ANOTHER LIKE MENDIOLA: FARMWORKERS' BLOOD THE PRICE AND THE PRIZE REAPED IN SEEKING SOCIAL JUSTICE UNDER THE PRESENT SYSTEM OF PHILIPPINE SOCIETY...
The 1986 anti-fascist uprising againts the Marcos 20-year fascist rule placed Ms. Corazon Cojuanco Aquino to power, she made then promises for economic and social reforms that included LAND REFORM during her first national address. . . but months after then in 1987, the true landlord-class nature of her rule unveiled when she declared the Total War againts the revolutionary forces instead of forging with them agreements that would install a long and lasting peace based on social justice. At all fronts she attacked the progressive forces and this was horrifically displayed during the massacre of the marching peasants in 1987 (in MENDIOLA) demanding for a more meaningful legislation of a genuine land reform. That demostrated the incapability of the one in power, coming from the very class that oppress and exploit the vast majority of the filipino people-the peasant. Truly is she represented a state that served the interest of her class origin with all the coercive and repressive instruments like the AFP, the Police, Justice system and the prison at her disposal, while posing as a charismatic leader who had a motherly (widowed) love to serve her countrymen.
Now....we are again witnessing the same stark reality after 1987:
Hacienda Luisita death toll now 14
Tear gas suffocates 2 kids during dispersal
Updated 02:19am (Mla time) Nov 18, 2004
By Russell Arador, Ronald Dizon, Jo Clemente
Inquirer News Service
Editor's Note: Published on page A1 of the Nov. 18, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
HACIENDA LUISITA, Tarlac, Philippines -- Seven more people, including two children, were reported killed in Tuesday's dispersal of striking workers of Central Azucarera de Tarlac, raising the death toll to 14.
The children -- aged 2 and 5 -- died of suffocation when tear gas used by the police and military during the dispersal drifted to their quarters, according to the workers. Two other bodies were found in nearby sugarcane fields a day after the clash.
Charges of assault, illegal assembly, inciting to sedition and malicious mischief were being readied against more than 100 strikers, the Inquirer learned.
Hundreds of policemen and soldiers, backed by an armored personnel carrier and several fire trucks, stormed the barricades of the strikers at the main gate of the plantation at 3:20 p.m. Tuesday.
The APC was used to ram the gate from inside the sugar mill. Police and military took control of the main gate after initially using teargas and water cannons on the protesters. The men in uniform later fired
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live rounds on the strikers.
The military operation against the protesters is not yet over.
Flor Collantes, secretary general of the militant group Bayan Muna in Tarlac, said soldiers were allegedly "zoning" Barangay Motrico, dragging men out of their homes and lining them up to be arrested.
He said public elementary school teachers were sending their pupils home because of the continued military operations in the barangay (village).
The violence at the plantation owned by the family of former President Corazon Aquino was a reminder of deep social inequality in the country.
A small number of families still control huge tracts of land despite reforms to extend ownership to tenant farmers.
Ms Aquino yesterday issued a statement condoling with the families of the victims.
For her part, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she was "deeply saddened over the violent clashes and I am appealing for prudence and sobriety on both sides."
"We hope that the management and the workers can find a middle ground in settling the labor dispute in a peaceful and rationale manner," the President said in a statement.
Ms Arroyo said she had instructed the concerned agencies to seek out the victims on either side and extend assistance for burial or hospital treatment. A number of policemen and soldiers were also injured during the clash but none suffered gunshot wounds.
House Deputy Speaker Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III (LP, Tarlac), son of Ms Aquino, is also extending financial assistance to families of the workers who were either killed or wounded.
"I intend to assist them in my personal capacity," he told reporters, adding that he was set to go home to Tarlac province last night to personally visit the victims.
The congressman expressed hope that his presence in the estate would not raise tensions anew.
"I will try as much as possible to pick up the pieces," he said of the family-owned estate that has been torn apart by a labor dispute.
"All of them are my constituents," he said of the workers on strike.
Police said workers had refused an autopsy on the bodies of their comrades killed during the dispersal.
Before he was sacked as Central Luzon director, Chief Superintendent Quirino dela Torre said he had sent doctors and a team from the police scene of the crime operations to examine the fatalities.
"They didn't allow us to do it," De la Torre told the Inquirer. He said he instead asked the mayor to send local doctors to conduct the routine examination.
Violy Basilio, who witnessed the autopsy of her 20-year-old son Jhaivie Basilio, said her son had three bullet wounds: One in the heart, another in his lungs and a third in his leg.
Basilio's remains were taken to the Tarlac City Plazuela before these were brought home to Barangay Mapalacsiao in Luisita.
About nine more victims suffering from bullet wounds are now in various hospitals in Tarlac City. Leaders of the strike said on Tuesday that 200 protesters were hurt.
