PEASANT organizations including the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Unyon ng Manggagawasa Agrikultura (UMA), and the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Luisita (AMBALA) held a cultural caravan around Central Luzon last November 14 as part of their commemoration of the 12th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre.
The groups held programs in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City, as well as in the cities of Balagtas and Malolos in Bulacan, San Fernando and Angeles in Pampanga and Tarlac where they were met by supporters from other progressive groups.
The speakers in the various stops said it is important to remember the massacre as part of their struggles for genuine land reform, justice for victims of human rights violations, the eviction of the military from their communities, and just and lasting peace.
Twelve years ago
On November 15, 2004, a protest by farmers working in Hacienda Luisita was violently dispersed by elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dispatched by then labor secretary Patricia Santo Tomas.
The peasants were calling for just wages, increased benefits and the immediate distribution of the vast sugar estate by the controlling Cojuangco clan of Tarlac.
Seven protesters were killed while other members and supporters were killed including former Iglesia Filipina Independiente Obispo Maximo Alberto Ramento.
Others also became victims of enforced disappearances and illegal arrests.
The struggle continues
In a press statement, UMA secretary-general Danilo Ramos said there has been no justice for those killed and wounded in the Luisita massacre and in the subsequent incidents of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances after the massacre.
Ramos also condemned the lack of action against the perpetrators.
“Some of the massacre perpetrators were even promoted and held the highest positions in government,” he said, speaking of Gen. Gregorio Catapang and Gen. Ricardo Visaya, both of whom became AFP chiefs, and former president Benigno Aquino III, whose clan controls Luisita to this day.
Ramos also said that genuine land reform has yet to be felt by the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, given how the Cojuanco Aquino clan continues to harass and forcibly deny the land from the peasants.
In April 2012, the Supreme Court said the farmers are the genuine owners of Hacienda Luisita and ordered an immediate distribution of the estate.
“Farmers are still clamoring for land, justice and peace. These can only be achieved in Hacienda Luisita and the rest of the country after genuine land reform and social justice are realized,” Ramos said. (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)