PR: Six Years After Luisita Massacre: Gov’t-Sponsored Violence Still Lurks in Labor Disputes

16 November 2010

“The continuing denial of justice to murdered Hacienda Luisita farm workers in 2004 sends a chilling message to all Filipino workers: Bloody government intervention remains at the doorstep of every labor dispute, especially with a Cojuangco-Aquino in the presidency.”

This was the statement of labor NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) on the commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the infamous Hacienda Luisita massacre. On Nov. 16, 2004, seven striking Luisita farm workers were killed in the brutal dispersal of police and military forces in the Cojuangco clan’s sugar estate in Tarlac.

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“We are particularly concerned about how the Aquino administration will handle current labor disputes, taking cue from his family’s direct hand in the clampdown against the strike of Luisita farmers and farm workers six years ago,” said EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa-Colina.

“Moreover, it was President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, then Tarlac representative, who strongly defended the massacre and called the strike illegal. Now, it would be hard for workers to expect that this government will respect their right to strike,” she added.

Escresa-Colina noted that several unions are now up in protest against their employers’ anti-labor schemes, including ground employees and flight attendants of flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), and workers of Lopez-owned ABS-CBN Corp.

Last week, PAL’s ground employees announced that they are poised to launch a strike due to the company’s plan to lay off more than 2,600 workers through outsourcing. Meanwhile, retrenched ABS-CBN workers continue to man their picket lines in front of the company gates to call for their reinstatement and start of certification elections.

“It appears that there is no policy change in the way the government handles labor disputes, six years after the bloody massacre in Luisita. The same deadly Assumption of Jurisdiction orders are being planted in workplaces wherein workers want to exercise their democratic rights,” Escresa-Colina said.

The dispersal in Luisita in 2004 was “blessed” with an Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) order, the same order which the labor department issued within the year against the PAL cabin crew union and ground employees union.

“It should also be reiterated that the Luisita farm workers were just exercising their democratic right to strike and were acting within the confines of their constitutional rights when the government used military force against them. It is alarming how the government still fails to regard and treat unions as part of democratic institutions of a society up to now,” Escresa-Colina said.

She added that DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz also issued an AJ order against striking workers in Filipinas Palm Oil Industries, the country’s largest palm oil plantation and milling plant in Agusan del Sur.

Anna Leah Escresa-Colina
Executive Director
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER)

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