The workers and their supporters returned yesterday afternoon to the main gate of the sprawling estate.
The protesters belonging to the United Luisita Workers' Union (ULWU) and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union regrouped and vowed to parade the bodies of the 14 fatalities as a reminder of Tuesday's carnage.
Ricardo Ramos, Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union president, said the workers regrouped to reclaim their picket lines.
"Di dahil namatayan kami, uurong na kami (We are not lifting the picket in spite of the casualties we suffered)," said Ramos, who is also Barangay Mapalacsiao chief.
But he said his group was open to a dialogue and negotiation with the management but this time with the ULWU, the hacienda's agricultural worker's union.
Leftist lawmakers visit
Four militant lawmakers visited the hacienda yesterday to gather testimonies and evidence on the action taken by the authorities against the strikers.
Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo and Joel Virador and Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano and Gabriela Representative Liza Maza and a dozen supporters were initially stopped by the plantation's security guards and policemen at the main gate but were allowed to enter after a 30-minute wait.
"We were here for two reasons -- to show our support to the farmers and to get testimony that we could use in the congressional investigation," Ocampo said.
He said they wanted the House of Representatives to expand the scope of its investigation to include last Tuesday's bloody dispersal.
Workers camped at the Tarlac City Plazuela demanded an investigation of the violence that marred the dispersal.
Caravan of probers
About 2,000 protesters and their families, lined up on both sides of the road leading to Barangay Balete here as the caravan of motorcycles, jeepneys and cars carrying the four lawmakers made their way to the plantation.
Chanting "Cojuangco, berdugo," the workers marched with the four lawmakers to a covered court near the barangay hall. A short program was held, kicking off the party list groups' inquiry into the dispersal.
Ocampo said he and the other party list lawmakers would not deny that they "sympathized with the protesting workers and farm workers."
"Besides, we are duty bound to immediately and directly respond to their needs because we are their representatives," Ocampo said.
Short of blaming Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas for the incident, Tarlac Governor Jose Yap said that the military could not have gone to Luisita if they were not deputized to do so.
In the House, Tarlac Representative Jesli Lapuz also extended his sympathies to the families of the victims, three of whom are from Concepcion and La Paz towns, Lapus' congressional district.
Lapus, who described the incident as a "major disaster of sorts," said an inquiry should be conducted to find out the truth about the incident.
Firearms at site
Akbayan party-list Representatives Loretta Ann Rosales and Risa Hontiveros also pushed for a congressional investigation.
Police said they had recovered at least three firearms from the site where the strikers massed up on Tuesday.
Senior Superintendent Amado Paneda, chief of the Task Force Luisita of the Central Luzon police, presented to reporters on Tuesday night an M-16 rifle, a Carbine and a .38-cal. pistol, which he said his men recovered during a cleanup operation after the workers were dispersed.
Paneda said the guns were recovered from the parking lot and grassy portions of the area the strikers had occupied.
In Angeles City, Roman Polintan of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan called the dispersal an "overkill." Roman blamed the soldiers and the police for the "unprovoked carnage."
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) justified its assumption of jurisdiction over the dispute between laborers and the management of the sugar mill and called for both parties to resume negotiations.
Assistant Labor Secretary Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio Jr. shrugged off calls by militant groups for the resignation of Sto. Tomas.
"From Day 1, DOLE has been on top of the situation. But the return-to-work order has to be enforced and the order is supposed to be immediately executory," Bitonio told reporters.
"As far as DOLE is concerned, all actions undertaken (regarding the assumption order) were according to law and the primary objective is to bring back the parties to the negotiating table," he said.
With reports from Tonette Orejas, Jun Malig, Desiree Caluza, Carlito Pablo, Christian V. Esguerra, Juliet Labog-Javellana, Jerome Aning and Inquirer wires
Central Luzon, Tarlac police chiefs relieved (Nov 18, 2004)
Peace council offers to mediate in Hacienda Luisita row (Nov 18, 2004)
The Cojuangcos of Hacienda Luisita (Nov 18, 2004)
There could really be no peace when the peacefull means employed by the subjugated class are frustrated by the ruling class themselves. This poses a question on what really peace means... Is it the absence of expressing out a class interest in a venue you (the landlords and the state) tell the people where we should "talk on the table" para magkaunawan?
If we see this fact as I see and think of it... then maybe it is only logical that since the ruling class disposes of his coercive instruments againts the ruled class then the ruled class have no other real recourse but to take-up arms bring their struggle to heights for social change only they themselves could as the ruling class would never really give in to the interests of the ruled class "on the table". Afterall: "ALL HITHERTHO EXISTING HISTORIES OF CLASS SOCIETIES WERE HISTORIES OF CLASS STRUGGLES"...