News Statement
November 16, 2010

Reference: Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson, BAYAN USA, email: chair@bayanusa.org

AQUINO SHOULD RESOLVE, NOT SEEK TO GAIN, FROM THE WORSENING CRISIS OF INJUSTICE THAT IS HACIENDA LUISITA

BAYAN-USA Calls on Aquino to Redistribute HLI Lands, Pull US Troops Out of Massacre Site

The assassination of Carlo Caloy Rodriguez, 41 years old, President of Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Manggagawa ng Calamba Water District (NLM-CWD) and an officer of COURAGE Southern Tagalog Region four days ago compels us to recall the harrowing video footage of the farm worker on the ground bleeding to death from gunshot wounds inflicted after a spray of bullets from Philippine military tanks assaulted thousands of poor farm workers on strike in Hacienda Luisita on November 16, 2004.  That image was emblazoned in the minds of founding members of BAYAN USA when the national Filipino-American alliance was launched just two months afterwards in January 2005.

Now, six years later, the Hacienda Luisita Massacre remains unresolved, assassinations of workers and activists like Ka Caloy continue unabated, and no investigation has been conducted nor has anyone been arrested for the murder of 14 young farm workers and injuries inflicted upon hundreds more, including women and children– all of whom were unarmed and within their legal right to wage a labor strike.

The 2004 massacre committed by the Philippine military was in response to the massive joint labor strike waged by the two unions inside Hacienda Luisita Incorporated (HLI)– United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU)– representing a firm alliance between sugarcane farm workers on the field and sugar-processing factory workers. The two unions had been waging a labor strike for several months due to the imposition of a a starvation daily wage of Php9.50.

The burning question for the current president of the Philippines– a member of the powerful family that OWNS and manages Hacienda Luisita– is whether or not he as a public servant will seek to resolve the crisis of injustice that is Hacienda Luisita, or if he will fall back on his land-owning family’s legacy of denying justice and land rights to the generations of farming communities that have not only worked the land, but have died for it as well.

Stealing Luisita

But at the crux of the historical dispute between the HLI’s tillers and landowners– the powerful Cojuangco family– is not just a dispute over wages, but a decades-long struggle to hold the Cojuangco family accountable to its legal responsibility to redistribute the 6435-hectare plantation estate to the farmers who have lived off the land for generations.

According a resolution filed by the monetary board of the Central Bank of the Philippines in 1957, which assisted family patriarch Jose Cojuangco in acquiring a multi-million US loan in order to purchase Hacienda Luisita from its former Spanish owners, the purchase by Cojuangco would take place “with a view to distributing this hacienda to small farmers in line with the Administration’s social justice program” in ten years.

But the amassing political influence of the Cojuangco family dynasty further enforced the stranglehold on the Philippine government by big landlords and compradors. This led to a series of land reform shams to be introduced by the Philippine legislature, the most famous example of which was the passing of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) outlined by no other than then-President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino in 1988. Instead of actually distributing the land to the farmers, the Cojuangco’s invoked the CARP’s provision of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) as an alternative, while it proved itself a scheme to ensure no actual distribution of land would take place.

Despite the Philippine Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the farmers’ rights to the Hacienda Luisita, the Cojuangco family continues to deny them.The presence of Cojuangco family members in the Philippine government has definitely played a major role in delaying the redistribution of Hacienda Luisita to the farmers.

Perhaps this is also the truth behind the current chief executive Cojuangco’s inaction on the issue of Hacienda Luisita. After all, hasn’t the family of Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III profited in the billions with their Hacienda Luisita Incorporated, the largest sugar plantation in the country? Have they not profited from foreign investors who acquire their sugar supply from HLI?

As far as strikes and pickets are concerned, it may be that President Aquino feels confident that no private army is necessary when you are the commander-in-chief of the Philippine military with strong ties to US military backup in the country.

Militarizing Luisita

Residents of Hacienda Luisita have reported as early as March 2010 sightings of US troops in the area. Meanwhile, the  US military continues to be silent on the exact location it will be conducting the 2011 Balikatan military exercises with the Philippine Army Northern Luzon Command.

With the unresolved issue of Hacienda Luisita still casting a dark cloud over his political career, will P-Noy choose the unthinkable and pursue US militarization of Hacienda Luisita in the name of Balikatan in order to stop the tidal wave of protests and criticism against his administration’s inaction on the Hacienda Luisita issue?

While it remains to be seen how P-Noy will navigate the growing pressure to redistribute land to the tillers as was promised against his family’s legacy of landlordism, one thing is for sure– BAYAN USA stands with the workers of Hacienda Luisita and is prepared for the long fight in the struggle for justice.

Justice for the Victims of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre!
P-Noy, Redistribute Hacienda Luisita to the Farmers Now!
Genuine Agrarian Reform Now!
Junk CARP, CARPER, SDO, and All Other Land Reform Shams!
US Troops Out of Luisita!
US Troops Out of the Philippines!