#Magtagumpay | Farmers poised to gain more victories in land struggle

mgtaguLEGAZPI CITY – National agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) is one with hundreds of farmers from all over the country gathered today at the Ibalong Centrum in Legazpi City for the 8th National Congress of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). The militant KMP is the biggest organization of peasants and farmworkers in the country.

According to UMA Chairperson Renato Mendoza, the KMP congress is convened amid alarming conditions confronting our farmers today.  “The declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, for one, has already affected hundreds of thousands of peasants not just in the Marawi and Lanao area, but also in various provinces in Mindanao. Outside Mindanao, farmers also suffer de facto martial law, with the AFP’s all-out war against progressive and revolutionary forces in the countryside. Civilians in peasant communities become victims of military atrocities,” said Mendoza.

In the Bicol region, where the KMP congress is being held, the recent declaration of “red alert” by state forces have resulted in more human rights violations in areas already reeling from militarization. Farmers have converged here in Legazpi City, defying terror tactics and intense military operations. More than a thousand farmer-delegates come from Bicol provinces Albay, Masbate, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

“Kapayapaan ang pangako ni Pangulong Duterte pero nanganganib na gumuho ang usapang pangkapayapaan sa NDFP dahil sa militarista at pasitang tunguhin ng rehimen (Duterte promised us peace but the peace talks with the NDFP is in peril of collapse due to the fascist and militarist direction of the Duterte regime),” Mendoza said.

“There can be no peace without justice. Government must heed our demand for genuine land reform and national industrialization, which will also address the roots of armed conflict in the country. All-out war, martial law, and US military intervention will only spark further unrest in the countryside. The dislocation of peasants and internal refugees is but a prelude to a new wave of landgrabbing for imperialist interests such as large-scale mining, so-called development projects and expansion of agribusiness plantations,” Mendoza emphasized.

The KMP Congress theme, “Magtagumpay!” challenges the odds posed by violent maneuvers of militarists and oligarchs in the Duterte regime, who are now desperate to maintain imperialist neoliberal economics and the country’s oppressive, semifeudal set-up.

“UMA fully supports the KMP in leading the peasant struggle for genuine land reform and national industrialization. Even with intense militarization in the countryside, aerial bombings, political killings, state terror and repression, peasants are poised to gain greater victories in our campaign to dismantle the hacienda system and land monopoly of big landlords and agribusinesses,” said Mendoza.

UMA cited the peasant struggle in Hacienda Luisita against the CojuangcoAquino family, and in Madaum, Tagum City, where agriworkers triumphed against the landgrabbing Lorenzo family of Lapanday Corporation. “The bungkalan or land cultivation initiatives of peasants thrive in these areas, due to collective and militant struggle,” Mendoza stressed.

Department of Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Lead Convenor Liza Maza, and Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao were also present at the KMP Congress to support peasant demands for genuine land reform and national industrialization.

The 2-day KMP Congress will end tomorrow, and will culminate in a protest march, July 14, to be joined by thousands of Bikolano farmers in downtown Legazpi City.

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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.

#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.

Compostela banana workers triumph in record “13-hour strike”

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The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national federation of unions, associations and organizations of agricultural workers congratulates banana workers in Compostela Valley for the successful general strike participated in by more than a thousand workers against the “pakyaw” or piece-rate scheme implemented by Japanese fruit giant Sumifru in Compostela Valley.

The Maparat-Montevista Workers’ Union (MaMWU) in Compostela town commenced the strike yesterday, April 18 at 10:00 in the morning and was joined by 8 other unions from 7 banana packing plants and field operations.

The participation of several unions and workers effectively paralyzed the operations of Sumifru.

Sumifru is a subsidiary of Sumitomo Fruit Corporation. It is one of the largest producers and marketers of fresh Cavendish bananas in the world.

The MaMWU and representatives of Sumifru and labor agencies reached an agreement to revoke the pakyaw scheme at around 11:00 pm, after an exhaustive dialogue. The workers are affiliated with the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU).

The “13-hour strike” in Compostela is one of the shortest successful mass actions led by KMU.

