On the 5th anniversary of the massacre of 7:

Land and justice for Hacienda Luisita farmers

 

Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac

 

November 16, 2009

 

 

Video Clips        

 

Click here for archived pages on the Hacienda Luisita massacre

 

 

Juancho Sanchez Adriano Caballero, Jr.

Jun David

Jaime Pastidio

 

Five years after the massacre, the struggle of the Luisita peasants and farm workers for justice, including the junking of the Assumption of Jurisdiction power of the labor secretary, and land continues. They deserve the full support of the working people of the Philippines and the whole world. We hope that our International Day of Action against Trade Union Repression and the fifth anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre will be an occasion for working people everywhere to discuss and raise the issues of trade union repression in their work places and countries. We should not allow trade union repression to weaken our ranks and spirit. It should goad us to fight back and gain strength through struggle.

 

--- Statement of the Chairperson, International Leauge of Peoples' Struggle

 

Jesus Laza

Jhavie Basilio

Jessie Valdez

This photo of the blood-stained yellow ribbon courtesy of Giilduh Segovia

 

Over a period of 10 months after the massacre, 6 people who worked with the farm

 workers on the Hacienda Luista issue were murdered:

 

■  Marcelino Beltran, Dec. 8, 2004;                

■  Councilor Abelardo Ladera, March 3, 2005;

■  Rev. William Tadena, March 13, 2005;      

■  Tatang Ben Concepcion, March 17, 2005;

■  Florante Collante, Oct. 15, 2005; and,        

■  Ricardo Ramos, October 25, 2005

 

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Mass and lighting candles for the Martyrs of the Hacienda Luisita massacre of Nov. 16, 2004
           

 

LAND AND JUSTICE FOR THE PEASANTS
AND FARM WORKERS OF HACIENDA LUISITA
Issued by the Office of the Chairperson
International League of Peoples' Struggle
16 November2009

Today, the working people of the world are launching various forms of protest actions to mark the International Day of Action against Trade Union Repression. This provides a meaningful context for commemorating and protesting the massacre of striking peasants and farm workers in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province in the Philippines in 2004. The working people of Hacienda Luisita exemplify the plight and struggle of the working people of semicolonial and semifeudal countries, who still comprise the majority of the world’s population.

Hacienda Luisita is the vast 6,000-hectare tract of land in Central Luzon owned by the wealthy and powerful Cojuangco family to which former Pres. Corazon “Cory” Aquino belonged . It stands as a bulwark of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation and oppression within the context of the world capitalist system. It demonstrates how the big comprador-landlords exploit the working people and wield state power to oppress them. It exposes as a sham the so-called “comprehensive agrarian reform program” that the Aquino ruling clique had launched since the 1980s.

Earlier the Cojuangco family bought Hacienda Luisita from the Spanish Tabacalera corporation with a loan from the government in the 1950s.. The loan was granted with the provision that a major portion of the land (2000 hectares) would be distributed later on to the peasants, within the frame of the government’s “land reform” program.

The Cojuangco family not only failed to distribute the designated portion of the land, it maneuvered to keep it and used violence to suppress those who demanded land reform. In 1985, a trial court ruled that the lands be distributed to the peasants, but 1986 saw the ascent to the presidency of Aquino. The Aquino regime crafted an agrarian reform program which was riddled with so many exemptions, including one called the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) that was used to exempt Luisita from land distribution.

In this context, we can fully appreciate the significance of the strike launched by Luisita peasants and farm workers in November 2004. They were protesting the P9.50 take-home pay per day at the hacienda – a result of the Stock Distribution Option scheme hatched by the Cojuangcos and the landlord class to gain legal exemption from the fake agrarian reform program being implemented by the government. They were also protesting the dismissal of 300 workers from the hacienda’s sugar refinery, an act intended to bust the local union which was then becoming militant.

Before and during their strike, the peasants and farm workers of Luisita – with the active support of patriotic and progressive mass organizations and alliances throughout the country, and with the help of alternative media – won the attention and sympathy of the working people of the country and the world. Many among the urban petty-bourgeoisie in the Philippines were shocked to learn about concrete forms of feudal exploitation and oppression that were persisting in the countryside. The working people of the Philippines and the world applauded and encouraged the working people of Luisita .

The Cojuangcos, the big comprador-landlord classes, and the reactionary state were all shamed by the justness of the calls of the Luisita peasants and farm workers. They reacted swiftly and viciously to the strike. Patricia Sto. Tomas, then-labor secretary of the US-backed regime of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, issued an Assumption of Jurisdiction order on the issue, ordering the strikers to go back to work and authorizing the deployment of military and police forces to dismantle the strike. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., who was widely believed to have been promoted to his post for helping Mrs. Arroyo cheat in the 2004 elections, was the military’s chief of staff.

The military and police forces went to the hacienda, bringing tanks, tear gas, and high-powered rifles. The Luisita peasants and farm workers stood their ground. With their unity and militance, they repelled various attempts at breaking the strike. Thousands upon thousands of workers, peasants and farm workers, together with their women folk, locked arms and pushed away with their bodies the military and police who were armed with shields. After reaching the ground, canisters of tear gas thrown by the military were immediately covered with soil. A farmer, speaking to the military, summed up their spirit: “Since you are already killing us, we might as well die fighting.” These could only have aroused fear and panic in the hearts of the oppressors..

In the afternoon of November 16, 2004,after the strikers promised in a negotiation with military and police officials to lay down the pieces of wood they were holding for defending themselves and to defend the strike with just their bodies, the military and police forces opened fire. A few minutes of gunfire left Jhaivie Basilio, Adriano Caballero, Jhune David, Jesus Laza, Juancho Sanchez, Jaime Pastidio and Jessie Valdez fatally wounded. Some of them could have been kept alive, but hospitals in Cojuangco-dominated Tarlac refused to admit patients from the hacienda. Calling for land to the tillers, they died fighting for the just cause of the peasants and farm workers of Luisita and the country.

The owners of the hacienda, the reactionary government and the bourgeois mass media tried to spread the canard that it was the Luisita farmers and farm workers who started the violence and that it was fighters of the New People’s Army,.who started the shooting. Their propaganda could not stand up to the truth of the audio-visual evidence taken by progressive filmmakers who covered the strike. The bursts of gunfire came from the ranks of the military and the police. Subsequently, death squads of the military went on a spree killing strike leaders and supporters, including a bishop and a city councilor.

