In the press conferences held at the picket line, Ramos was always heard saying, “Kung hindi maayos ang problema ng ULWU, hindi kami papayag na mag-operate ang mill. Hanggat nandito ang ULWU sa Gate 1, hindi rin kami aalis dito. Mahal naming mga manggagawa ang mga tao ng asyenda.” (Unless the problems of ULWU are settled, we will also not allow the mill to operate. As long as ULWU is in strike, we will stay here with them. We, workers, care for the hacienda farm workers.)
Witnesses to the killing of Ramos have said two military men inquired about him a few hours before his murder.
Police investigators named the two as Army Sgts. Roderick “Joshua” dela Cruz and Romeo Castillo Jr. The two have been summoned for questioning but Supt. Bienvenido Manga, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said it was not yet necessary to put them under arrest.
Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, commander of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (ID PA), has denied that the two suspected soldiers are from their ranks.
But Sarate said the rest of the union officers and members have no doubt that it was soldiers who gunned down their leader because Ramos went against the presence and operations of the military in the hacienda.
Around 300 soldiers from Nolcom were deployed inside the hacienda when the strike started last year. There are military detachments in all 11 villages inside the hacienda except in two – Mapalacsiao and Balete. As village chief, Ramos frowned on the establishment of a detachment inside his village. It was the same with Barangay captain Rodel Galang of Balete. Ramos also did not allow soldiers to rent a house inside their village.
In two separate occasions, Ramos led his constituents in a barricade to stop the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project (SCTEP). This 90-kilometer government project will stretch through six villages in the hacienda, eating up at least 77 hectares. The project is the sixth in Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 10-point program.
In recent Bulatlat news articles, it was reported that the human barricades against the expressway construction were being harassed by soldiers deployed in the hacienda. But Sarate said that since the presence of the military could not frighten the people, the contractors or the SCTEP belonging to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) tried to bribe Ramos the amount of P1.2 million just so he would allow the project to continue.
Ramos refused the amount, Sarate said.
Earlier, Director Ibra Omar, executive director of Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance (BALA) and Center for Land Use Planning, Policy and Implementation (CLUPPI), issued a hold order to the expressway project. This was in response to the ULWU petition that the project should be stopped because it had no conversion orders.
Sarate blamed the Cojuangcos for allowing the military inside the hacienda.
In a separate interview, Tarlac Rep. (second ditrict) Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, third generation heir to the sugar estate, said the presence of the military is to protect the people of the hacienda from the “bad elements of the society.” The estate has been declared a “national security threat” after the Nov. 16 massacre when the Cojuangcos and the military claimed that members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were among the strikers.
But Sarate said it was clear to them that it is the interest of the Cojuangcos that the military protects. He said the soldiers would go on house-to-house campaigns and tell the hacienda workers, “Hindi naman sa inyo yung lupa bakit nyo inaangkin?” (The land is not yours, why are you stealing it?)
This military campaign, Sarate said, actually intensified after the DAR recommended the revocation of the Stock Distribution Plan (SDP), a provision under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that allowed landlords to operate their landholdings as corporations.
Sarate further said the Cojuangcos have actually allowed the military to use the facilities in the hacienda. A tour around the estate would show that the military are stationed in the office of HLI operations manager Rocky Lopa and that detachments have been put up beside the Aqua Farm near Barangay Balete, the HLI offices and other company buildings.
Sarate said their union also holds Macapagal-Arroyo responsible for the killing of Ramos and the intensified military operations in the hacienda. “As Commander in Chief of the armed forces, she gives orders to the soldiers. The way the military is operating in our area and the whole region of Central Luzon, it’s as if she has given the military a blanket authority to execute those who are fighting for their rights and livelihood,” he said. (Bulatlat.com)