Ten Years, No Justice: Farmworkers, Supporters Commemorate the Luisita Massacre with Protest Caravan

A day before the 10th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre, survivor Florida Sibayan, now chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), led Luisita farmworkers in protests in Mendiola , Manila . Supporters from different people’s organizations marched along farmworkers with “blood-stained” yellow ribbons to mark a decade of injustice after the Hacienda Luisita massacre.

Farmers carried tarpaulin banners demanding justice for the Luisita massacre’s seven martyrs, as speakers from different sectors paid tribute to the life and struggle of Jessie Valdez, Adriano Caballero Jr, Jaime Fastidio, Jesus Laza, Juancho Sanchez, Jhaivie Basilio and Jhune David.

The Hacienda Luisita massacre is the bloody strike dispersal which occurred on November 16, 2004 — 10 days after farmworkers from the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and sugar mill workers of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) launched the People’s Strike (Welgang Bayan) participated in by tens of thousands of Luisita sugar workers and their families during its peak.

Sibayan and the rest of the delegation from Hacienda Luisita minced no words and pointed directly to President BS Aquino’s criminal accountability for the massacre. Aquino was a Representative of the First District of Tarlac and active manager of the Hacienda Luisita estate during the time of the massacre.

“Upang mabigyang hustisya ang mamamayan ng Hacienda Luisita, kailangang panagutin – at patalsikin – ang kriminal at kurakot na Presidenteng asendero na si Noynoy Aquino, (To grant justice for Luisita’s people, Aquino should face accountability – this criminal and corrupt landlord President must be ousted from power),” says Sibayan.

Farmers burned an effigy of President BS Aquino clad in a soldier’s camouflage uniform and riding a wayward bulldozer, symbolizing the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s “Panloloko, pandarahas at pangangamkam” (Deceit, violence and land grabbing) now prevailing in Hacienda Luisita.

“Instead of implementing land reform and the Supreme Court ruling on Hacienda Luisita, the Aquino administration has been very busy terrorizing and arresting farmers, bulldozing crops and destroying the organization’s bungkalan, burning homes, and erecting concrete fences around vast agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita. All Luisita villages are still militarized. Impunity remains,” says Ranmil Echanis, deputy secretary general of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

After the Mendiola program, AMBALA and UMA led a 30-vehicle caravan to Hacienda Luisita, composed of w orkers, students, educators and academic staff from different universities, church people, cultural workers, migrants’ families and other supporters. The caravan held short stops in Plaza Miranda in Angeles City and Capas, Tarlac. The delegation from Manila arrived early evening in Luisita and was welcomed by Luisita residents with thunderous drum music and a hundred burning torches. The people marched to the covered court of Barangay Balete for a solidarity cultural night.

Supporters decry the fact that ten years have passed after the massacre which killed 7 strikers and injured more than a hundred persons without any justice rendered to the victims. “Even reports from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) — which only surfaced in full this year — declare emphatically that state security forces unlawfully killed the strikers, that the police and military did not fire in self-defense as some in the government – including then Rep. Aquino — have claimed,” says Echanis.

Echanis is referring to Rep. Aquino’s privilege speech delivered in Congress immediately after the Hacienda Luisita massacre. “Today, Aquino thinks it his privilege to use power as top government official and Commander-in Chief to go after Luisita activists. Aquino openly plunders government coffers through the anomalous Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) so that the murderous Cojuangco-Aquino clan may maintain control of Hacienda Luisita.”

Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. also laments the injustice to Luisita farmers: “None of the management of Luisita, who are relatives of the President, has been charged. The Ombudsman has reportedly dismissed the cases filed against the Luisita management, police and military. A crime was committed with seven dead, yet there appears to be no criminals. Instead of seeking justice for the victims, Aquino continues to champion the interests of the landowning class and the coercive state apparatus that brought about the Luisita Massacre.”

The protest caravan resumes the next day, November 16, the anniversary of the massacre, with an ecumenical service and program in front of Gate 1 of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the actual site of the massacre. November 16 is also Global Action Day to seek justice for Luisita massacre victims and International Day of Action Against trade Union repression to be participated in by agrarian reform and human rights advocates in at least 20 countries.

Online, supporters use the hashtag #HLMX for content regarding the Hacienda Luisita Massacre 10th year commemoration campaign.