While the touters of the reactionary justice system in the Philippines often cite the adage that “justice delayed is justice denied,” justice has clearly been delayed and has been denied to the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita. Five years after the massacre, no one has been punished for the crime. There are many victims, but none of the criminal perpetrators is imprisoned. Investigation of the cases has been proceeding at snail pace, and the only significant development is that de facto president Arroyo, her labor secretary Sto. Tomas and the military butcher Esperon have been removed from the list of those charged. The ones remaining on the sham charge sheet are the police and military officers who tested positive in paraffin tests. But they are scot free and biding their time.

The power of the labor secretary to issue Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) orders remains in place – despite the graphic demonstration by what happened in Luisita of its lethal consequences for working people. After the massacre, the labor secretary issued AJ orders for numerous workplaces in Central Luzon, thus facilitating the militarization of that region. Since it was approved as part of the Labor Code in 1989, the AJ has been used as license to suppress workers’ actions in workplaces throughout the country. It is being imposed even before a strike is initiated – when collective bargaining negotiations end in deadlock or when notices of strike are filed before the government.

Pressured by the strike and the widespread condemnation of the massacre locally and internationally, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), in December 2005, revoked the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme being implemented in the hacienda and placed the lands previously under the SDO into the “compulsory coverage” scheme of the government’s agrarian reform program. The Hacienda Luisita management, losing no time, filed for a Temporary Restraining Order in January 2006 against the resolution. In June 2006, the Supreme Court issued a TRO and ordered the PARC and the Department of Agrarian Reform to implement the revocation of the SDO.

Seeing the opportunity in this deadlock, and knowing that waiting for government intervention will get them nowhere, the peasants and farm workers of the hacienda took the initiative and launched their “kampanyang bungkal” or campaign to till, which called on all working people of the hacienda to plant crops that are necessary for everyday nourishment, such as rice and vegetables, and can be sold for added income, such as fruits. With the participation of more than a thousand families, the hacienda land, which used to showcase sugarcane, now boasts of golden fields of rice. The campaign caused an improvement in the lives and livelihood of the working people of Luisita.

The Cojuangco family, however, has not given up on the fight to own the Luisita lands. Last December 2008, emboldened by the passage of a law extending the government’s anti-peasant agrarian reform program – which still contained the SDO as one of the (non-)distribution schemes – the Hacienda Luisita management issued a memorandum to the peasants tilling the 2,000-hectare portion of the hacienda which ordered them to stop using the lands for whatever purpose. After a public clamor directed at Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III – a member of the Cojuangco family who’s running in the 2010 presidential elections – the Hacienda Luisita management was forced to backtrack.

Now, the Hacienda Luisita management is carrying out what it calls an “enlistment” of peasants who would become the “beneficiaries” of agrarian reform in the hacienda – as if it were the authorized body to implement agrarian reform in that area and as if it were authorized to do so despite the TRO. It is complaining of “illegal tillers” encroaching upon the hacienda, who are actually the working people of Luisita. It is also undertaking land-use conversion schemes in various parts of the land. The creation of a vast highway that passes through the hacienda is being seen as an opportunity to increase the value of hacienda land and an opening to commercial uses of portions of the hacienda.

Five years after the massacre, the struggle of the Luisita peasants and farm workers for justice, including the junking of the Assumption of Jurisdiction power of the labor secretary, and land continues. They deserve the full support of the working people of the Philippines and the whole world. We hope that our International Day of Action against Trade Union Repression and the fifth anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre will be an occasion for working people everywhere to discuss and raise the issues of trade union repression in their work places and countries. We should not allow trade union repression to weaken our ranks and spirit. It should goad us to fight back and gain strength through struggle.

We have to continue and intensify our struggle not just against trade union repression but also against the forms of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation which are aligned with the world capitalist system. Let us keep in mind that monopoly capitalist control of global agriculture and the food system has now created a global famine afflicting over a billion people for the first time in world history.

The struggle of the Luisita peasants and farm workers is instructive. It is only through the militant struggle of working people that they can gain strength and aim for their national and social liberation. We may win victories in our struggle for reforms within the present world capitalist system but these will continue to be at risk until we, the people of the world, are strong enough to overthrow the exploiters and oppressors.###

     
     
     
     
     
     
           
           
   
     
     

 

 

PRESS RELEASE
November 16, 2009
Reference: Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson
Co-Convenor, Tanggol Magsasaka

Peasant rights group remembers Hacienda Luisita Massacre, called for justice

Peasant human rights group Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) denounced the 5th year injustice of Hacienda Luisita Massacre on November 16, 2009. To date, justice has never been served to seven victims and relatives still mourn because the government has no effort in addressing the issue. Also, Cojuangco family and other perpetrators denied all the accusations and lived freely.

"Remembering the Hacienda Luisita Massacre victims is very heartbreaking. After 5 years, justice has never been bestowed to the 7 victims of the massacre namely Adriano Caballero, Jaime Fastidio, Jessie Valdez, Jesus Laza, Jhayvie Basilio, Jhune David and Juanco Sanchez. Also, this massacre had left 72 agricultural workers wounded; 27 were hit by bullets, and 111 persons were illegaly detained by PNP-Tarlac", according to Antonio Flores, National Execom Member of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Co-Convenor of Tanggol Magsasaka.

Flores also stated that, "The HLI massacre has added to fast rising numbers of political persecution in the country since Arroyo took power in 2001. Even after the massacre, peasant leaders like CATLU leader Ric Ramos was murdered on October 25, 2005; United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) leader Tirso Cruz was killed on March 17, 2006, and Marcelino Beltran, chairperson of Alyansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Tarlac (AMT), killed on December 8, 2005."

"On the other, many of their active supporters were also victims of fascist attack by the Cojuangco family and by the Arroyo regime. The cases Of Tarlac City Councilor Abel Ladera, Fr. William Tadena and Bishop Alberto Ramento of IFI who were victims of EJK since March 2005 to December 2006 were still appealing for justice. Also, Ronald Intal, youth leader of Tarlac, has been disappeared since Mach 2006 and still reported missing" Flores added.

Flores also stated that, " Nowadays, military presence inside Hacienda Luisita has generated fear and harassment to thousands of agricultural workers and their families. Military men from Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) and 703 Brigade are present in the different baranggays and build military camps."

"We are very dismayed on this matter because peasant sector who are just calling for genuine land reform are primarily target for political persecution. Nowadays, there are 561 victims of EJK and 118 victims are KMP leaders like Eddie Gumanoy, Renato Pacaide, Celso Pojas; 129 peasants are victims of Enforced Disappearances and many have been arrested and detained like Quirante 2, Buenavista 5, Antipolo 4, and Felicidad Caparal with false accusations from the government. " he also stated.

