By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — The Aquino sisters — Maria Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz, Aurora Corazon “Pinky” Aquino-Abellada and Victoria Eliza “Viel” Aquino-Dee — were on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday to defend their brother, Liberal Party presidential candidagte Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III from the Hacienda Luisita issue.
In the report, the three Aquinos said “they also want out of the Hacienda Luisita.” Pinky was quoted saying that even when their mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, was still alive, “we really wanted out of that place except that nobody would buy our minority share.”
They admitted that the Hacienda Luisita issue is affecting their brother’s candidacy. They then went on to defend their family and how it handled the Hacienda Luisita issue. At one point, they said the farmers on the hacienda that have been demanding the distribution of the estate were “pretty spoiled.”
Peasant leaders did not let the comments from the Aquino sisters pass. “If they think that insulting Luisita farmers can help Noynoy’s campaign, they are absolutely wrong. They are further isolating their brother Noynoy from the peasantry, agrarian reform advocates, and the Filipino people,” Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said in a statement.
He added that “the feeling is mutual. Luisita farmers, in fact, are longing for the day that the Cojuangco-Aquino’s control of the hacienda comes to an end.”
Willy Marbella, deputy secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, told Bulatlat that Aquino seems to be using his sisters to shield him from the real issue, which is the absence of a genuine agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita.
Mariano said that the fact that the farmers have been fighting for their land for half a century now only means that the Cojuangcos have no interest in letting go of the 6,000 hectare land.
In a statement, KMP secretary- general Danilo Ramos said that “we thought the Cojuangco-Aquino sisters are intelligent, but (their statement) shows that they are dumb when it comes to history.” He said farmers have working on the land even before they were born. “She (Pinky) does not even know how his grandfather acquired the lands using public funds,” Ramos added.
“It is really infuriating to hear stupid statements saying that the revocation of Stock Distribution Option was mainly due to a clash of the ruling cliques of Cojuangco-Aquino and Macapagal-Arroyo,” Ramos said. He said the revocation of the SDO was a fruit of the farm workers’ struggle. “The Aquinos should stop giving credit to their ally, the Arroyo administration, who is side-by-side with the Cojuangcos in attacking the farm workers’ strike that led to the massacre of farmers on Nov. 16, 2004,” Ramos said.
“I am wondering if Noynoy’s sisters are even reading or watching the news,” Ramos said. The SDO, he said, caused poverty for the Hacienda Luisita agri-workers and farmers, reduced the farmers’ take-home pay to P9.50, resulted in a cutdown in working hours as well as massive retrenchment.
Farm workers dubbed as stockholders is only pleasant to the ears, Willy Marbella of KMP told Bulatlat. “They are stockholders who were not even allowed to enter the office of Hacienda Luisita,” he said.
In a text message, United Luisita Workers Union chairman Lito Bais said in Filipino: “Yes, we are poor peasants but it does not mean that we are dumb not to understand the lies and deceptions that they are telling the public.”
Bais belied the statement of Cruz that farm workers were given free medical services. “It’s funny because they always boast the medical services. We have already said in the past that we pay for our own medical expenses.” In previous interviews, Bais and other workers said that although they were admitted to the Cojuangco hospital without deposits, whatever cost of the hospitalization were later deducted from their salaries.
Bais also said that they have long proved that the victims of the massacre in 2004 were workers of the Hacienda Luisita. “If the bullets were coming from the rallyists, there should have been at least one (member of the military) who were wounded or killed,” he said.
Since Aquino announced his intention to run for presidency, the clamor by the farm workers to land became even stronger, Ramos said. “It is misleading to say that Noynoy only owns 1/32 of the hacienda,” Ramos said. “The agri-workers and farmers are not asking him to resolve the issue as a stockholder but as a presidential wannabe who has said he could realize reforms in society,” he said.
Marbella suggested that the Aquino sisters should study the political economic situation of the country. “The Philippines is an agricultural country. It is rich in natural resources but the Filipinos remain poor because the riches of the country are concentrated in the hands of the few, ruling families like them.” (Bulatlat.com)