Two years before, a month-long strike joined by growers and workers from 9 packing plants in the same province supposedly revoked the pakyaw scheme. However, instead of implementing the hourly rate scheme, Sumifru and its associate labor agencies deliberately imposed the pakyaw scheme.

The pakyaw system reduces workers’ wages by at least half compared to what they earn based on the hourly rate. At the same time, they have to work longer hours to pack more boxes of export bananas, compared to the hourly rate.

Workers laboring more than 12 hours or with an overtime of over 4 hours – only receive a measly P341 (P28.42/hour) based on the piece-rate system, while the hourly rate could earn as much as P495.40 (P41.28/hour).

The new minimum wage in Region 11 would be P335.00 per day starting May 1, 2017 and is only P41.875/hour.

UMA supports KMU’s call for a P750 daily minimum wage for all workers in the private sector including those working in haciendas and plantations.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos said that “Workers across the country should draw inspiration and emulate the militant action of banana workers in Compostela Valley. We must organize and launch bigger industrial actions against exploitation of workers and neoliberal attacks against labor.”

Sacadas suffer the worst forms of contractualization

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Last Christmas, the story of Mindanao sacadas – lowly cane cutters recruited to work in the controversial Hacienda Luisita sugar estate – first surfaced. Around a thousand sacadas were brought from Mindanao to a cramped bunkhouse in Tarlac to work during the kabyaw or annual sugar harvest and milling season which starts in November.

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), whose local affiliate OGYON based in Bukidnon province was instrumental in the initial rescue of around 50 sacadas, say that “the usual suspects” are behind this despicable practice of modern slavery.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos says that the recruitment of sacadas ensures 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. The Lorenzos are also currently embroiled in land disputes with farmworkers in banana plantations under Lapanday Foods Corporation in Mindanao.

“The hiring of sacadas – called ‘migratory sugar workers’ by government – has been a long undisturbed practice by landlords and sugar barons during sugarcane harvest. It is one of the worst forms of contractualization, where workers are hired en masse to work in deplorable conditions and then paid slave-like wages through a group rate or ‘pakyaw’ wage system,” said Ramos

The sacadas have become victims of a giant human trafficking scam – promised  by their recruiters 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.

Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, a Mindanao-based hiring agency disguised as a ‘labor cooperative,’ is responsible for transporting the sacadas to Hacienda Luisita. Agency-hiring in industries and services is among the most notorious practices perpetuating contractualization, or the ‘end of contract’ or ENDO scheme.

The sacadas received as low as P38.27 a week or a measly P5.47 a day to a high of P898.20 a week or P128.31 a day – due to numerous deductions. One initial payroll revealed that the workers received only P9.50 a day, the same pittance that Luisita farmworkers received more than a decade ago in 2004, when thousands of workers rose up to strike against the Cojuangco-Aquinos.

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.

UMA says that government has not done enough to end the reign of these oligarchs. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in issuing Department Order 174, permits contractualization to continue unhampered.

“With its unfulfilled promises, government practically allows the Cojuangcos and Lorenzos to sign sakadas as slaves,” said Ramos.

“The sakadas were subjected to worst forms of exploitation and contractualization in Hacienda Luisita. The new DOLE DO 174 does nothing to end contractualization. Instead, it glosses over liabilities of despicable contractors like Greenhand and exploiters like the Cojuangcos and Lorenzos,” said Ramos.

“Sacadas and other workers have suffered enough from contractualization and the seasonal nature of farm labor, especially since our agricultural produce like sugarcane and fresh fruit exist because of interests of imperialists and multinational giants,” added Ramos.

Aside from UMA-member unions and organizations, Kilos Na Manggagawa, an organization of workers against contractualization, is currently gaining ground among plantation workers. Today is a national day of action against ENDO led by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Kilos Na Manggagawa chapters around Metro Manila.

“The contractual or seasonal nature of our work is not holding back thousands of agricultural workers from forming unions and associations, and from pouring out into the streets on May 1, Labor Day to demand the end of contractualization and other neoliberal attacks against labor,” ended Ramos. #