One Billion Rising Hacienda Luisita:
Women Rising in Hacienda Luisita:
Farmworkers Fight for Genuine Land Reform & Justice

 

Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac

 

March 5, 2014

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Photos courtesy of Luisita Watch
           
     
     
     

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One Billion Rising Hacienda Luisita
 

Women rising in Hacienda Luisita: farmworkers fight for genuine land reform & justice

HACIENDA LUISITA, TARLAC CITY – Amid renewed and escalating agrarian unrest in Hacienda Luisita, and two days before the International Working Women’s Day, global celebrity-activist Monique Wilson today joins Luisita women farm workers in striking, dancing and rising for justice and genuine land reform.

One of the Luisita peasant women is Apong Leoning Halili. In November 2011, Apong Leoning and her family were among those who cried tears of joy upon hearing the news of the Supreme Court’s ruling to finally distribute Hacienda Lusita to its rightful owners – the thousands of farmworker families mired in poverty after decades of toil in this vast, historic and very controversial sugar estate.

Since December of last year, however, Apong Leoning has had to stand vigil everyday over her family’s ricefields and crops in Barangay Cutcut. She is now among the hundreds of Luisita farmworkers facing charges of ejectment filed by the Cojuangco-Aquino firm Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO). A paramilitary detachment, TADECO armed personnel and security outposts dot the hundreds of hectares of farmlands in their village – an ever present threat that has literally bulldozed its way over the livelihood and human rights of Luisita farmers, ironically in the middle of what the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has been claiming to be a very successful land distribution process.

Another Luisita village, Barangay Balete, sits amid concrete fences and barbed wires set up by TADECO, the Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC) and Cojuangco business partner RCBC. Since October of last year, TADECO continues to conduct violent attacks against Balete farmers.

The women of Hacienda Luisita are no strangers to the peasant struggle. For the past several years, Luisita farmers waged the most gruelling battles with women leaders consistently joining the forefront.

Florida “Pong” Sibayan, acting chairwoman of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers alliance AMBALA, is a survivor of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre. Ate Pong’s gun shot wounds were not to be the last of her battle scars. She would again be shot at by RCBC security guards in 2012 for defending the farmers’ bungkalan land cultivation area now secured by concrete fences.

Simultaneous with the DAR’s commencement of lot allocation activities in Luisita last July, the Philippine Army’s 3rd Mechanized Battalion began to set up company headquarters right beside the ricefields of Sibayan and Rene Galang, United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) leader and one of the frontliners of the historic Hacienda Luisita strike of 2004.

In September 2013, Ate Pong was hit by police, arrested and detained along with 10 other members of a Luisita fact-finding mission, not sparing the mission’s leader, Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap. She would encounter the police, military and TADECO armed men in several confrontations before the bulldozing of farmers’ crops and arrest of more farmers during the last Christmas season. Ate Pong’s mother 76-year old Maria Versola, was among the elderly women of Balete who bravely sat in front of the bulldozers.

Last February 8, Ate Pong’s farmhut were among those razed to the ground by TADECO hired thugs. Several hectares of crops were likewise destroyed and farm implements and personal belongings looted. But Ate Pong and Luisita farmers seem unfazed and are now more resolute in their fight for genuine land reform and justice.

Tarlac City Councilor and Balete resident Emy Ladera-Facunla is not one to be cowed by threats and harassment and trumped-up charges for supporting Hacienda Luisita farmers’ rights. Facunla is the sister of Luisita martyr Abel Ladera, then also a city councilman, who fell victim to extra-judicial killing in March 2005.

Today in Hacienda Luisita, young children join protest marches and old women face bulldozers. They have gained broad support for their struggle through the newly-formed Luisita Watch, a network of agrarian reform advocates led by the likes of former Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza, international actresses Angeli Bayani and Monique Wilson. Wilson, who is also Global Director of the international One Billion Rising campaign, today joins the Luisita farmers in solidarity with their continuing struggle for genuine land reform and justice.

“Our struggle is far from over,” declared Apong Leoning. Apong Leoning is now one of the leaders of the Hacienda Luisita chapter of the national peasant women federation Amihan. Her mother, Maria Corpuz, now 99 years old, still recalls the day when farmers first tilled the land now called Luisita, and yearns for the day when the next generation of Luisita farmers reap the fruits of their just struggle.

#HaciendaLuisita #OBR4Justice #OneBillionRising

 

     
     
           
     
     
     

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Hacienda Luisita farmers disenfranchised anew by DAR in TADECO land reform coverage

March 4, 2014
 

After hoax land distribution, unjust compensation and the recent disqualification of hundreds of land reform beneficiaries, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) rubs salt on Hacienda Luisita farmers’ wounds in its new land reform policy covering hundreds of hectares of agricultural land excluded by the DAR in its earlier land distribution activities in Hacienda Luisita.

In a meeting held today in Barangays Balete and Cutcut in Hacienda Luisita, officials said that the DAR will not recognize the claim of more than 200 Hacienda Luisita farm workers cultivating agricultural lands since 2005. Around 400 hectares of land in these areas are aggressively claimed by the Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) despite a Notice of Coverage (NOC) issued by the DAR last December.