As the peasant rights watchdog stated, the Cojuangco family should be held liable, what they have done to the agri-workers in decades is outright oppression and injustice. The perpetrators of the massacre should be punished. Moreover, as the massacre was "licensed" by the issuance of Assumption of Jurisdiction of then Labor Sec. Patricia Sto. Tomas, Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could not deny her involvement. Also, her regime is notorious in human rights abuses. Thus, Macapagal-Arroyo should be held accountable.

"We will never tire of calling for justice for the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre, the extra-judicial killings (EJK) and enforced disappearance. We will remember this every year until justice is realized and the guilty punished," called Flores .#

 

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PRESS RELEASE
November 16, 2009
Reference: Antonio Flores, National Execom member, KMP
Co-Convenor, Tanggol Magsasaka

Gonzales' appointment, worse than recycling, said rights watchdog

Peasant rights advocates group Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) solidly condemns the recent appointment of National Security adviser Norberto Gonzales as Secretary to the Dept. of National Defense (DND) on November 14, 2009. The group said that this is another reward of the Arroyo government to Gonzales as he is one of the architects of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) 1 and 2, the counter-insurgency program targetting progressive leaders and activists. This signals the worsening human rights abuses as OBL is composed of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and accusation of trumped up charges victimizing members of militant organizations.

"He is truly a record-breaker in terrorizing activists and even ordinary citizens. During his term as National Security adviser, his brainchild Oplan Bantay Laya has resulted 561 victims of extra-judicial killings, of which 118 are leaders of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), 129 victims of enforced disappearances and scores have been illegally arrested such as agri-worker organizer Felicidad Caparal, Antipolo 4, Quirante 2 in Negros, Buenavista 5 in Bohol," said Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson and Co-convenor of Tanggol Magsasaka.

"Also, what Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did is worse than recycling as in recycling, garbage is transformed to be of use, but with Gonzales' case, he was appointed because of his gross record of human rights and GMA expect him to do worse," said Flores .

Aside from abuse records, the political persecution of "Batasan 6" or the representatives of progressive partylists Anakpawis, Bayan Muna and Gabriela Women's Party is also the "project" of Gonzales, operated through their Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) and under the declaration of "state of national emergency" by Macapagal-Arroyo.

The late Rep. Crispin Beltran was arrested and Rep. Satur Ocampo, Rep. Rafael Mariano, Rep. Joel Virador, Rep. Teddy Casino were under the custody of the House of Representatives. Gonzales has revived the Marcos' era-arrest warrant of Rep. Beltran, eventually accusing him of rebellion and implicating him with the Magdalo Group. The remaining Batasan 5 were also charged with the same rebellion case but dismissed by the court.

On the said rebellion case, leaders of people's organizations were also accused such as KMP Deputy Secretary-General for External Affairs Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis of Anakpawis Partylist and others.

The second wave of political persecution was implemented on 2007, accusing the alleged "mass graves" in Leyte to Rep. Satur Ocampo and leaders of people's organizations. He was arrested on March 16, 2007 but a month later released by the Supreme Court. The same case was also accused of Echanis who was arrested in Bago City , Negros Occidental on January 28, 2008, while conducting a consultation on House Bill 3059 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) on sugar agri-workers. He was released this August after being in jail for 17 months.

During Gonzales' term as National Security Adviser, KMP National Council members and provincial leaders were also victimized by extra-judicial killings such as Eddie Gumanoy of Kasama-TK (KMP Southern Tagalog), Renato Pacaide of KMP Far Southern Mindanao Region, Celso Pojas of FADC (KMP Davao City), Fermin Lorico of Kaugmaon (KMP Negros Oriental), Marcelino Beltran of AMT (KMP Tarlac), while Nilo Arado of Pamanggas (KMP Panay Region), Jonas Burgos of AMB (KMP Bulacan), Manuel Merio of AMB (KMP Bulacan) were victims of enforced disappearances. Also on November 16, 2004, 7 striking agri-workers were brutally killed at the so-called Hacienda Luisita Massacre.

With the gross human rights record of Gonzales, it is expected that Macapagal-Arroyo would eventually promote him as he is an effective lackey. Also, justice to rights abuse victims would be impossible during their regime and peace would remain a fantasy.

Thus, Tanggol Magsasaka resolutely call the support of the people to struggle for justice and peace in our country.

"We must resolutely struggle for justice for the victims and punish those who are liable and responsible, " called Flores .#

 

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           

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MEDIA RELEASE
14 November 2009

Caravan of thousands to Luisita set on Monday


Land and justice for Luisita farmers on fifth anniv of massacre! - Anakpawis


Anakpawis Partylist, the country’s biggest partylist of workers, farmers and urban poor, announced today in a press conference in Quezon City the “Lakbayan ng Anakpawis para sa Lupa at Katarungan,” a people’s caravan to Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac on Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the massacre of seven striking agri-workers.

On Nov. 16, 2004, police and military brutally dispersed striking hacienda farmers and farm workers who were protesting the miserable take-home pay of P9.50 a day and the retrenchment of more than 300 workers tantamount to union-busting.

The caravan is the culmination of activities of various organizations such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), and Anakpawis Partylist to commemorate the said occasion.

“It’s all systems go,” declared Rep. Rafael “Paeng” Mariano, Anakpawis 1st nominee for the 2010 elections and former KMP chairperson, about the caravan.

“More than 1,000 people from the National Capital Region and nearby provinces will troop to Luisita to express solidarity with the farmers and farmworkers there. We will be welcomed by more than 1,000 people from the hacienda for a program. The families of those who died in the 2004 massacre will be at the forefront,” he added.

 

 

 

For his part, Rep. Joel Maglunsod, Anakpawis 2nd nominee for the 2010 elections and former KMU secretary-general, reiterated the calls of the Lakbayan.

“Five years after the massacre, we have three main demands in relation to Hacienda Luisita. First, distribute the hacienda lands now! Second, justice for the victims of the massacre and extra-judicial killings! And third, scrap Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ)!” he said.

Maglunsod said that the Stock Distribution Option, which was implemented by the hacienda owners, should be junked, so that farmers can own the lands. He said that five years after the massacre, not much progress has been done to the cases filed against those criminally liable for the incident.

He also said that the AJ issued by then-DOLE Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas served as the “license to kill” for the military and police forces deployed to the strike.

Meanwhile, Randall Echanis, Anakpawis 3rd nominee for the 2010 elections, KMP deputy secretary-general, and the object of politically-motivated trumped-up charges, said that apart from the seven who were killed in the massacre, more leaders and supporters of the strike were gunned down months after the massacre.

