“The Cojuangco-Aquinos are hell-bent on maintaining control of the Luisita estate and in implementing their grand master plan to convert the sugar plantation into a giant commercial hub, in contempt and complete reversal of the 2012 Supreme Court decision for total land distribution.”– Florida Sibayan, chair of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala)
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Hacienda Luisita farmers slammed the recent distinction given by the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) to the Luisita Industrial Park (Lip) as “the first labor laws compliant economic zone” in the country.
On Tuesday, Sept. 30, labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz unveiled the marker at the gate of the LIP, which bears the inscription “This is a Labor Laws Compliant Eco-zone,” said a press release in the Dole website.
“This does not belie the fact that aggressive land grabbing and brazen human rights violations are continuously being perpetrated by the Lip administration under the Luisita Realty Corporation (LRC),” said Florida Sibayan, chair of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) in a media statement.
“The Cojuangco-Aquinos are hell-bent on maintaining control of the Luisita estate and in implementing their grand master plan to convert the sugar plantation into a giant commercial hub, in contempt and complete reversal of the 2012 Supreme Court decision for total land distribution,” Sibayan said.
The Ambala leader said the Labor department’s conferment can pave the way for the approval of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s (Peza) on LRC’s application to include 260 hectares of agricultural land in Balete village to the Luisita Industrial Park complex.
“The LRC is among the many notorious corporate avatars of the Cojuangco-Aquino family in Hacienda Luisita, where presidential sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz is director while Pinky Aquino-Abellada and Viel Aquino-Dee sit as top stockholders,” Sibayan said.
Sibayan also criticized Baldoz for declaring the Great Star Security Services, Inc., one of the Lip’s subcontractors, as “compliant with General Labor Standards and issued Certificates of Compliance (CoC).” Sibayan said the guards of the security agency are directly responsible for the violent attacks against farmers in Balete and Cutcut villages.
The Ambala statement said the security agency’s certificate was issued on October 1, “in a high-profile ceremony at the LIP compound, which was graced by Baldoz herself.”
Sibayan said the Great Star Security Services Inc.’s “forte” is human rights violations, being “also involved in the shooting of a group of farmers in disputed farmlands in Maimpis village, San Fernando, Pampanga on July 28. “
Sibayan cited abuses committed by the Aquino-led firms such as the assault ordered by Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) against the farmers in Balete village.
“Violent eviction of farmers, bulldozing of ready-to-harvest palay crops and fencing off of the 260-hectare area from its tillers continued,” Sibayan said. This was even after the Department of Agrarian Reform (Dar) issued a Notice of land reform coverage (NOC) on Dec. 17, 2013. The Dar did nothing to stop Tadeco.
Sibayan said the 31st company of the 3rd Mechanized Battalion of the Philippine Army constructed its headquarters inside the fenced-off area “with the blessings of the LRC.”
“Since then, soldiers have been practically deployed to serve in the Cojuangco-Aquino private army, intermittently mobilized to harass and evict farmers from the area. Bulldozers of the Cojuangco-Aquino family, which were used to destroy farmers’ crops and homes, are usually parked right beside the army headquarters,” Sibayan said.
Sibayan said that from September 2013 to March this year, Tadeco had used Luisita’s private security guards, local police and even Special Weapons and Tactics teams to evict tillers, even without a court order. She said these have resulted in the death of an Ambala member, Dennis dela Cruz, “several cases of mauling, attempted murder and unlawful arrest, and the filing of harassment suits against hundreds of farmers.”
“Ten years after the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, Luisita farmers are still denied land and justice. President BS Aquino’s alter-egos like Baldoz of DOLE and Gil delos Reyes of DAR, act like extensions of this insatiable landlord family in ruthlessly extracting every last drop of blood, sweat and tears from Luisita farmworkers,” Sibayan said.