Hundreds of farm worker families embarked on the breakthrough “bungkalan” land cultivation initiative since 2005, when the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) ruled that Hacienda Luisita must be distributed to farmers. The Supreme Court (SC) issued a final and executory decision upholding the PARC ruling in 2012. Today, the DAR is practically aiding the Cojuangco-Aquino clan to once again dodge land reform by issuing statements and policy declaring that “TADECO areas are separate from Hacienda Luisita.”

“TADECO is the mother company of the Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated (HLI). Disputes concerning TADECO lands involve Luisita farm workers and the same Cojuangco-Aquino landlords. The DAR sows more tension and confusion by declaring that TADECO issues must be treated separately from the SC ruling on Hacienda Luisita.”

DAR Tarlac Chief Ileona Pangilinan and his assistant Mike Acosta stated that they only wanted to discuss how the farm workers can become beneficiaries, even as farmers under the alliance AMBALA, through their legal counsel Atty. Jobert Pahilga of SENTRA already delivered a petition for allocation dated December 27, 2013 for the subject lands in the two barangays.

When AMBALA official Renato Mendoza and other members in Cutcut raised other pressing concerns such as the status of their urgent petition for the DAR to issue a cease and desist order (CDO) against TADECO’s land grabbing, Ms. Pangilinan told them to raise these concerns before the DAR national and regional offices respectively. However, officials from the DAR main office in Quezon City told AMBALA that the DAR will act on the petition before February 10.

DAR likewise refused to give a definitive answer when asked by the farm workers regarding the bulldozing of a one hectare agricultural land in Cutcut, the bulldozing of more than 200 hectares of lands in Balete, and the subsequent filing of cases by TADECO against farm workers and their advocates.

TADECO hired thugs proceeded to burn farmers’ huts and bulldoze more crops in Barangay Balete on February 8 without any intervention from the DAR until now.

Christopher Garcia of AMBALA observes: “It is very clear that DAR has no intention to recognize legitimate concerns and issues of the farm workers. The DAR has been undermining our bungkalan.” TADECO’s violent bulldozing of crops and fencing of the disputed lands are primarily aimed at AMBALA’s land cultivation areas called “bungkalan.”

“Their Notice of Coverage is useless as DAR not only tolerates but encourages the violent eviction done against the farm workers by thugs of TADECO and with the assistance of police and military units,” said Mendoza. “It is only through maintaining and regaining our bungkalan areas will farm workers be ensured of our right to the land,” he added.

March 4, 2014 | UMA | AMBALA

 

 

     
     
           
     
 
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Nine years after the killing of Tarlac City Councilor Abel Ladera, terror & impunity remain in Hacienda Luisita
March 3, 2014

Tarlac City Councilor Abelardo Ladera was killed nine years ago today, on March 3, 2005. Justice remains elusive for him and other agrarian reform advocates who fell victim to the spate of extra-judicial killings that came after the infamous Hacienda Luisita Massacre of 2004. Impunity still reigns in the sugar estate controlled by the family of President Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III.

Councilor Abel Ladera whose parents were also sugar workers of Hacienda Luisita from Barangay Balete, was killed in Tarlac City with a single sniper shot to his heart. Ladera was a member of progressive party-list group, Bayan Muna (People First), whose leaders and members nationwide also became targets of harassment, villification and assasination by state forces via Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), the brutal counter-insurgency drive of the previous Arroyo administration.

Ladera was a staunch supporter of the Hacienda Luisita sugar workers strike of 2004 – the historic undertaking which commenced with the simultaneous walk-out of around 700 sugar mill workers and more than 5,000 farm workers. This display of unprecedented worker-peasant unity amid the reign of terror and repression within this vast sugar estate was met with violence in November 16, 2004, when state forces opened fire on the strikers. Seven were killed and hundreds wounded in the infamous Hacienda Luisita massacre.

Ladera vehemently opposed land use conversion in Hacienda Luisita. At the time he was killed, he was about to expose certain details of the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s master land use plan and design for Hacienda Luisita and former President Arroyo’s superhighway project, now the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway or SCTEX. Ladera had said that these projects run counter to the farmworkers claim on the land and their desire for a better life.

Justice has been elusive for the killing of Ladera while this land use conversion plan apparently is still being pursued by the Cojuangco-Aquino family despite the 2012 Supreme Court (SC) ruling to distribute land to farm workers. The Presidential family has revived the claim of its original Luisita company, the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) to hundreds of hectares of choice agricultural land within the sugar estate.

TADECO has been engaged in aggressive land grabbing measures – literally bulldozing over ricefields and crops and razing farmers’ huts in at least two Luisita villages since December last year. Watchtowers and shotgun-toting security personnel accompany oversized tarpaulin banners arrogantly announcing “SOON TO RISE DEVELOPMENT” in agricultural lands supposedly covered by government land reform. Furthermore, the illegal and immoral claim by TADECO enjoys the support of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). State forces and government institutions have been mobilized to implement sham land distribution and violent suppression of farm workers.

