“Ruthless impunity and agrarian unrest hang over Hacienda Luisita. It’s like President Aquino is setting the stage for more bloodshed.” – Florida “Pong” Sibayan, Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala)
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Justice is nowhere to be found.
More than three years after the union president of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (Catlu) was killed, a local court acquitted anew another soldier implicated in the killing.
According to a report, Regional Trial Court Judge Ma. Magdalena A. Balderama acquitted Private First Class Roderick U. Dela Cruz of murder charges for the death of Ricardo Ramos. At the time of the death of Ramos, Dela Cruz was assigned to the Special Operations Team of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
Ramos, also village captain of Mapalacsiao, was shot dead inside a hut in the evening of October 25, 2005. That same morning, Ramos led the release of the earned wages of sugar mill workers, a victory the union achieved after the joint Catlu and United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu) strike in 2004.
Witnesses identified Dela Cruz and another soldier, Romeo Castillo Jr. as perpetrators of the crime. The case against Castillo was immediately dismissed.
Ramos was a vocal critic of the military presence in the hacienda during the Luisita strike. After the strike, the military established detachments in all Luisita villages except for Mapalacsiao and Balete, where residents led by their village chairmen actively opposed the army’s proposals.
In a statement, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) said the acquittal of Dela Cruz “leaves a chilling effect and amid continued and grave rights violations in Hacienda Luisita.”
“Ruthless impunity and agrarian unrest hang over Hacienda Luisita. It’s like President Aquino is setting the stage for more bloodshed,” Florida “Pong” Sibayan, acting chairwoman of Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said.
Uma noted that the acquittal of Dela Cruz comes at a time when the Cojuangco firm Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) has ordered the clearing of farmers’ crops and homes in some 400 hectares of agricultural lands in Balete and Cutcut villages.
On December 12, Tadeco’s security guards, military forces belonging to the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion (3rd Mech), the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) and provincial police personnel bulldozed the farm lots of seven farmers in Balete village.
Tadeco has also filed charges of unlawful detainer against more than 100 farmers in Balete and Cutcut villages.
Since the DAR’s so-called land distribution activities in July, the Cojuangco-Aquinos have cordoned off farm lands and dispersed farmers who tried to repair farm huts destroyed by typhoon Santi. Tadeco security guards are also suspect in the mysterious death of Ambala member Dennis de la Cruz last November 1.
“The acquittal of ‘Kap’ Ric Ramos’ killer comes as no surprise, when one of the main perpetrators of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre now sits as the most powerful person in the country,” Sibayan said.