Statement by the Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) on the 10th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre (For additional information on the infamous massacre that killed seven farmworkers on November 16, 2004, please visit http://luisitawatch.wordpress.com/)
The Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) joins the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita in the Philippines and their supporters in marking the 10th anniversary of the brutal massacre on November 16, 2004 in the sugar estate that killed seven farmworkers. Some 121 others were injured as well, including children and the elderly.
We note with utmost concern that after a decade, the grave injustice against the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers continues in various ways and with increasing impunity. Not only have the direct perpetrators of the mass murder been left unscathed, civilian and military officials and owners of the Hacienda Luisita have not been made to account as well. The endless injustice is made even worse with the continued denial of effective control and ownership over the vast estate from thousands of farmworkers despite a ruling in 2012 by the Philippines’ highest court that the Hacienda Luisita be distributed to the farmworkers.
We remember that the massacre happened in the context of a labor dispute between the farmworkers and the Hacienda Luisita management over the inhumane conditions in the sugar plantation, including wages that were ridiculously low. Ironically, the farmworkers are supposedly the real owners of the hacienda under the country’s national agrarian reform program. However, the Cojuangco family, which owns the sugar company, maneuvered to legitimize a deceptive scheme called “stock distribution option” (SDO) wherein effective control remained with them and all the farmworkers get are meager wages.
The Cojuangco family, of course, is among the most politically influential landlord clans and political dynasties in the Philippines. Its members include incumbent President Benigno Aquino III and his mother who was also a former president, current and former members of the national legislature as well as local officials.
The farmworkers through their union Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita or Alliance of Farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita (AMBALA) and their supporters were compelled to declare a strike to assert their rights and ownership of the estate. AMBALA is a local affiliate of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura or Union of Agricultural Workers (UMA), which is among the founding organizations of CAWI. Alas, instead of addressing these legitimate grievances, the Hacienda Luisita management and state security forces responded with armed violence that ultimately led to the infamous massacre.
The violence and political repression actually continued beyond the massacre itself. We must not forget the series of extrajudicial killings that followed and victimized several peasant activists and advocates who are connected with the struggle for genuine land reform in Hacienda Luisita.
Further, we are gravely alarmed that the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers continue to be expelled from the lands that rightfully belong to them. The reported incidents of bulldozing and arson, allegedly perpetrated by the Cojuangcos, to drive away farmworkers are blatant attacks to the human rights of farmworkers.
Thus, as we remember the 10th year of the Hacienda Luisita massacre, CAWI strongly supports the call of farmworkers for justice and accountability and the implementation of genuine agrarian reform.
We appeal to President Aquino to truly address the grievances of the farmworkers and implement the actual and physical distribution of the Hacienda Luisita to its tillers and stop the further eviction of farmworkers.
The Hacienda Luisita farmworkers and their families have suffered long enough; their oppression and exploitation by the powerful and wealthy must be immediately stopped.###
Reference: P.P. Sivapragasam, Secretary General, Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI), firstname.lastname@example.org