The Hacienda Luisita Massacre: How It Happened

A number of strikers were hurt, among them Catlu president Ricardo Ramos who was hit on the head.

But Tua said the strikers held their ground until the police were forced to leave before sunset.

Upon the intervention of Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, three Catlu leaders (including Tua) and two others from ULWU traveled to Makati City in Metro Manila the following for a 10 a.m. meeting with Jose Cojuangco, Jr. in his mansion.

In a press conference last Nov. 18, Ocampo related how Cojuangco – brother of former President Aquino – reacted to his request for dialogue. “Kung ayaw ko nang papasukin sa bahay ko, bakit magpupumilit pa?” (If I do not want to accept someone in my home, why would he insist?). Ocampo replied, “Baka may karapatan din sila” (Maybe, he also has a right).

Tua said, “Ayaw kaming kausapin. Gusto si Ka Satur lang. Lumabas na kami.” (They did not want to talk to us. They only wanted Ka Satur. So we walked out.)

Tua said further, “Sabi niya (Peping), may AJ na ang DoLE” (Peping said the DoLE had issued an AJ). It was at this point, he said, that he feared something big was going to happen. He, along with the other union leaders, went back to Tarlac in haste.

True enough, while the Makati meeting was ongoing about 300 Army soldiers aboard 19 military trucks slipped through the east gate of the hacienda.

Final dispersal try

Emil Paragas, Karapatan Tarlac coordinator, was at the picket line outside Gate 1 to observe the strike. He related the full account of the Nov. 16 massacre.

Another major dispersal was at work, Paragas recalled, this time with the police reinforced by soldiers from the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) based at Camp Aquino which is just across the highway overlooking the hacienda. Policemen were at the frontline of the dispersal formation, he said. Behind them were agents of Nolcom. Three fire trucks and an armored personnel carrier (APC) were positioned inside Gate 1.

At 3:10 p.m., the police began using water cannons to drive away the protesters. A few minutes later, tear gas filled the air. Paragas said there were more than 200 canisters of tear gas thrown at the workers.

But the strikers were ready, Flor Sibayan, who was among them, recalled. They brought pails of water from nearby Balite village and used these to catch the tear gas canisters. Those that hit the ground were immediately covered with wet cloths and were spilled with water. “Para lang kaming nanghuhuli ng daga” (It was like we were catching mice), is how Sibayan described the incident.

The workers, Paragas said, were determined to maintain the picket line. “Bumabalik ang mga manggagawa kapag humuhupa na ang epekto ng tear gas” (Workers would return to the picket line every time the effect of the tear gas weakens).

Then, Paragas continued, thrice the APC rammed into the gate. Paragas said he heard workers shout, “Nagkasahan na” (Rifles were cocked).

Then, the shooting began. Paragas said he saw soldiers armed with long rifles position themselves on the open field at the right side of the sugar mill and at the left side of the gate. Gunshots also came from the gate, he said. There is a high probability, he said, that other soldiers positioned at the left side of the sugar mill used silencers.

Jun David, one of those killed, was hit from the left side of the CAT, he said. “Katabi ko siya nang tamaan siya ng bala. Wala siyang armas.” (He was beside me when he was hit. He was unarmed.) Soldiers gave chase as striking workers ran for safety toward the nearest barangay.

All told, the volley of gunfire lasted for two minutes, Paragas said. The Karapatan fact-finding mission later found spent shells of M-14 and M-16 rifles. Karapatan also said the soldiers used a 60-cal. machine gun.

The shooting killed seven union members and residents of Hacienda Luisita. They were David, Jhaivie Basilio, Jesus Laza, Jessie Valdez, Juancho Sanchez, Adriano Caballero Jr. and Jaime Pastidio.

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