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14 DEAD, 133 ARRESTED, HUNDREDS MISSING IN THE VIOLENT DISPERSAL OF HACIENDA LUISITA STRIKE

All they wanted is to own a piece of land to till for a living. What they got was a piece of mound to lay their bodies to rest till eternity.

In a violent strike dispersal in Hacienda Luisita last November 16, 2004, 14 people were killed, including two children aged 2 and 5 years old who died from suffocation from teargas lobbed by the police and army dispersal teams. One of the victims was allegedly strangled after being shot and his dead body hanged in the factory’s gate. At least 35 people were reported to have sustained gunshot wounds, 133 were arrested and detained, hundreds were wounded and another hundred still missing. The carnage is a gruesome reminder of the infamous Mendiola Massacre and Lupao Massacre, which also arose from the peasants demand to own their land.

Nine (9) of those killed in what is now called as the Hacienda Luisita Massacre were identified as Jun David, Adriano Caballero, Jhaivie Basilio, Jesus Laza, Jaime Pastidio, Juancho Sanchez, Neng Balete, Boy Versola and Jessie Valdez. Of the 133 arrested, 117 were detained at Camp Macabulos in Tarlac while 16 people were detained at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) - Tarlac. Majority of those arrested were released only yesterday.

The melee erupted at around 3:20 p.m., after the dispersal team of the Tarlac police under the command of Chief Supt. Quirino dela Torre and with the support of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) forcibly broke the workers’ picketline in front of Hacienda Luisita. The police said they merely followed the order of Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas who deputized the Nolcom in enforcing at all means the Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (D0LE). The DOLE order calls for a return-to-work order and a free ingress-egress. It deputized the Tarlac police to implement the order.

As if in a war zone, three (3) armored personnel carrier (APC), several fire trucks and 10 military trucks were stationed in the area to allegedly assist the police in enforcing the AJ. Elements of the 69th and 703rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army were also deployed in the area. Combined elements of hundreds of military and police forces with high-powered firearms attacked the picketing workers and thousands of its supporters. As the APC rammed into the workers’ barricade, the military and police repeatedly used water cannons, high-powered rifles, truncheons and teargas to disperse the strikers and their supporters and to eventually open the factory gates.

Workers’ strike for land, wages and jobs

More than 5,000 sugar mill workers and sugarcane farmers of Hacienda Luisita went on strike last Nov. 6. Members of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) barricaded the factory's Gate 2 while members of the United Luisita Workers' Union (ULWU) simultaneously locked up the mill's Gate 1. CATLU is the employees union while ULWU is the farmworkers union.

The strike arose from the deadlock in the negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between CATLU and Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) and the illegal dismissal of 327 farm workers belonging to ULWU last Oct. 1. Among those illegally dismissed were ULWU president and vice president, Rene Galang and Ildefonso Pingul, respectively, and eight other union officers.

On its part, CATLU demands a P100 (US$ 1.78) salary increase and hospitalization benefits. But the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) management said that it can only provide a measly P12 wage hike and a P12,000 bonus. Series of negotiations ensued between CATLU and the management but the latter stood pat on its decision thereby resulting in a deadlock.

More than the issue of wage and jobs, land distribution remains to be the major demand of Hacienda Luisita workers. The workers, led by ULWU, are calling for the scrapping of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), which the Cojuangcos used to purportedly escape land distribution to its tenants under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Ironically, it was then Pres. Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, whose family owns the Hacienda, who signed the CARP law in 1987.

The deceptive SDO resulted to massive retrenchment and suppressed collective actions of the two unions. They also said that contrary to the claim of the Cojuangco family that 33% of the plantation’s income goes to the farm workers being part-owners, only 3% are being distributed to them in stocks.

The workers also hit the reduction of their working days into once a week, which forced some of them to do laundry work, collect junks and get odd jobs for a living. While their gross income is P190 (US$ 3.39) a day, the farm workers only get a take home pay of a measly P9.50 (US$ 17 cents) due to loan deductions and cash advances. The loans are a direct result of reduced man-days and limited working opportunities. This means that the farm workers have to subsist on a P 9.50 weekly budget brought about by the once-a-week work scheme.

