IT’s now 10 years and three days since the Nov. 16, 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre. That was the 10th day after farmworkers, members of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), and sugar mill workers, members of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU), began their “Welgang Bayan” (People’s Strike).
Attempts of the Luisita security forces to get the strikers to disband did not work. Then government police and soldiers arrived. These forces did what feudal culture-minded armed men in uniform eventually do. They went into bloody strike dispersal mode. They killed seven farmers and two children. They injured hundreds. Survivors and the militant farmworkers’ union members directly blame President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd for causing the violence and want him to be held criminally accountable.
Some reports say that then Congressman Benigno S. Cojuangco-Aquino had taken charge of Hacienda Luisita’s security at the time the farmworkers went on strike. These reports also say that on November 15, he called then Secretary of Labor Patricia Sto. Tomas to ask that a heavy military and police force be deployed to Hacienda Luisita. He told Sec. Sto. Tomas that the situation was getting very tense, so the Labor Secretary granted Rep. Aquino’s request.
Worldwide commemoration of the massacre
A Hacienda Luisita Massacre survivor, Florida Sibayan, who now heads the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), which is the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) branch in Tarlac, led Luisita farmworkers in holding protests in Mendiola, near Malacañang Palace, and other points in Metro Manila on Saturday and Sunday to commemorate the massacre. There were also similar protest vigils all over the country–and the world.
Many and different people’s organizations marched along with farmworkers holding “blood-stained” yellow ribbons (yellow is the color of the Aquino clan) to mark a decade of injustice since the Hacienda Luisita Massacre.
Sibayan and the rest of the delegation from Hacienda Luisita point directly to President BS Aquino’s criminal accountability. He was a Representative of the First District of Tarlac and apparently the active manager of Hacienda Luisita estate during the time of the massacre. “Just as BS Aquino was quick to defend himself for his administration’s negligence of the Yolanda victims, Aquino was also quick to deliver a privilege speech in defense of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan a day after the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004,” she said.
In his speech at the House, Aquino, unjustly blamed the farm workers and their families seeking a wage increase for having started the violence. He claimed that the strikers fired the first shots.
But the National Bureau of Investigation report on the massacre proves that then Congressman Aquino was lying– as he has done many times to absolve himself from blame for any of the malfeasances in his Administration.
The NBI report (relevant pages of which the UMA has sent by email to media organizations including us at The Times) says that “the government side was armed with high powered weapons while the protesters were only armed with stones, Molotov bombs, baton and other effects.” The NBI probers saw that the strikers were no match to the government and Luisita security forces. The report also states that “ . . . nobody from the government side was hit by bullets” which belies Aquino’s claim that the first volley of fires came from the protesters.
Through the years, Luisita Massacre survivors and families of the killed and injured, have been thirsting for justice. None of the soldiers and police who killed and injured the farmworkers, their wives and children, have been punished. Some of them have even received very high promotions.
This massacre is only one of the many crimes committed by security forces and officials against the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, a huge territory larger than Makati City and Pasig City combined. The crimes include not following the law on Agrarian Reform and defying a court’s actual ruling.
Accusations of criminality and corruption surround the continued possession of the property by President Aquino’s clan. Verified by witnesses, charges have been leveled against government as well as the private security forces of Hacienda Luisita and its corporations. They are accused of brutality against farmworkers and extrajudicial termination of human and labor rights activists.
President Aquino is apparently liable for many of these crimes. These and the other crimes that involve criminal negligence and his corrupt tolerance of wrongdoing by his closest officials are among the many reasons there is a call for him to leave Malacañang. Catholic bishops and other Christian clergymen, as well as Muslim religious leaders, together with the citizens, have called on him to do what is good for the nation—Resign Now.