“The brutality towards the Luisita farmers and farmworkers went beyond the hacienda and Nov. 16. We are also calling for justice for all of them,” Echanis said, citing the cases of union leader Ric Ramos, Iglesia Filipina Independiente bishop Alberto Ramento, Tarlac City councilor Abel Ladera, union leader Tirso Cruz among others. #
 

Reference: Wendell Gumban, KMU Media Liaison Officer, 09166075574
 

           
Program marking the 5th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre
           
           
Anakpawis partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano Lito Bais, President, United Luisita Workers Union KMP Secretary General Danilo Ramos
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Anakpawis partylist Honorary Chairperson Carmen Deunida KMU Executive Vice-President Lito Ustarez Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes, Jr.
           
March to Hacienda Luisita Massacre site
           

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE
November 16, 2009
For Reference: Roy Morilla, KMP information officer (63-907-418- 0098)

5th year anniversary of Hacienda Luisita massacre,
Groups travel to Tarlac to support agri-workers' call for land and justice


About 2,000 members of militant groups such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma), Amihan, Pamalakaya-Pilipina s, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Anakpawis Partylist, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and other sectoral groups, aboard more than 100 vehicles, traveled to Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac City to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Hacienda Luisita massacre which killed 7 striking agri-workers. They dubbed it as "Caravan for Land and Justice in Hacienda Luisita."

The groups said that this is also the 5th year of injustice for the victims and they are on all-out support for the agri-workers' call to junk the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with "Reforms" (CARPer) which they say the root of all their poverty and misery and political and economic gain for the Cojuangco family.

"It is high time to compel the Cojuangco to answer for their 50 years of deception and oppression since acquisition in 1957, to those who actually developed the lands of Hacienda Luisita, the agricultural workers. They have done enough, depriving agri-workers of the fruits of the lands, deceiving them for 15 years with SDO and CARP and killing 7 striking agri-workers on November 16, 2004," said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General.

The groups said that Jose "Don Pepe" Cojuangco, Sr., father of former president Cory Cojuangco-Aquino and Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, bought majority of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), including the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita from the Spanish company Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera) using a loan from the GSIS and a dollar load from Manufacturers' Trust Company of New York and Chase Manhattan Bank, where the Central Bank served as guarantor. Moreover, the GSIS required that the lands would be distributed in 10 years or 1967 to the tenant-farmers as part of the social justice program of the government.

On December 2, 1985, a Manila Regional Trial Court ruled that Hacienda Luisita be distributed to the tenants but the Cojuangcos' heavily opposed and elevated it to the Court of Appeals. By February 25, 1986, Cory Cojuangco-Aquino rose to power and eventually, the government through the Office of the Solicitor General conveyed that the government is no longer interested in possessing Hacienda Luisita.

"The timeline clearly shows that the Cojuangcos have enriched themselves through the blood and sweat of the agri-workers and using violence when the agri-workers were enlightened of the exploitation subjected on them," said Ramos.

"Hacienda Luisita does not belong to the Cojuangcos' and the agri-workers are the legitimate owners as they were acquired using public funds," added Ramos.

The groups traveled along the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex), exiting at Dau and rode along McArthur Highway . They held a short program and mass in front of Luisita Mall and Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) camp. The group would hold a solidarity night, joined by residents of different barangays inside the hacienda. They are to burn a large replica of a Hacienda Luisita, Inc. stock certificate written with "SDO."

Moreover, Lito Bais, Uma spokesperson and acting president of United Luisita Workers' Union (Ulwu) recalled their gruesome experience on November 16, 2004.

"We were all defending our picketline, about 700 elements of the police and 17 truckloads of military in full-battle gear were out to destroy our strike," recalled Bais.

"They used all they can against us, truncheons, tear gas, armed personnel carriers and eventually bullets from their high-powered rifles. They were really shooting at us for about a minute to kill us," said Bais.

"We only have our slingshots, stones, our united actions but it was no match to their deadly bullets," he added.

"After the massacre, 7 of us were killed, 72 were wounded, 27 of them were gunshot wounds and 111 were arrested by the PNP-Tarlac," said Bais.

"The one caught in video, struggling for his life, was Jesus Laza, a registered farm-worker in 1984 to 1990, became a sakada in 1990 onwards, an Ulwu member and a declared stockholder, he makes a living by selling dried fish," said Bais.

KMP and Uma restated their call for land and justice in Hacienda Luisita. Those who actually killed the striking agri-workers should be punished and the Arroyo government should be held accountable. The Cojuangco family should cease and desist in harassing the agri-workers and deploying the military and setting-up camps. Hacienda Luisita lands legitimately belongs to the agri-workers. They also urged that Stock Distribution Options (SDO) should be totally junked together with CARPer.

"We urge Sen. Noynoy to act immediately on the Hacienda Luisita issue. He has the duty to uphold the interest of the Filipino peasants if he really plans to be president or else he should forget about winning," KMP and Uma called.#
 

     
     
     
     
     
     
 
     
     

 

NEWS RELEASE
13 November 2009

Junking Assumption of Jurisdiction a step towards justice in Luisita

A repeal of the infamous Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) of the labor department can bring justice closer to the seven striking agricultural workers in Hacienda Luisita who were slain in the bloody dispersal of military forces almost five years ago, according to labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).

The KMU said the AJ order by former labor secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, which was a response to the strike launched by sugarcane and sugar mill workers, served as the “license to kill” for military and police forces who brutally dispersed the strikers on Nov. 16, 2004.

“While the junking of the AJ will not erase the Luisita massacre in history books, such a move is a concrete step towards attaining justice for the victims of the bloody enforcement of the labor secretary’s order,” said Joselito “Lito” Ustarez, KMU executive vice president.

Farmers and farmworkers went on strike that year to protest the P9.50 take-home pay for working at the hacienda, as well as the illegal dismissal of more than 300 workers.

“As the facts show, the Hacienda Luisita farmers and farmworkers were using their legitimate right to strike to assert their equally legitimate demands when they were shot at. The AJ has made such injustice possible and even legally defensible, as none of the culprits have been punished up to now,” said Ustarez.

The labor leader said the imposition of an AJ on a strike or labor dispute is a bane to Filipino workers. “What happened in Luisita can be the most graphic demonstration of the AJ’s gross harm to workers. Military forces and even tanks were called upon to suppress the workers’ strike,” said Ustarez.

“For many years now, the AJ has been used with impunity to attack workers’ strikes and preempt these. Because the right to strike is very important for workers to be able to fight for their economic demands, the AJ is more importantly an attack on the just demands of workers for higher wages, among others,” Ustarez added.

KMU said that the AJ has been imposed in many workplaces that cannot be considered indispensible to national interest, even if the law requires otherwise. Article 263 (g) of the Labor Code states that the DOLE secretary will have the power to assume jurisdiction in industrial strikes considered “indispensible to national interest.”