Hacienda Luisita is a sprawling 6,000-hectare property of the Cojuangco clan. It is owned and managed by HLI which was incorporated on Aug. 23, 1988. HLI incorporators are Pedro Cojuangco, Josephine Reyes, Jose Cojuangco Jr., Teresita A. Lopa and Paz Teopaco – all brothers and sisters of former Pres. Aquino. HLI had 5,067 farm workers and 487 employees in 2002. Based on submitted documents at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company posted a net income of P14 million in 2002 and had total assets of P1.59 billion in the same year.

Over the years, Hacienda Luisita has become very controversial because of its exemption in the land distribution program through its SDO scheme. It has become a symbol of the peasants’ long battle for genuine land reform.


Social and Class Struggle

In a statement, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemned “in the strongest possible terms the excessive use of military force and the violent dispersal that caused deaths and injuries to the striking farm and sugar mill workers of Hacienda Luisita.” It held the Hacienda Luisita management and the Cojuangco family, led by landlord and big comprador bourgeoisie Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and former Pres. Aquino, the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime, DOLE Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, the military and police for the blood that spilled in the picket lines.

“The strike at Hacienda Luisita is more than just a strike. It is a concrete illustration of the lingering social and class struggle between the exploited Filipino people and exploiters from the landlord, big comprador bourgeoisie and capitalist classes,” stressed KMU Chairman Elmer Labog.

The strike has enjoyed massive support from various communities in Tarlac and other sectors nationwide. On Nov. 15, some 12,000 – 15,000 people from 10 surrounding communities poured at the picketlines to show support to the workers. Together, they thwarted an earlier attempt of the police and military to dismantle the workers’ barricades.

The bloody dispersal is the 4th such incident in the 11-day old strike of farm and sugarcane workers. The bloody row is also the third massacre case involving the Cojuangco clan and a member of its family. The other two were the Mendiola Massacre that killed 13 peasants on Jan. 22, 1987 and Lupao Massacre (also in Central Luzon) on Feb.10, 1988, with 17 peasants killed. Both carnages took place during the time of Pres. Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.

The struggle continues

At present, the remains of the slain victims lie at the gates of Hacienda Luisita. The victims’ family and the two labor unions vowed to parade the bodies of the 14 fatalities as a grim reminder of the brutal carnage. They also averred to regroup and restore the picketlines, stressing that the bloodshed all the more fortified their resolve to continue with the fight. “It is better for us to die fighting than die of hunger,” said the workers.

Yesterday, an independent fact-finding mission was held simultaneous with the visit of four Representatives from progressive party-list groups Anakpawis, Bayan Muna and Gabriela. The four militant lawmakers, accompanied by workers and representatives from other sectors, went to the Hacienda to gather testimonies and evidence on the bloody dispersal. They were initially barred from entering the gates but were allowed to after a 30-minute negotiation.

The said party-list groups have asked the Congress to form a Congressional committee to conduct a full-dress investigation of the massacre and the issues being raised by the striking farm and sugarcane workers.

Even with the carnage, charges of assault, illegal assembly, inciting to sedition and malicious mischief are being readied against the strikers. Bayan Muna – Tarlac also reported that soldiers are conducting “zoning” activities in nearby villages to hunt and arrest the strikers and its supporters.

There is a snowball of protest over the overkill reaction (use of armed personnel carriers, high-caliber rifles and M-60 machine gun) of the military and police that led to the massacre. The Cojuangco family is in hot waters today, owing to their primary responsibility to the carnage. There is also a strong clamor for the resignation of DOLE Sec. Sto. Tomas, who is being held liable to the massacre because of the deputization of the police and military to enforce her Assumption of Jurisdiction order. In utter desperation to cover-up their culpability in this crime, the Cojuangco family, the DOLE and the military connive to obfuscate and hide the real issues behind the carnage by saying that the strikers are not legitimate workers. They also maliciously insinuate that leftist elements have infiltrated the strike and agitated the people to fight. Meanwhile, former Pres. Aquino can only offer prayers while Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo offered nothing but to plead for sobriety in the two camps.

The KMU strongly demands that an independent body conduct a speedy and impartial investigation of the bloodbath that happened. There should be no whitewash of this condemnable act and that the investigation should be objective. Swift justice should be given to the massacre victims, to their families and to the farm workers.

