Kin of Luisita massacre martyrs want justice

Farmers continue to call for justice for the seven martyrs of the Hacienda Luisita massacre. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)
Farmers continue to call for justice for the seven martyrs of the Hacienda Luisita massacre. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

“We are calling on the new administration to hold all the perpetrators accountable.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

HACIENDA LUISITA, Tarlac City — Walking with a stick cane, Erwin Laza held a placard bearing a sketch of his brother’s face during the commemoration of the Hacienda Luisita massacre, Nov. 16.

When artists reenacted the tragedy that took place 12 years ago, Erwin broke into tears.

It was his brother Jesus, the man with a bloodied shirt being dragged by fellow farmworkers, that became the image of Hacienda Luisita massacre. Six others fell to the ground as government troops opened fire at the striking workers of the vast sugar estate controlled by the clan of Cojuangco Aquinos.

“I remember how bullets rained on us,” Erwin told Bulatlat. “A sniper positioned inside the CAT [Central Azucarera de Tarlac] shot my brother.”

Erwin Laza recalls how his brother Jesus was shot dead on Nov. 16, 2004. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)
Erwin Laza recalls how his brother Jesus was shot dead on Nov. 16, 2004. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)
“Until now, there is no justice,” Erwin said. “We are calling on the new administration to hold all the perpetrators accountable.”

During the Aquino administration, all the criminal and administrative charges filed against military and police officials were dismissed by the Ombudsman’s Military and Law Enforcement Offices. Meanwhile, the charges against civilian respondents including former president Benigno Noynoy Aquino III, then representative of the second district of Tarlac, were earlier junked by the Ombudsman on July 11, 2005.

Murder, multiple frustrated murder, multiple attempted murder, serious and less serious physical injuries were filed for the death of seven farmworkers, wounding of at least 72 individuals, 27 of whom sustained gunshot wounds.

Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Maj. Gen. Romeo Dominguez, then commanding officer of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), Police Chief Supt. Quirino dela Torre, then director of Philippine National Police (PNP)-Region 3, and Sr. Supt. Angelo Sunglao, then PNP-Tarlac provincial director and ground commander during the massacre were among those charged. Not one has been held responsible.

Such elusive justice is the reason why Violeta Basilio could not move on. Violeta said the death of her son Jhaivie still pains her. Jhaivie, the only boy among her four children, was only 20 when he was killed.

Like Erwin, Violeta appealed to the Duterte administration to punish all those involved in the Nov. 16, 2004 massacre.

Violeta also hopes that they could continue tilling their land.

On Aug. 25, the Department of Agrarian Reform junked the protest filed by the Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco) against the coverage of 358 hectares of land in barangays Balete and Cutcut in Tarlac City in the agrarian reform program.

Violeta, who has joined the cultivation campaign in barangay Mapalacsiao, said that they recently had their first harvest of palay after a long while. Under Aquino, their crops were repeatedly destroyed by security guards and policemen.

“It’s for the land that my son died. I don’t want his sacrifices to be in vain,” Violeta said. ()

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