“Can retail stores be considered indispensible to national interest? We ask this because the AJ was imposed on both small and giant retail stores in the past,” said Ustarez.

“Worse, an AJ order is being imposed even in cases where the union has just filed a notice of strike, or a deadlock has just been reached in a collective bargaining negotiation,“ added Ustarez.

“The bottomline,” Ustarez said, “is that everything, and therefore so much, depends upon the discretion of the DOLE secretary. Our legal consels tell us that it is enough for the DOLE secretary to exercise his or her discretion to crush pickets and strikes using AJ, and for this to be legally binding.”

Reference: Joselito “Lito” Ustarez, KMU Executive Vice President, 0908-649-1992

 

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PRESS RELEASE
November 16, 2009
Reference: Antonio Flores, National Execom member, KMP
Co-Convenor, Tanggol Magsasaka

Gonzales' appointment, worse than recycling, said rights watchdog

Peasant rights advocates group Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) solidly condemns the recent appointment of National Security adviser Norberto Gonzales as Secretary to the Dept. of National Defense (DND) on November 14, 2009. The group said that this is another reward of the Arroyo government to Gonzales as he is one of the architects of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) 1 and 2, the counter-insurgency program targetting progressive leaders and activists. This signals the worsening human rights abuses as OBL is composed of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and accusation of trumped up charges victimizing members of militant organizations.

"He is truly a record-breaker in terrorizing activists and even ordinary citizens. During his term as National Security adviser, his brainchild Oplan Bantay Laya has resulted 561 victims of extra-judicial killings, of which 118 are leaders of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), 129 victims of enforced disappearances and scores have been illegally arrested such as agri-worker organizer Felicidad Caparal, Antipolo 4, Quirante 2 in Negros, Buenavista 5 in Bohol," said Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson and Co-convenor of Tanggol Magsasaka.

"Also, what Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did is worse than recycling as in recycling, garbage is transformed to be of use, but with Gonzales' case, he was appointed because of his gross record of human rights and GMA expect him to do worse," said Flores .

Aside from abuse records, the political persecution of "Batasan 6" or the representatives of progressive partylists Anakpawis, Bayan Muna and Gabriela Women's Party is also the "project" of Gonzales, operated through their Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) and under the declaration of "state of national emergency" by Macapagal-Arroyo.

The late Rep. Crispin Beltran was arrested and Rep. Satur Ocampo, Rep. Rafael Mariano, Rep. Joel Virador, Rep. Teddy Casino were under the custody of the House of Representatives. Gonzales has revived the Marcos' era-arrest warrant of Rep. Beltran, eventually accusing him of rebellion and implicating him with the Magdalo Group. The remaining Batasan 5 were also charged with the same rebellion case but dismissed by the court.

On the said rebellion case, leaders of people's organizations were also accused such as KMP Deputy Secretary-General for External Affairs Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis of Anakpawis Partylist and others.

The second wave of political persecution was implemented on 2007, accusing the alleged "mass graves" in Leyte to Rep. Satur Ocampo and leaders of people's organizations. He was arrested on March 16, 2007 but a month later released by the Supreme Court. The same case was also accused of Echanis who was arrested in Bago City , Negros Occidental on January 28, 2008, while conducting a consultation on House Bill 3059 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) on sugar agri-workers. He was released this August after being in jail for 17 months.

During Gonzales' term as National Security Adviser, KMP National Council members and provincial leaders were also victimized by extra-judicial killings such as Eddie Gumanoy of Kasama-TK (KMP Southern Tagalog), Renato Pacaide of KMP Far Southern Mindanao Region, Celso Pojas of FADC (KMP Davao City), Fermin Lorico of Kaugmaon (KMP Negros Oriental), Marcelino Beltran of AMT (KMP Tarlac), while Nilo Arado of Pamanggas (KMP Panay Region), Jonas Burgos of AMB (KMP Bulacan), Manuel Merio of AMB (KMP Bulacan) were victims of enforced disappearances. Also on November 16, 2004, 7 striking agri-workers were brutally killed at the so-called Hacienda Luisita Massacre.

With the gross human rights record of Gonzales, it is expected that Macapagal-Arroyo would eventually promote him as he is an effective lackey. Also, justice to rights abuse victims would be impossible during their regime and peace would remain a fantasy.

Thus, Tanggol Magsasaka resolutely call the support of the people to struggle for justice and peace in our country.

"We must resolutely struggle for justice for the victims and punish those who are liable and responsible, " called Flores .#
 

 

     
     
     
     
     
           
     
 
     
           

 

NEWS RELEASE
13 November 2009

Junking Assumption of Jurisdiction a step towards justice in Luisita

A repeal of the infamous Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) of the labor department can bring justice closer to the seven striking agricultural workers in Hacienda Luisita who were slain in the bloody dispersal of military forces almost five years ago, according to labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).

The KMU said the AJ order by former labor secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, which was a response to the strike launched by sugarcane and sugar mill workers, served as the “license to kill” for military and police forces who brutally dispersed the strikers on Nov. 16, 2004.

“While the junking of the AJ will not erase the Luisita massacre in history books, such a move is a concrete step towards attaining justice for the victims of the bloody enforcement of the labor secretary’s order,” said Joselito “Lito” Ustarez, KMU executive vice president.

Farmers and farmworkers went on strike that year to protest the P9.50 take-home pay for working at the hacienda, as well as the illegal dismissal of more than 300 workers.

“As the facts show, the Hacienda Luisita farmers and farmworkers were using their legitimate right to strike to assert their equally legitimate demands when they were shot at. The AJ has made such injustice possible and even legally defensible, as none of the culprits have been punished up to now,” said Ustarez.

The labor leader said the imposition of an AJ on a strike or labor dispute is a bane to Filipino workers. “What happened in Luisita can be the most graphic demonstration of the AJ’s gross harm to workers. Military forces and even tanks were called upon to suppress the workers’ strike,” said Ustarez.

“For many years now, the AJ has been used with impunity to attack workers’ strikes and preempt these. Because the right to strike is very important for workers to be able to fight for their economic demands, the AJ is more importantly an attack on the just demands of workers for higher wages, among others,” Ustarez added.

KMU said that the AJ has been imposed in many workplaces that cannot be considered indispensible to national interest, even if the law requires otherwise. Article 263 (g) of the Labor Code states that the DOLE secretary will have the power to assume jurisdiction in industrial strikes considered “indispensible to national interest.”

“Can retail stores be considered indispensible to national interest? We ask this because the AJ was imposed on both small and giant retail stores in the past,” said Ustarez.

“Worse, an AJ order is being imposed even in cases where the union has just filed a notice of strike, or a deadlock has just been reached in a collective bargaining negotiation,“ added Ustarez.

“The bottomline,” Ustarez said, “is that everything, and therefore so much, depends upon the discretion of the DOLE secretary. Our legal consels tell us that it is enough for the DOLE secretary to exercise his or her discretion to crush pickets and strikes using AJ, and for this to be legally binding.”

Reference: Joselito “Lito” Ustarez, KMU Executive Vice President, 0908-649-1992

 

     
     
           
Caravan from Metro Manila to Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac
           
     
     
     

 

IBON Features / November 2009

SDO and Farmers’ Misery in Luisita

Through the stock distribution option, the essence of land reform has been distorted to benefit landowners—denying the farmers of actual land redistribution.

By Xandra Bisenio

IBON Features-- The massacre in Tarlac's Hacienda Luisita five years ago—where seven farm workers were felled by government bullets and scores suffered injuries—is a tragic testament to the peasants' continuing plight of landlessness and poverty.

Particularly in Luisita, peasants have for two decades been denied the essence of land reform—genuine land distribution. This, as the Cojuangcos persist in implementing the stock distribution option (SDO) despite justified calls for its revocation.

Just recently, Hacienda Luisita again figured in an alleged controversial deal. According to United Luisita Workers Union Chairperson Lito Bais, the national government purchased 83 hectares of Luisita for the construction of a portion of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) for which farmworkers received anomalously varying amounts-- from as high as P300 to only a few centavos each.

History of evading land reform

In 1957, to purchase the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) from Spanish-owned Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera), Jose Cojuangco Sr. was obliged to obtain the 6,474-hectare Hacienda Luisita, as well as seek loans. Subsequently the CAT and Hacienda Luisita were transferred to Cojuangco’s Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), an agricultural corporation. In line with government's social justice program, these loans were guaranteed on the condition that the Cojuangcos will distribute the Hacienda land to small farmers.

The clan was also granted a P7-million loan in purchasing the Hacienda, on the condition that the latter will be subdivided among tenants. The case filed by the Marcos government in 1985 to compel the Cojuangcos to transfer Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform for subdivision and sale to farmers was dismissed by the Court of Appeals in 1988 on the ground that Luisita would be covered by agrarian reform.

Fifty-two years have passed since the Cojuangcos acquired Hacienda Luisita at no cost except the promise to return the land to its rightful tillers. Yet, that promise remains unfulfilled. Under the presidency of Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, youngest sister of Hacienda Luisita's majority owner Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, RA 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) was enacted. Aquino made land reform her administration's centerpiece program, and even vowed to subject Luisita to land reform “to serve as an example”.

However, both the CARL itself and Executive Order 229 signed by Aquino provided for the “transfer of shares of stocks, rather than land, to workers and other qualified beneficiaries... as the action is deemed compliance with the land distribution requirements of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)”. Subsequently, the TADECO created Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) as a company specifically for this purpose.

SDO defined

After two rounds of referendums facilitated by then DAR Secretary Philip Juico and other Tarlac government officials in May 1989 and by former Agrarian Reform Secretary Miriam Defensor in October 1989, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on the SDO was signed between TADECO, HLI and the farmers. Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA) Executive Director and peasant lawyer Jobert Pahilga defines the SDO:

“Based on the MOA, the farm workers supposedly owned 33.296% of the outstanding capital stock of the HLI, which was P355, 531,462 or 355,531,462 shares at 1 peso per share before May 10, 1989. In the stock distribution plan 33.296% of capital stock or P118, 391,976.85 or 118,391,976.85 shares will be distributed to farmworker beneficiaries within 30 years. Thus, the P118 million worth of shares of stocks would be distributed to the farm workers not as a “one-shot deal” but for a period of thirty years at 1/30 per year.”

The SDO covers farmworkers who appear in the annual payroll including permanent and seasonal employees regularly or periodically employed by the TADECO. The farmworkers’ shares of stock are determined by the number of days of work or mandays, which is allocated by the HLI management.

In a position paper submitted to the Senate Agrarian Reform Committee in 1990, the University of the Philippines Law Center criticized the SDO as 'unconstitutional' because:


* it is essentially non-distributive
* it has allowed landlords to retain control over their property
* it has failed to improve the socioeconomic conditions of its beneficiaries.


Worse, studies reveal that in anticipation of the SDO, the Cojuangco clan created several agribusiness-related companies such as sugarcane production and milling, of which only the HLI dealt with agrarian reform. The Cojuangcos also declared only less than 5,000 hectares as land assets and reduced its value to only one-third of HLI's total value. Meanwhile, the “more expensive portions” covering roads, residential, commercial areas and their peripheries were declared property of other Cojuangco corporations and were appraised up to more than 60% of the corporation's value.

Upliftment for farmers?

Farm workers have filed petitions and launched protests against the SDO which has, for 20 years now, only pushed them deeper in misery. Pahilga wrote that the farmworkers boycotted the September 2003 elections for farmworkers’ and supervisors’ representatives to the HLI board “as a protest to the SDO and because the four board seats were useless against seven management seats.” They have neither enjoyed their rights and privileges stipulated in the MOA nor have they received their due whether in HLI's production sales or conversion proceeds. Several home lot awardees have also not received their individual titles.

Aside from the SCTEX, the Cojuangcos have constantly pushed for the conversion of Luisita lands into non-agricultural ventures for profit-- without due consultation with their ‘co-owners’, the farmworkers. These land-use conversions have reduced the hacienda's agricultural lands to less than half its original size.

In September 1995, the Sangguniang Bayan ng Tarlac reclassified 3,290 agricultural hectares of Luisita for commercial, industrial and residential use: the Luisita Golf and Country Club, Las Haciendas Industrial Subdivision, Family Park Homes Subdivision, Don Pepe Cojuangco Subdivision and the St. Luis Subdivision. Of this, 500 hectares have been sold to two Japanese corporations namely Itutsu and Hasana. Another 500 hectares were converted into the Luisita Industrial Park in August 1996. The conversion yielded over P2 billion for the Cojuangcos, but the farmworkers had to divide among themselves only P37.5 million or only 3%– instead of 33%-- of the gross sale.

The massive land-use conversion in Hacienda Luisita consequently led to lesser mandays, lower production, much lower wages and the eventual retrenchment of farmworkers. The average take home pay of farmworkers amounts only to P18 for the seasonal or P9 for the casual for a two-manday week. The production of more than 300,000 tons of sugarcane per cropping season before the implementation of the SDO went down to 290,000 tons as soon as the SDO was implemented in 1989, to 248,471 tons in 2003.

Moreover, retrenched farmworkers' names are removed from the payroll and they no longer receive any shares of stock thereon. Meanwhile, the names of new farmworkers-- even those who are non-residents of Luisita and should therefore not be beneficiaries of the SDO but are favored by the management-- appear on the payroll and thereon receive shares of stock on the basis of mandays.

Farmers’ choice?

It appeared that more than 90% of the HLI farmworkers voted in favor of the SDO. Presidentiable candidate and HLI part-owner Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino also claims that the SDO is what the Luisita farm workers wanted. However, reports disclose that an Israeli-British-trained “Yellow Army” composed of Luisita supervisors used malicious and coercive campaign strategies to convince farm workers to vote for the scheme. These tactics involved the distribution of pamphlets that asked “prinsipyo o kaldero?” (principles or the cooking pot?); convincing farmworkers with docked rifles or pistols; threats of retrenchment; and harassment against those who expressed opposition to the SDO. In December 2003, 80% of the farmworkers filed a petition criticizing the SDO and land use conversion in the Hacienda.

Distorting land reform

Through the SDO, the Cojuangcos have distorted the essence of land reform for their benefit. It masqueraded as ‘co-ownership’ between landowners and farmers, but has rid powerful landed families the obligation of actual land redistribution.

The travails which this posed on both peasants and farmworkers caused the unrest which hacienda goons and government troops attempted to quell violently in November 2004. The following years saw more Luisita peasant and union leaders opposed to the SDO falling victims to wide-scale retrenchment, murder and harassment. Yet, no specific entity has been held culpable of this violence. Instead, those who had command responsibility over the Luisita massacre have been absolved.

To this day, the Cojuangcos have also gotten away with defying the Supreme Court’s 2006 temporary restraining order directing the Department of Agrarian Reform and Presidential Agrarian Reform Commission to implement the revocation of the SDO. They insist that the SDO is a more rational option compared to outright land distribution because the land area of Luisita is much too small to be subdivided among thousands of farm workers. On the other hand, advocates of collective farming assert that land size should not be a problem and have proven that the method is more productive and beneficial for them, citing their practice of planting palay and cash crops as an example. In an apparent bid to ultimately leave nothing to their ‘co-owners’, the HLI has recently demanded the farmworkers to register until November 15 to allegedly determine the rightful tillers of 2,000 hectares of the hacienda lands-- to be planted back to sugarcane.

More stock sharing schemes

Using the ‘corporative scheme’, known Marcos crony Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr. formed a ‘joint venture corporation’ called ECJ & Sons Agricultural Enterprises Inc. (ECJSAEI) in Negros Occidental. In 1998, Cojuangco announced the distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership Award covering 3,773.5 hectares of the property as well as the free distribution of lands worth P1.5 million. But there has not been proof that this actually transpired. In fact, farmers were directed to pay for the land and moves were made to exclude more and more farmers from the ECJSAEI, leaving in control the workers that Cojuangco brought in.

Farmers disclosed that under the agreement, they were obliged to pay Cojuangco P350,000 in 10 years with a grace period of 5 years. More than 3,000 out of the 5,000 farmers registered as Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) of the Cojuangco properties were excluded from the CLOAs while 1,206 ARBs named in the CLOAs were unqualified as they held managerial positions. Meanwhile, hundreds of farmers– including some CLOA holders-- have been retrenched by ECJSAEI.

The Cassava Project in Isabela is another joint venture initiated by Cojuangco with then governor Faustino Dy, Jr. where a ‘cooperative scheme’ between the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and the Valley Planters Development Cooperative (VAPDECO) covers 29,000 hectares or 15% of the province’s total land area. Under the scheme, farmers belonging to the VAPDECO were forced to plant cassava for 10 to 25 years, receive loans in kind with a high interest rate of 36% per year and comply with SMC orders which would later include flour, starch, alcohol, and even sampaguita and ilang-ilang for a transnational corporation. As a peasant desk coordinator of a diocese in Isabela lamented, the once-independent farmers in the area have been turned into SMC-controlled farm workers. The hope of 3,000 indigents to receive land titles issued by government has also been railroaded by this project.

As of December 2006, more than 35% of all agrarian reform beneficiaries in the country are not title holders but are either leaseholders or stock holders. Aside from Luisita, there are 13 more recorded SDOs, nine of which are in Negros Occidental while the rest are in Iloilo and Davao. Since the infamous Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004, calls for the cancellation of SDOs have become even more pressing. IBON Features


IBON Features is a media service of IBON Foundation, an independent economic policy and research institution. When reprinting this feature, please credit IBON Features and give the byline when applicable.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
The Central Azucarera de Tarlac Truckloads of sugar cane for the refinery in the background This is the area where the 7 martyrs spilled their blood
           
Handwriting on the wall of the Hacienda Luisita
           

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 13, 2009
Reference: Valerie Francisco
Contact: valeriefrancisco@gmail.com

Filipinos in New York Will Not Forget Hacienda Luisita

Woodside, NY- On November 16, 2004, the Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) massacred farm workers striking at Hacienda Luisita. Five years later, Filipinos in New York continue to honor the Hacienda Luisita farm workers and commemorate their struggle. BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA, in collaboration with the Philippine Forum, are holding a film showing and discussion of “Aklasan!” (Strike!) on Monday, November 16, 2009, from 7:00PM – 8:30PM. It will take place in the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center at 40-21 69th Street, Woodside.

The film chronicles the struggle of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers in holding the Cojuangco-Aquinos accountable to the unfair and inhumane labor conditions in the hacienda and the management’s refusal to address the demands of the farm workers, which included an increase in wages, medical benefits and other benefits. Hacienda Luisita remains a bitter reminder of promises not kept by former President Cory Aquino shortly after the people’s victory in the 1986 EDSA Revolution over former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. President Aquino had promised genuine agrarian reform for the peasant farmers and farm workers; but in the month after her election to presidency, she quickly forgot her vow to subject Hacienda Luisita to land reform.

Now, as Senator Noynoy Aquino begins his campaign for his presidential run in the Philippine 2010 elections, Filipinos abroad are holding him accountable, as well, to take a stand in the issue of conditions of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita. This is how he will prove his leadership: by speaking up for the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita and doing what is right for the people. Even if Filipino migrants are working and living in other parts of the world, they will remember, both Hacienda Luisita and the actions of those who want to serve to the people, like Noynoy Aquino.

***
Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) is a mass-based women's organization serving New York City and its surrounding areas. We connect the Filipino diaspora to the women's struggle in the Philippines. We are women of Philippine descent, including those who are migrants, immigrants and US-born. We recognize Filipino women of mixed heritage and adoptees. FiRE is a LGBTIQ-(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer/Questioning) friendly organization that is inclusive of transgender people of Philippine descent. For more information, please visit http://www.firenyc.org.