Up to this day, nobody has been arrested much more convicted for Ladera’s death – while several arrests have been made at the behest of TADECO since its land grabbing activities were exposed by a 2013 fact-finding mission led by Anakpawis Partylist, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), local farmworkers alliance AMBALA, KMP and other peasant advocates.

TADECO continues to file spurious charges against farm workers and their supporters – the most recent of which were levelled against Ladera’s sister, incumbent Tarlac Councilor Emy Ladera-Facunla and 48 Luisita farmers.

Farm workers, residents, and their suporters are still fighting for justice for Abel Ladera and all the brave martyrs of Hacienda Luisita. For genuine land reform and social justice to be achieved, the reign of terror and impunity in Hacienda Luisita – the unabated arrests, harassment of farmers and killings must end.

March 3, 2014
Uma Pilipinas | AMBALA
REFERENCE: Christopher Garcia, spokesperson, AMBALA, 09293200615

 

     
     
           
     
     
     

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MARCH 6, 2014
 

March 8 is day of accountability – Gabriela
 
“Women will hold President Benigno S. Aquino III accountable over the continuing negligence of the victims of super typhoon Yolanda, the worsening poverty experienced by women and their families and the worsening corruption.” – Gabriela

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Criminal negligence, worsening poverty and corruption, these are the key issues that progressive women’s group Gabriela will highlight on March 8, International Working Women’s Day.

Every year, Gabriela commemorates International Working Women’s Day by highlighting burning issues that greatly affect women and their families. This year, the largest women’s organization in the Philippines would highlight the plight of the victims of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) who have been neglected and abandoned by the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III for the past four months, as well as the plight of women, in general, who are sick and tired of Aquino’s negligence and utter disregard for the welfare of the poor in favor of big local and foreign businesses.

Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela said March 8 is the day of accountability. “Women will hold President Benigno S. Aquino III accountable over the continuing negligence of the victims of super typhoon Yolanda, the worsening poverty experienced by women and their families and the worsening corruption.”

Criminal negligence

Salvador criticized the Aquino administration’s sluggish response to the needs of victims of typhoon Yolanda. “There has been no rehabilitation in the devastated areas in Eastern Visayas. The condition of the survivors of the typhoon has never improved but is worsening instead,” she told Bulatlat.com in a phone interview.

March 8 will also be the fourth month after typhoon Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas. Last January, People Surge, an organization of survivors of the typhoon went to Manila to personally voice out to the government the real condition and the demands of the people of Eastern Visayas.

In a forum, Jessica Danatinao, convener of People Surge and who is also from Leyte and a victim of the typhoon said the affected people in Eastern Visayas have never been okay. “They should go to the different places in the region, people are suffering from hunger. Many still don’t have houses.”

Mothers are poorer

Women and their children suffer more under the government of Aquino, Salvador said. Contrary to the claims of inclusive growth by the government, the Center for Women’s Resources said poverty incidence remains high at 25 percent.

“Despite having an expensive poverty reduction program like 4Ps [Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the local version of the conditional cash transfer program], the poverty incidence did not significantly change from 26.6 percent in 2006. Conservative estimates peg the number of poor Filipinos at 23.7 million. The regions with the highest poverty incidence are the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Bicol and the CARAGA region,” the CWR 2014 Ulat Lila report read.
Salvador also said prices of basic commodities and utilities also continue to increase under Aquino.

Salvador also said privatization of services like health also intensified under Aquino. “Privatization further marginalizes the poor. It worsens their (the poor) conditions by not having access to basic social services like health,” she said. The modernization project of the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) has been awarded and will start the construction this year should the Supreme Court not grant the petition for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) filed by patients and employees of the said hospital.

Salvador said women would also hold Aquino accountable for the gross corruption under his administration. She said that despite claims of the Aquino government that it is taking the righteous path, those who are liable to the pork barrel scam have not yet been punished. “The Disbursement Acceleration Program (worth P1.3 trillion or $30 billion) despite criticisms is still under his office and the president would not even let go of it.”

Why women should join March 8 protest

On March 8, in Metro Manila alone, Gabriela said, they are mobilizing at least 10,000 women from all walks of life to show this government that women are a potent force to contend with.

At 2:00 pm, women from different sectors will assemble at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila. A program will be held until 3:30 and will march going to Chino Roces Bridge (former Mendiola Bridge) where they will have a program until 6:00 pm.

“Women have had enough. Four years under Aquino, the plight of the poor women became even poorer and with the dire poverty, women are more vulnerable to abuse,” she said.

“Let it be remembered that women played an important role in our history, in ousting a dictator and also a corrupt womanizer. We are getting impatient with Aquino’s incompetence, negligence and of being ignored. On March 8, women will send him a strong message that President better gets his act together or face the wrath of women scorned,” Salvador said. (http://bulatlat.com)

- See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2014/03/06/march-8-is-day-of-accountability-gabriela/#sthash.DYfpyScR.dpuf

 

 

     
           
     
     
     
   
   
           
           
           

 

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