make true its promise to end contractualization if the most horrible conditions we’ve seen in sugarcane plantations here in Hacienda Luisita and in the whole of Negros Island still exist,” said Ramos.

Bagnaran is among the first batch of sakadas to file complaints at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) against the recruiter, Greenhand, and the principal employer, Agrikulto Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT).

Agrikulto and CAT is now jointly-owned and managed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos led by Fernando Cojuangco with Martin Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo landlord family also currently embroiled in land disputes with farmworkers in banana plantations under Lapanday Foods Corporation in Mindanao.

 

 

 

Sakadas from Mindanao Exploited in Hacienda Luisita  

sakadapix

Sakadas were assisted by the DSWD even during the holidays

 

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 agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said that the sakadas sought UMA’s assistance through OGYON or Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa, local farmworkers’ union affiliated with UMA based in Bukidnon province.

A total of 43 sakadas from different towns of Bukidnon were “rescued” by UMA during the holiday season. The sugar workers were also immediately assisted by the offices of Sec. Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Sec. Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).  

“This despicable practice of exploiting sakadas for the kabyaw season has long been uninterrupted in Hacienda Luisita,” said Ramos, who noted that during the Hacienda Luisita strike and massacre of 2004, among those arrested by police – even believed killed and then disappeared – were a number of nameless migratory sugar workers whose barracks or living quarters were then situated near the picketlines.    

At least 160 of around 800 to a thousand sugar workers reportedly recruited from Mindanao have come from the province of Bukidnon. The rest come from other Mindanao provinces such as Cotabato and Davao.

The sacadas were recruited by Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative (GLSC) managed by a certain Billy Baitus, based in Polomolok, South Cotabato. In Malaybalay, Bukidnon, the recruiters were identified as Oscar Sihagan and Evangeline Balmores.

According to OGYON, Greenhand was requested by the Cojuangco firm Agrikulto Inc. to procure a thousand sugar workers or cane cutters to work in Hacienda Luisita. Agrikulto, which is known to be headed by Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr, was reportedly bought by the sugar mill, Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) in 2015. CAT is still owned and managed by the Cojuangcos headed by Fernando Cojuangco, with Martin Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo landlord clan of Mindanao.

“Like the Cojuangco-Aquinos, the Lorenzos are also notorious for exploitation of agricultural workers and massive landgrabbing for the expansion of their banana plantations in Mindanao,” said Ramos.  

Agrikulto, Inc. is currently the biggest proprietor of the illicit aryendo or leaseback system in Hacienda Luisita.

“The existence of Agrikulto is glaring proof that BS Aquino’s land reform is a monumental failure. After grabbing lands from local Luisita farmworkers, they are now exploiting new workers from Mindanao,” said Ramos.

Minors, lumad among trafficked sakadas

Four out of the 43 rescued sugar workers are minors. More than half (24) are lumad of the Manobo tribe.

Two needed immediate medical attention. The first one, a senior citizen, was already sent home, while another is currently confined at a public hospital in Quezon City for a head injury. Doctors recommend immediate surgery but the family requests that the victim be treated in Mindanao.

A number of the rescued sakadas are unable to read and write and were recruited through verbal agreements and/or upon endorsement of lumad chieftains. They were promised a “Tarlac package” consisting of a daily wage of P450 plus benefits, including free meals and provisions or board and lodging, and travel to and from Hacienda Luisita. They were also promised P7,000 cash advance in three tranches.

According to the victims, lumad cheftains or datus were also promised that if they were able to recruit people to work as sakadas, Baitus or Greenhand would help them in their ancestral land claims. Baitus also reportedly convinced the victims to work in Tarlac because it is part of a “livelihood project” of President Duterte.

Wages still P9.50 a day

 

img_20161230_111144

A sample copy of the sugar workers’ weekly payroll shows that a group of sakadas earned only P173.33 each for a day’s work. They however received only P66.21 each for the whole week  — or only P9.46 a day — due to numerous deductions.  

 

When the sakadas arrived, they were housed in a cramped, poorly-ventilated and stinky bunkhouse in barangay Mapalacsiao, near the CAT sugar mill in Hacienda Luisita. Instead of the P450 daily wage, they were paid a pakyaw or group rate of P220 per ton of sugar cane cut and hauled into trucks.

They say that they were made to work from 4:00 in the morning up to 5:00 in the afternoon in sugar cane fields not just in Hacienda Luisita, but in other sugar plantations within Central and Northern Luzon. They reportedly were made to work in as far as Arayat in Pampanga, Pangasinan or almost  or “near Baguio.”

Based on weekly payrolls that UMA obtained, the workers received weekly wages from a low of P66.21 to a high of P898.20 a week or P9.46 to P128.31 a day – due to numerous deductions. The minimum wage for plantation agricultural workers in Central Luzon is P 334 a day.

Workers had to pay for their own food and provisions. There were times that a group of sakadas would only eat congee and sardines for a team of 8-13 persons. Some experienced eating only salt along with rice, while some went to work in the fields with empty stomachs.

The sakadas also did not receive any benefits. The P 5,000 cash advance was further deducted for supplies such as plates, rice cooker and espading or bolo used to cut cane.  

The victims are poised to file labor and trafficking cases against the recruiter, Greenhand, and the principal employer, Agrikulto Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac.