Before the coffin bearing the remains of Tarlac City Councilor Abelardo Ladera, the ninth Hacienda Luisita martyr, was buried, it was opened for his family and barriomates one last time. It took however almost an hour before the people could finish their goodbye: young ones took pictures of him with their cellular phones; the older ones patted the coffin, with whispers of “Salamat po, salamat po” (thank you, thank you) while a woman asked with a break in her voice, “Bakit ka nila pinatay, wala na kaming kasama.” (Why did they kill you, we no longer have someone to help us.)
BY ABNER BOLOS
TARLAC CITY – Before the coffin bearing the remains of Tarlac City Councilor Abelardo R. Ladera, the ninth Hacienda Luisita martyr, was buried, it was opened for his family and barriomates one last time. It took however almost an hour before the people could finish their goodbye: young ones took pictures of him with their cellular phones; the older ones patted the coffin, with whispers of “Salamat po, salamat po” (thank you, thank you) while a woman asked with a break in her voice, “Bakit ka nila pinatay, wala na kaming kasama.” (Why did they kill you, we no longer have someone to help us.)
The day before he was shot, Tarlac City Councilor Abelardo R. Ladera was at the provincial office of the Department of Land Reform (DLR) in Tarlac City to obtain documents on the controversial stock distribution option (SDO) implemented by the Cojuangco-Aquino family in Hacienda Luisita.
Provincial agrarian reform officer Alfredo Reyes was effusive in saying he has long wanted to meet the popular city councilor. On the table, he handed to Ladera a sheaf of documents containing the SDO compliance report of Hacienda Luisita, Inc. and the corporation’s response to two petitions questioning the SDO submitted by the farm worker beneficiaries and, strangely, from a group of plantation supervisors.
In death and in life, the slain councilor is surrounded by people who admire and love him (Photo by Pokus Gitnang Luson News Service)
Through the brief but official meeting, Ladera again helped in clearing the way for the resolution of the four-month old bitter labor dispute at the hacienda. The United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU), the 5,000-strong plantation workers’ union, has been given the run around by the DLR national and regional offices for the past two years and has failed to obtain copies of the documents that they consider vital in clarifying the issues that led to the strike.
At noon of the next day, March 3, while on his way home, a single sniper’s bullet pierced his heart, killing him instantly. News of his death reverberated throughout the hacienda, and later, the nation. For the angry and grieving people of Hacienda Luisita, they have lost a hero.
At the time of his death, the negotiations to end the strike were nearing another impasse. Ladera, who played a key role in brokering the on-going direct talks between management and the striking workers, knew that the SDO had a lot to do with why management refuses to reinstate union officers and members—an issue which has proven to be the biggest stumbling block in the negotiations.
“A review on how SDO was implemented in Hacienda Luisita will reveal illegal acts committed by management to deprive us of our jobs and our claim on the land. The Cojuangco-Aquino family has hidden from us and the public a lot of things (about the SDO),” ULWU president Rene Galang told Bulatlat in an interview. The documents Ladera obtained from DLR, said Galang, will somehow expose such acts.
“My brother has no personal enemies. Only the Cojuangco-Aquino family and the generals of the Northern Luzon Command have the motive and the means to kill my brother,” Emily Ladera-Facunla, Ladera’s sister, told Bulatlat. She said her brother had supported the cause of the workers even before the strike.
Hacienda Luisita kid
The life and death of Ladera – Kagawad Abel to friends – can best be understood in the context of the struggle of the people of Hacienda Luisita. He grew up in a worker family’s home in Barangay Balite, one of the 10 barangays (villages) that comprise the 6,000 ha. sugar plantation owned by the family of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.
Life in the hacienda has always been harsh. Income of workers from the sugar plantation and mill is barely enough for daily survival. Very few children, especially from farm worker families, are able to reach or finish college.
Ladera’s mother Rosalina, 63, used to be a farm worker. His father Leonardo, 67, who also worked at the sugar mill, had to work abroad for 21 years in the Middle East to support the education of his children.
Pingback: Call for justice for slain Luisita farmworker, supporters reverberates « Bulatlat
Pingback: Harassed but unbowed | Emily Ladera-Facunla: Fighting for Luisita farmers « Bulatlat
Pingback: Kagawad Abel « Bulatlat