Large contingents of agrarian reform activists, human rights groups, peace advocates, artists and cultural workers joined a caravan to different barangay of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province today, to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
The caravan, dubbed #RememberLuisita, People’s Cultural Caravan for Land, Justice and Peace, is on its second day. Today, the supporters of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers will join the locals in the “bungkalan,” the land cultivation campaign initiated by the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) during the height of the Welgang Bayan (People’s Strike) in 2004.
The national agriworkers center, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), meanwhile condemned former President Benigno S. Aquino III for vicious attacks against the farmworkers’ bungkalan during his 6-year term. UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos stressed that the bungkalan still thrives despite relentless attacks unleashed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
“The fake land distribution scheme via tambiolo, bulldozing of farmers’crops and eviction of farmers through burning and demolition of huts almost eradicated the bungkalan. Luisita farmworkers refused to give up. Today, AMBALA strives to expand the bungkalan initiative through unity and cooperation among farmworkers,” added Ramos.
UMA and AMBALA is calling on the Duterte administration to bring justice to the victims of the massacre which occurred 12 years ago, on November 16, 2004.
Ramos also expressed alarm over the recent spate of killings and harassment of farmers perpetrated by private goons and state forces. Some incidents were reported to be under the guise of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.
“Peasant killings must stop,” Ramos stressed.
The past week, farmworkers reported that an armored personnel carrier (APC) was seen roving around the bungkalan area in Barangay Balete, Hacienda Luisita. Ramos said that farmworkers have been clamoring for the complete pull-out of military and paramilitary troops in Hacienda Luisita.
The company headquarters of the 31st Infantry Battalion, 3rd Mechanized Division is located right smack in the land reform area in Barangay Balete.
BS Aquino killed the case
Ramos also scored BS Aquino for junking of charges against the perpetrators of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
A few months after former President BS Aquino assumed office, the Ombudsman silently junked the case against police and military respondents involved in the massacre, thereby closing all pending cases against alleged perpetrators. The Ombudsman ruling was released in December 2010.
The Ombudsman’s Military and Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO) based its decision solely on NBI reports. Ironically, the particular NBI report states that there is basis to file charges against erring officials and that the testimonies of the survivors and protesters were more credible than that of the involved government personnel. The farmers’ complaints were junked without any other effort to conduct hearings or a more thorough investigation.
One independent eyewitness cited in the report, made by Dr. Restituto Bauvacieda Jr., then a city health physician and member of the emergency response unit of Tarlac City, was quoted as having witnessed a man wearing civilian clothes firing at the direction of the protesters, while he was inside the fence under the control of the Central de Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT).
This is an indication that elements of the yellow army or even then Congressman BS Aquino were directly involved in carrying out the massacre.
In August 2014, still under the term of BS Aquino, survivors and relatives of the victims filed a motion to reopen the case. The motion was junked only a few months later in October.
The said NBI report on Hacienda Luisita only became public in November 2014, ten years after the massacre. By that time, the Ombudsman already junked the motion to reopen the case.
Farmers vow to revive their complaints as they hope that the Duterte administration would be keen in dispensing justice for the victims of the massacre and other crimes committed thereafter such as the string of extra-judicial killings and the recent atrocities by the BS Aquino regime, including bulldozing of crops, burning of huts, physical injuries and illegal arrests.
Another violent incident involving Cojuangco-Aquino goons occurred last July 1, during the very first day in office of President Duterte.
UMA has declared November 16 as a National Day of Protest of Farm and Agricultural Workers, while the Workers International Struggle Initiatives (WORKINS) has declared it as the International Day against Trade Union Repression. A theatrical reenactment of the Luisita massacre will be presented at the actual site of the carnage, in front of the Gate 1 of Central Azucarera de Tarlac tomorrow, November 16, the 12th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 09166114181