November 26, 2004

Think again

The kind of official hand-washing, victim-blaming and conspiracy theories that have been getting prime-time radio/TV airing and front-page prominence immediately after the Hacienda Luisita massacre can only be described as a travesty of any remaining shred of decency, moral uprightness and sense of fair play in our extremely degraded value system as a people.

The Senate hearing last Wednesday initiated by Committee on Labor and Employment chair Sen. Jinggoy Estrada had DoLE, PNP and AFP officials as well as administration and pro-Cojuangco/Aquino senators taking turns obfuscating the legitimacy of the struggles concurrently being waged by the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU), withholding information while foisting lies and fabrications about the actual dispersal operations by the PNP and AFP, imputing naãvetÇ and ignorance, if not sinister motives upon the striking workers and insisting on the correctness of an arbitrarily issued assumption of jurisdiction/return-to-work order and subsequent deputization of the police and the Armed Forces to break up the strike.

"There was peace and harmony at the Hacienda for decades before the militant groups and other 'outsiders' infiltrated the workers' ranks," intoned Rep. Noynoy Aquino and HLI management.

Read: The decades-old stranglehold of the Cojuangco feudal overlords at Hacienda Luisita has finally been breached as the extremely exploited and downtrodden farm and mill workers realize that they've been swindled of their rightful claim to the 5,000 plus-hectare land under the law and are fighting back.

"The demand for reversal of the stock distribution option (SDO) is a rehashed issue since the hacienda tenants voluntarily agreed to give up land distribution for shares of stock of the corporation and are now enjoying the fruits of their wise decision," said the landlords' spokesperson.

"If it ain't broke, why fix it," was the cute retort of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rene Villa, professing ignorance of earlier complaints filed by ULWU calling for the review of the SDO.

Read: The land reform scheme of the so-called "stock distribution" instituted during the term of President Aquino, incidentally co-owner of the hacienda, has been exposed as a sham and is being rejected by the farm workers and their families, long-time tillers and residents of 10 barangays inside the hacienda numbering close to 32,000 individuals.

A quick review of history is in order. As early Aug. 27, 1957, in a Central Bank resolution approving the dollar loan application of Jose Cojuangco Sr. with the Manufacturer's Trust Co. of New York to purchase CAT and Hacienda Luisita from Tabacalera, the Spanish company which owned the two properties, there was already a condition that "this hacienda (would be distributed) to small farmers in line with the Administration's social justice program."

Ten years later, when Cojuangco Sr. applied for another P10-million loan from the GSIS to cover its acquisition of the hacienda, a close to P16-million loan was granted with the condition " the lots comprising the Hacienda Luisita shall be subdivided by the applicant corporation among the tenants who shall pay the cost thereof under reasonable terms and conditions."

Predictably, years later, the owners refused to honor these conditions and a long court battle ensued. On Dec. 2, 1985, the Manila RTC ordered the Cojuangcos to " convey the entire Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform to be subdivided into small lots and conveyed at cost to qualified and deserving small farmers to free them from the bondage of the soil "

On May 11, 1989 and three years into the rule of the icon of democracy, "Cory" Cojuangco-Aquino, a memorandum of agreement was signed between the owners and a handful of farm workers conveying the agricultural portions of Hacienda Luisita and other farm-related properties to a newly formed corporation, the HLI, in exchange for shares of stocks of the farm.

Thus, under the SDO scheme, the farm workers were made to give up their lawful claim to the land in exchange for meager shares of stock and production shares. They were duped into thinking they were indeed "co-owners" of the corporation when, in fact, they still have to sweat it out to claim any benefits (the number of workdays of a worker is the main factor used to compute stock and production shares), they have no guaranteed work (workers were averaging one to two days a week for the past five years) nor security of tenure (324 workers were retrenched last August, including nine of 10 newly elected ULWU officials, provoking the strike, the same one that was violently dispersed three times until the deadly Nov. 16 attack).

"The Hacienda Luisita farm workers are a contented lot enjoying tens of millions of peso benefits a year," said management. Thus, according to a chorus of government officials -- from the President who appealed for "calm and sobriety" to the DoLE Secretary who did "nothing illegal nor immoral" and, ergo, whose hands are blood-free, the officers of the "maximally restrained" PNP and the "deputized-to-assist" AFP and the DoJ Secretary who ordered an "impartial" investigation into the "NPA-authored" carnage -- the estimated 6,000 to 8,000 strikers and protesters at Gate 1 were merely agitated by the perennial rabble-rousers of the leftist organizations, but more alarming, the violence was instigated by no less than the fearsome communist New People's Army (NPA).

Thus, we are made to believe that so blinded were these dirt-poor workers and their families they chose to rush to their deaths without any rational basis, much less legitimate cause, rather than just lay back and enjoy the fruits of their being "co-owners" of a placid, productive hacienda.

The NPA, for its part, supposedly deployed snipers, but were such bad sharpshooters they didn't hit a single police or military or security personnel. Amazing!

The blameless and clueless President, her fat cat bureaucrats who have thick hides and nonexistent consciences, the pea-brained and fascist PNP and AFP officials, and the heartless cacique owners of Hacienda Luisita must think the Filipino people fools who will buy their outrageous lies and false crocodile tears.

Let them watch the video clips of the thousands of unarmed farm workers and ordinary people facing down the state's water cannons, tear gas, tanks, machineguns and rifles. Then, let them think again.

Nov. 26-27, 2004


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