Hacienda Luisita Farmers’ Open Letter to the President

26 Jul

United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU)
and Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid ng Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA)

July 26, 2010

Pres. Noynoy Aquino
President
Republic of the Philippines

Dear President Noynoy,

With apprehension in our hearts and caution in our minds, we voted for you in the recent presidential election, not so much due to our trust in you but more of putting you to task to render justice to the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre and address the roots of this injustice – the denial of our right to own and till the lands of the Hacienda. Being the president, you are duty-bound to go beyond the vested interests of your class and clan.

This is not the time to make promises, but rather, the time for action and concrete program for genuine land reform. Well beyond the problem of corruption, is the state of widespread landlessness of the peasant masses not only in Hacienda Luisita, but in the entire country, as well. The powerful asendero Cojuangco clan, to which you belong, is a major player in perpetuating the oppressive system of land monopoly. As you had done with the wang-wang, we urge you to show the way by starting in your own backyard.

Lead the way in bringing justice to the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre and the extrajudicial killings which claimed the lives of former farm worker and Councilor Abel Ladera, CATLU President Ric Ramos, and union leader Tirso Cruz . Mouthing the NOLCOM line that the Left did it will not solve the problem, much worse exonerate those responsible for the bloody crime. We demand the prosecution of those responsible and criminally liable in NOLCOM, in the Air Force Crowd Dispersal units and the GHQ that authorized the deployment, the PNP R-3 down the line, and the DOLE secretary who deputized the NOLCOM.

We also demand that you put a stop to the militarization of the Hacienda Luisita. Wave upon wave of RSOT deployments since 2003, especially during and after the people’s strike, are disrupting the economic and political life of the people. Currently, the military troops deployed in Bgy. Balite are involved in harassing the farm workers, coercing them to cooperate with the Luisita Estate Management (LEM), the outfit put up by your corporation to execute the land-conversion plans of your clan.

Even as we demand justice for the victims of human rights violations, we urge you to address the roots of the dispute and conflict over Hacienda Luisita. To be able to do so, you must first recognize the legal and legitimate right of the farm workers to the lands of Hacienda Luisita. This right has been denied a number of times since 1967, when your maternal grandparent, Demetria Cojuangco, declared that there were no “tenants” in Hacienda Luisita to avoid its distribution to the farm workers. The distribution of the land to the farm workers is actually the condition to the loan granted by the government to your forebears to pay for the acquisition of the Hacienda Luisita from Tabacalera.

It was your mother herself, when she was president, who set the stage for the great people’s strike and the Hacienda Luisita massacre 16 years earlier. In May 1988, the GRP lost its own case (filed by the Marcos government then in 1980) in the Court of Appeals against TADECO to compel the latter to hand-over the Hacienda to the government for distribution. Then Solicitor General Frank Chavez, serving under the new president, Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, filed the motion to dismiss the case in behalf of the Philippine government, saying that Hacienda Luisita was going to be distributed anyway under the new reform law. But instead of distributing the lands of the Hacienda, these were put under the Stock Distribution Option, a provision included in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law signed into law by Cory Aquino on June 10, 1988. This provision circumvented the spirit of land reform by way of distributing stocks and not the lands to farmer-beneficiaries. Further, through Executive Order No. 229, Cory Aquino was given the authority to preside over the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), the body that would approve stock distribution schemes, including that of the Hacienda Luisita. As you well know, the rest is history.

The great people’s strike against the SDO that ensued in November 2004 should serve as a lesson and warning for you not to repeat your mother’s blunder. We are in a similar situation now as in 1986. The DAR, under then President Arroyo, is poised to distribute the lands of the Hacienda Luisita as decided by the PARC in 2006. But the Cojuangcos, in behalf of HLI, filed an appeal in the Supreme Court and was granted an indefinite TRO. Now that you are sitting as President, you might be tempted to repeat what your mother did before by ordering the Solicitor General and the DAR to default on the case which would consequently reverse the PARC decision. Averting the distribution order of DAR would therefore put the case of the Hacienda Luisita under the new CARPER Law.

But how could CARPER benefit the peasantry when this law is premised on the scarcity of land and argues against physical distribution? Instead, its centerpiece is agribusiness, thus delivering the lands, agricultural and otherwise, into the hands of big landlords and business, as well as foreign corporations. We believe that CARPER is another bogus land reform program that is much worse than the CARP. It will only drive more peasants out of their lands, including those farmers who are holding EP, CLT, and under other arrangements like the SDO.

That you own only 3% of the stocks in HL and therefore is not decisive in deciding the faith of Hacienda Luisita is not the issue. Now that you are the president, the real and main issue is your political will to implement a genuine land reform that would benefit not only the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita but all of the impoverished peasantry in our country.

Mr. President, remember your famous line “kayo ang boss ko” during your inaugural address. Toying with words and making empty promises will not do well to your presidency.

Signed

Lito Bais
Acting President, ULWU

Felix Nakpil
Spokesperson,ULWU

Pedring Laza
Spekesperson, AMBALA- MARTYR-HL
Photo: Vincent Silarde

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