CERTAINLY feudalism is a word that we would rather not use, or hear, and one that is too easily dismissed as something that only Leftists would use in conversation.
Except that there is no talking about the Hacienda Luisita Massacre without talking about feudalism.
And lest we imagine it to be so complex, in the case of the Cojuangco’s Hacienda Luisita it is really quite a simple case of landowners refusing to give farmer-peasants their due. It’s also about landowners who have always had government-dispensed “justice” on their side – not a surprise given the political and economic power the Cojuangcos as landowners have always wielded.
And so it was that in early November 2004, workers from the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) and the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) staged a strike at Gates 1 and 2 of Hacienda Luisita.
Why were the workers on strike?
Because since 1980, they had suffered in the hands of their landlords, who made decisions regardless of how these would affect the lives of the farmers who were working the hacienda.
Because in late 1988, these landowners skirted the agrarian reform law that required them to divide and redistribute the hacienda to farmer-beneficiaries. Instead, they were allowed to give farmer-beneficiaries shares of the company’s stocks in place of land. It is said that the farmers agreed to and voted for this stock distribution option (SDO) in 1989. But it is also clear that by 1988, the Memorandum of Agreement for the SDO was already signed by the Tarlac Development Coporation (TADECO), the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), and then Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Philip Juico. The Cojuangcos own both TADECO and HLI. The farmers had no say in the SDO’s MOA signing.
Doomed to fail
The farmer-peasants, este “stockholders,” would suffer the consequences of this SDO, barely feeling the benefits of having “agreed” to it. Meanwhile, Hacienda Luisita was being reclassified from farmland into land for residential, commercial and industrial purposes, and into the Luisita Industrial Park.
In 2003, 95% percent of the farm workers boycotted the elections for farm worker and supervisor representatives to the HLI Board of Directors; the farm workers’ having four seats was obviously nothing compared to seven management seats. In October of that year, after 15 years under the SDO, the Supervisory Group of Hacienda Luisita, Inc. filed a petition for the revocation of the SDO with the DAR.
In December 2003, 80% of 5339 farm workers at Hacienda Luisita file a petition to nullify and rescind the SDO. They do so through their organization AMBALA. They also call for a stop to land-use conversion at the hacienda, more working days, and higher daily minimum wage.
At this point in 2003, farm workers were earning P9.50 a day. Work days had been pegged by the Cojuangcos to one day a week. That’s P9.50 a week, or P38 pesos a month.
The Cojuangcos reacted as expected: they refused to stop land conversion, refused a wage increase, and refused more work days.
The farmers had been suffering under this SDO for 15 years. Anyone would go on strike.
On October 2004, 327 farm workers were fired by the Cojuangcos. All these workers were from the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU).
On November 6, 5000 farm workers from ULWU and 700 from CATLU stage a strike at Gates 1 and 2 of Hacienda Luisita. The Philippine National Police (PNP) arrive and use tear gas, batons and water cannons to try and disperse the rally, to no avail.
On November 10, the striking “stockholders” are told they would be forcibly removed if they did not leave within five days. The farm workers call for support from the community and gather more people. The 400-strong PNP return on November 15, they try but fail to disperse the protest, now 4000-strong.
According to Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo’s report to the Senate (dated February 3 2005), on the afternoon of November 16 2004, the protesters at Gate 1 of the sugar mill had as company: “700 policemen, 17 truckloads of soldiers in full battle gear, 2 tanks equipped with heavy weapons, a payloader, 4 fire trucks with water cannons, and snipers positioned in at least 5 strategic places.”
The tank and payloader first rammed through the gate, as they used teargas and water canons on the protesters. When that ran out and the protesters were still standing, the bullets came.
For a full minute, bullets were sprayed on the protesters who started running for their lives. Those who were caught were placed under arrest regardless of age. 1,000 rounds of ammunition were used during the shooting spree.
Seven died in the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. At least 121 were injured; 32 had gunshot wounds.
PNoy, the Cojuangco
The current President was serving in the House of Representatives then, and being a Cojuangco, he was quick to respond to the violent and murderous dispersal of this protest at his family’s hacienda.
That is, he spun it by saying that the violence started with the protesters, that they were the ones shooting at the armed personnel carriers that had arrived to disperse them. He also spoke against fact-finding missions at his family’s hacienda because it could “inflame the situation.”
PNoy would be congressman until 2007. He would be Senator from 2007 to 2010. He has been President since 2010.
The Hacienda Luisita Massacre is on its 10th year. No one has been brought to justice for the seven murders and countless attempted killings of November 16 2004, in the land that this President’s family owns.
In the past decade, some say until now, hunger, need and violence have plagued Hacienda Luisita.
This is feudalism. It explains a lot about this President, doesn’t it?
Timeline Of The Luisita Dispute. natoreyes.wordpress.com. 14 Aug 2010.
Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will by Stephanie Dychiu. GMA News Online. 22 January 2010.
How a workers’ strike became the Luisita Massacre by Stephanie Dychiu. GMA News Online. 26 January 2010.
Protests set to mark 10th year of Hacienda Luisita massacre by Ronalyn V. Olea. Bulatlat.com. 12 November 2014.