What we can do

Please join us in demanding for justice and indemnification to the victims of the massacre. We urge you to send protest and condemnation letters to the following government agencies, Hacienda Luisita management, lawmakers and other concerned individuals:

Mr. Jose Cojuangco
President/Manager
Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT)
Brgy. Central, Tarlac City

Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
New Executive Building, Malacañang Palace
J.P. Laurel Street, San Miguel, Metro Manila
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

Hon. Chairperson Dr. Purificacion Quisumbing
The Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Building, Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman, Quezon City
Fax: +632 929-0102, Email: [email protected]

Hon. Sec. Avelino Cruz
Department of National Defense
Camp Aguinaldo, EDSA, 1110 Quezon City
Email: [email protected]


Hon. Sec. Simeon Datumanong
Department of Justice, P. Faura, Ermita, Manila
Fax: +632521-1614, Email: [email protected]

Hon. Sec. Teresita Deles
Office of the Presidential Advisers on the Peace Process
7F Agustin Building, Emerald Avenue
Pasig City, Metro Manila
Fax: 632 638 2216

Hon. Congressman Jose de Venecia
Speaker of the House
House of Representatives
Batasan Hills, Q.C.

Hon. Senator Franklin Drilon
Senate President
Rm. 606, Senate of the Philippines
Pasay City
Fax Number: 551-2993
Email: [email protected]

Hon. Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada
Head, Labor Committee
Rm. 526, Senate of the Philippines
Pasay City

The Secretariat, GRP-Human Rights Monitoring Committee
Email: [email protected]
or
The Secretariat, NDFP-Human Rights Monitoring Committee
E-mail: [email protected]
6/F Immaculate Conception Multi-Purpose Building
71 Lantana St., Cubao, Quezon City

Please also send letters to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Geneva Convention calling their attention to the brutal carnage that occurred in Hacienda Luisita.

Reproduce and circulate this Urgent Action Alert to all your networks and help build an international condemnation to this atrocious act of human rights violation.

WE DEMAND:

a) A swift and impartial investigation on the bloody dispersal that resulted to the death and injury of farm and sugarcane workers and its supporters.
b) A full-dress House investigation on the bloody dispersal and the issues being raised by the workers.
c) The review and the cancellation of the Assumption of Jurisdiction which is being used by the DOLE with impunity to repress the workers’ inherent right to free speech and free assembly.
d) Withdraw the criminal charges against the striking workers. Stop the zoning activities in nearby villages to hunt for strikers and supporters of Hacienda Luisita.
e) Resume the CBA negotiations and reinstate without retaliatory measures the 327 illegally dismissed workers.


We also urge you to:

a) Send solidarity messages to the union. It is a great morale booster especially in these trying times of their life. The snowball of international and local support would also help in drumbeating the issues of the workers and in pressuring the government to act on the workers’ demands. Please send messages of support to:

Mr. Ricardo S. Ramos
Union President
Central Azucarrera de Tarlac Labor Union
Brgy. Central, Tarlac City
c/o email address: [email protected]

Mr. Rene Galang
President
United Luisita Workers Union
Brgy. Central, Tarlac City
c/o email address: [email protected]

b) Gather logistics, material and financial support for the striking workers. While the latest violence inflicted in their ranks somewhat disrupted the strike, the workers vow to continue with their fight until they get their demands. Your material and financial help would be an invaluable one especially in their plan to restore the picketlines. It will also help defray the cost of burial expenses and other related financial needs of the victims and their families. Donations can be addressed to:

Mr. Ricardo S. Ramos
Union President
Central Azucarrera de Tarlac Labor Union
c/o Balai Obrero Foundation
63 Narra St., Proj. 3,
Q.C., Philippines

Mr. Rene Galang
President
United Luisita Workers Union
c/o Balai Obrero Foundation
63 Narra St., Proj. 3,
Q.C., Philippines

Financial donations can be addressed to Bank Account Number: 0274-0768-52, Bank of Philippine Islands, Timog Branch. Please inform us of your donation and specify that it is intended for Hacienda Luisita strike.

c) If possible, organize a picket protest in front of the Philippine Consulate in your respective areas/countries and bring forth the issues of Hacienda Luisita farm and sugarworkers. Other solidarity activities which you deem possible are highly encouraged.

Please furnish us a copy of your letters and inform us of the actions you will undertake. Thank you very much!




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