We are a proud member organization of GABRIELA-USA, the first overseas chapter of GABRIELA Philippines, with babae in San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle in Seattle, WA, and SiGAw in Los Angeles, CA.

FiRE is a member of BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. To learn more about BAYAN, please visit http://bayanusa.org/

--
Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) is a mass-based women's organization serving New York City and its surrounding areas. We connect the Filipino diaspora to the women's struggle in the Philippines. We are women of Philippine descent, including those who are migrants, immigrants and US-born. We recognize Filipino women of mixed heritage and adoptees. FiRE is a LGBTQI friendly organization that is inclusive of transgender people of Philippine descent. For more information, please visit http://www.firenyc.org.

We are a proud member organization of GABRIELA-USA, the first overseas chapter of GABRIELA Philippines, with babae in San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle in Seattle, WA, and SiGAw in Los Angeles, CA.

FiRE is a member of BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. To learn more about BAYAN, please visit http://bayanusa.org/

 

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NEWS RELEASE
14 November 2009

Gonzales’ DND appointment forebodes worse crackdown vs critics

With the appointment of much-hated National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Gloria Arroyo has just brought Adolf Hitler back to life to head the Department of National Defense, a department that has a consistent record for stoking domestic conflicts and escalating violence versus government critics.

We have always known Gonzales as one of the brains and chief implementors of Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2, the US-backed Arroyo regime’s counter-insurgency program which we hold responsible for the extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of activists, as well as the all-out militarization in the countryside. His hatred for leftists and other critical voices in society is well-known, and his brutality in approaching the raging insurgency in the countryside can easily be established by his ugly record.

His crimes to the Filipino workers and people should land him in jail, not in any government post. He is one of the worst Filipinos for the job of Defense secretary. We are concerned that his appointment will signal another escalation of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and all-out militarization in the country – especially in Mindanao, in the light of the recent statements made by US State Secretary Hillary Clinton regarding the region. What should we expect from a rabid anti-communist?

It seems that Sec. Clinton has laid the propaganda work for this appointment when she said “What I have often found is that it is easier to make the difficult decisions when you are on the way out of office. Because… you are willing to brave the political fires.” Mrs. Arroyo, in appointing Gonzales to the defense post seems to be doing just this. It should be pointed out, however, that Gonzales’s appointment is not at all a “difficult decision” for Mrs. Arroyo, for this is consistent with the policy she has pursued in her entire term.

What is Mrs. Arroyo planning? To pursue her pipe dream of ending the insurgency in 2010? To impose martial law when all her options for avoiding prosecution for her crimes against the people close off? To create a “MOA-AD situation” part 2 and attack the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with all the brutality it could muster? To use the country’s military and police forces to cheat for her candidates in the 2010 elections? All of the above? Not one among these will benefit the Filipino workers and people.

It should be recalled that when Gonzales was being investigated by the Senate for his role in the Venable-LLP controversy, he was rushed to the hospital and stayed there for days because of a health condition. We are concerned not so much by his general health, as by his mental health. His crimes against the Filipino workers and people are so mind-boggling and his passion for his violent and anti-people cause is so intense, we cannot help but question his sanity to hold whatever government post -- now and in the future.

Reference: Lito Ustarez, Executive Vice President, 0908-6491992

 

     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

 

Hacienda Luisita peasants and farm workers' fight banners nationwide struggle of peasants for land

Communist Party of the Philippines
November 16, 2009

The Communist Party of the Philippines together with the entire revolutionary movement and the mass of the struggling Filipino people join the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita and their advocates and supporters in the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre and the vow to continue the fight for genuine agrarian reform at the hacienda and throughout the Philippine countryside. We are one in this historic struggle with the peasants and farm workers throughout the country in their fight for land to till, and with the rest of the Filipino people in their fight for liberation, democracy, justice, livelihood and social progress.

The Hacienda Luisita Massacre was another grim chapter in the ongoing story of the struggle of poor Filipino peasants and farm workers for land to till. It is the second recent massacre involving the Cojuangco family. The first one was the Mendiola Massacre on January 22, 1987, during the presidency of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino. Majority of those killed and maimed in that massacre that took place right in front of the gates of Malacañang were peasants demanding land reform--many of them from Central Luzon.

While the Filipino peasantry have been demanding genuine land reform, the Aquino regime tried to beguile them with a bogus land reform program a year later by way of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Bogus and pro-big landlord as CARP already was, the Cojuangco family still did all it could to evade it. The Aquino regime and the Cojuangco family skirted the implementation of CARP at Hacienda Luisita by coming out with a so-called stock distribution option (SDO) scheme, which "granted" nominal shares of stock in Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) in lieu of distributing the hacienda land to the tillers. The Cojuangco family proceeded with more and more manipulations to reduce the peasants and farm workers' stocks in the firm as well as their wages and the size of the workforce itself.

In the meantime, the Cojuangco family commercialized ever bigger portions of the 6,453-hectare sugar estate and even took in millions of pesos in profit by colluding with the government for the purchase of a right-of-way at more than ten times the price of the land for the building of a P170-million expressway right in the middle of the hacienda.

In 2006, the Cojuangco family managed to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court preventing the Department of Agrarian from distributing the hacienda land to the peasants. The Cojuangco family is now using this TRO to eject the peasants from the land which is supposed to be distributed to them. On December 18, 2008, Hacienda Luisita, Inc. issued a memorandum giving 1,676 peasants of the hacienda up to October 30 this year to vacate the land. The deadline was extended up to yesterday, November 15, as the peasants refused to leave the land that is rightfully theirs.

The United Luisita Workers' Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) consider the HLI memo illegal and that it is they, the peasants and farm workers, who have all the right to the land they have been tilling and working on. They are prepared to continue the fight for their land and their livelihood, despite the difficulties and the risk to their lives and limbs. They were undaunted by the Mendiola Massacre of 1987 and the Hacienda Luisita Massacre of 2004 and will remain undaunted in the face of more threats and harsher measures by the big feudal landlord family that persists in blocking land reform at the hacienda, and even using violence to do so.

The Communist Party of the Philippines calls on the entire revolutionary movement; the progressive, antifeudal and progressive forces; and the mass of the Filipino people throughout the country to give full support of the struggle of the peasants and farm workers in Hacienda Luisita.

The continuing struggle for land and livelihood of the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita serves as a historic national symbol and inspiration for the whole struggle for agrarian reform in the present stage of the Philippine revolution.
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VIDEO CLIPS
           
     
   
   
   
   
   
   
           

BONUS TRACKS

Sugar Cane

           
     
     
     
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