We denounce the bloody dispersal of the strike at the Hacienda Luisita (HL) last November 16, 2004 by elements of the AFP, the PNP and HL security guards that left seven dead, scores wounded and more than a hundred illegally arrested from the ranks of the mill workers and farm laborers. We deplore that their cries for food, jobs and justice have been met with a hail of bullets coming from those who profess to be protectors of the people.
The Hacienda is a vast estate covering 6,453 hectares of fertile and productive land owned by the more than 5,000 workers and farm laborers whose labor has made it possible to earn hundreds of millions of pesos in annual income. But by virtue of the Stocks Distribution Option (SDO) and other questionable schemes that included the conversion of some 500 hectares of land for commercial, industrial and recreational purposes, the workers have suffered diminishing workdays to only 1 to 2 a week that, in many cases, earns them a measly P9.50 take-home pay after deductions. These schemes also provided the management a ready excuse to retrench 327 farm laborers, including 9 officers of their union, a clear case of union busting, and ignore the grievances of the mill workers during the CBA talks resulting in a deadlock.
We find it immoral that the powerful Cojuangco-Aquino clan that has managed and controlled Hacienda Luisita for decades continues to get the biggest share of its bounty that affords them a life of luxury and ease that most Filipinos can only dream of. In contrast, the workers and their families are not permitted to cultivate even a tiny vegetable plot to relieve their hunger and want.
We consider it condemnable that the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), the police and the military effectively became the instruments of management to violently disperse the combined strike of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) three times before eventually leading to the bloody carnage of November 16.
We deplore the recent lop-sided decision of DOLE Secretary Patricia Sto Tomas on the CATLU strike which resulted in the punitive firing out of union officers who are leading the workers’ struggle and the grant of economic benefits that are only slightly better than that offered by management. This oppressive decision adds fuel to the fire at Hacienda Luisita and is bound to lead to more human rights abuse and violent clashes between the strikers, their supporters and government authorities.
We stand and fight for justice to be rendered to those slain, wounded, unjustly arrested and all the workers in Hacienda Luisita. We are resolutely in solidarity with the striking workers in Hacienda Luisita. We reject any attempt to blame the victims themselves for the carnage and strongly oppose the whitewashing of government responsibility and accountability.
We therefore pledge to:
1. Support the filing and prosecution of criminal, civil and administrative cases against those responsible for the massacre, from the masterminds to the perpetrators.
2. Support continuing investigation into the facts, circumstances and underlying causes of the massacre as well as subsequent, related cases of human rights violations.
3. Expose the unjust and inhumane working and living conditions of sugar mill workers, farm workers and their families in Hacienda Luisita and work to reform these.
4. Uphold the workers’ right to strike, to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech and to form their unions and other democratic organizations and oppose suppression of these rights.
5. Support the legitimate demands of the sugar mill and farm workers including their ongoing strike and protest actions to assert and defend their democratic rights.
6. Gather the broadest support for genuine land reform at HL to include the thoroughgoing review of the SDO scheme with a view to its revocation should it be proven a failure in terms of improving the lot of its supposed beneficiaries.
7. Gather the broadest support for the repeal of all labor laws and issuances that oppress and exploit the workers.
Finally, we call on the Filipino people to join hands in working for a truly just, democratic, peaceful and prosperous Philippine society.
Signed, this 18th of January, 2005
University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City