QUEZON City, Dec. 3, 2014—The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) decries the “violent way” with which peasants—among whom a group from Hacienda Luisita—had been reportedly dispersed Saturday, Nov. 29 by police while protesting the human rights violations and heavy militarization in Mindanao in front of the President’s ancestral house in Times St., Quezon City.
In a released statement, UMA shares a peaceful program had just ended when cops suddenly “violently dispersed” the protesters, targeting mainly those from Mindanao, scattering them about.
Some were hit on the knees, causing them to faint and another was hit on the throat and had to be rushed to the hospital.
“Sampung taon nang walang hustisya para sa mga biktima ng masaker sa Hacienda Luisita, tapos ganito na namang karahasan ang ginagawa samantalang mapayapa lang naming ipinapahayag ang aming mga hinaing (It’s been a decade of injustice for victims of the massacre in Hacienda Luisita. And now they violently disperse us even if we are just peacefully airing out our grievances),” laments Florida Sibayan, chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and survivor of the 2004 “Luisita massacre” despite gunshot wounds on her back.
“There is no peace in Mindanao. There is no peace in Hacienda Luisita. Terror and militarization still reign in our communities,” she added.
Sibayan bemoaned perpetrators of the massacre, who were never tried and punished, now hold top posts in the government and military bureaucracy.
AMBALA is UMA’s local affiliate in Tarlac.
The Luisita farmers were with Manilakbayan, a delegation of Lumads from Mindanao, in trooping to Times St. to denounce the human rights violations in and heavy militarization of their rural communities.
UMA deputy secretary general Ranmil Echanis asserted Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan still targets civilians and people’s organizations through terror tactics and principles of “counter-insurgency” used to justify the violence in Hacienda Luisita.
“Then Col. Ricardo Visaya, a protégé of the butcher Jovito Palparan was ground commander during the massacre in Luisita. After his stint in Central Luzon, he was deployed in Mindanao where he became notorious for harassment and intimidation of more farmworker communities such as the unions at DOLE Philippines, and of more extra-judicial killings of peasant leaders like Julieto Lauron of Bukidnon, who, like the people of Luisita, also campaigned to raise the wages of agricultural workers,” Echanis explained.
Aquino’s real bosses
“Aquino can only protect the interests of his real ‘bosses’, big landlords like his kin. and foreign companies engaged in the aggressive eviction of farmers from their lands to make way for large-scale and destructive mining, capitalist plantations, and eco-zone projects,” he added.
Hacienda Luisita, the 6,453-hectare sugar estate in Tarlac controlled by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan for decades is still “heavily-militarized”.
According to UMA’s statement, army detachments are found in each of Luisita’s ten farmworker barangays, including a company headquarters of the 31st Coy of the 3rd Mechanized Battalion located within contested property fenced off by Cojuangco firm TADECO.
Large hectares of crops were bulldozed, huts destroyed and burned and farmers were mauled and slapped with trumped-up charges, in a series of violent incidents involving the police and military since last year.
Farmers also reported seeing military personnel in full battle gear conducting operations and roaming Luisita communities in November, supposedly to preempt and harass participants of the massacre’s 10th year commemorative gathering from Nov. 15 to 16.
Fully-armed military personnel allegedly occupied the elementary school in Barangay Balete, Luisita a week after the gathering.
Recently, army personnel were seen holding combat operations in contested agricultural lands in Sitio Maligaya, Mapalacsiao, also in Hacienda Luisita.(Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)