The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said that distributing land to the tillers and achieving justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings are the key demands to resolve the long-standing conflict at the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita.
The statement was made after Senator Noynoy Aquino announced that his family may be disengaging from the operations of the Hacienda Luisita Incorporated.
“We urge the Senator to support two things. Distribution of the land and achieving justice for the many victims of extrajudicial killings. The Stock Distribution Option must be revoked in favor of land distribution to the Luisita famers. The killings of union president Ricardo Ramos, Councilor Abel Ladera, priest Fr. William Tadena and others who died at the picket lines must also be investigated and resolved,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“We await with keen interest the announcement of Sen. Aquino and hope it will be along these lines,” Reyes said.
After the 2004 strike, farmers on their own initiative have been tilling ¼ of the 6,000 hectare hacienda, planting rice and other food staples. However, they have recently received a memorandum that orders them to stop using the land by October 30. The entirety of the hacienda used to be a sugarcane plantation.
“Sen. Aquino says someone else could better manage the land. He need not look any farther because the farmers there have been cultivating part of the land since the strike was lifted. The farmers are in the best position to develop the land,” Reyes said.
The group also said that justice remained elusive for many of those killed during and after the strike by suspected state security forces. “To this day, there has been no accountability for the Luisita massacre as well as the murders of supporters of the strike. The Armed Forces of the Philippines continues to spread the lie that the strikers were allegedly infiltrated by armed members of the New People’s Army. It is a claim that is unsupported by evidence,” he added.
Bayan hopes that the Aquinos will not only see the Luisita issue as a political and business liability but also as a social justice issue. “These are legitimate demands by the farmers. They certainly go beyond political and business considerations,” Reyes said. ###