There is a need for a network like Luisita Watch because the tyranny against farm workers in Hacienda Luisita is not being publicized.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A broad network of individuals and organizations in support of the continuing struggle of farm workers of Hacienda Luisita for genuine land reform and justice was launched. Dubbed as Luisita Watch, the network aims to call the attention of the public, the media and concerned state agencies on the renewed tensions at Hacienda Luisita.
Ranmil Echanis, secretary general of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) said there is a need for a network like Luisita Watch because the tyranny against farm workers in Hacienda Luisita is not being publicized. “We want these rights violations on the farm workers be exposed and to reach a wider audience,” said Echanis during the launching on Thursday, Feb. 20 at the College of Mass Communication auditorium of the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Echanis said Luisita Watch aims to:
1. Monitor the developments in the struggle of Luisita farm workers against deceptive and violent maneuvers that scuttle land distribution in Hacienda Luisita.
2. Keep the public informed of the real situation in Hacienda Luisita.
3. Pressure the government to uphold the farm workers’ moral, legal and historical claim to the lands of Hacienda Luisita, as well as their basic human rights.
4. Support the actions and campaigns of the Luisita farm workers and peasant advocate organizations for the implementation of genuine land reform in Hacienda Luisita.
5. Campaign for the resumption of court proceedings in relation to the infamous 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre whose victims have yet to be given justice after 10 years.
Rights violations continue
According to Luisita Watch, the escalating unrest is largely believed to be caused by both the dismal failure of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to implement land distribution and the oftentimes openly violent methods of the Conjuanco-Aquino’s Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) in claiming the 461 hectares of agricultural land.
In November and December last year, the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) has been destroying the land that the farm workers are tilling particularly in villages of Cutcut, Balete and Central. Up to now, Luisita Watch said harassment and intimidation directed against the farm workers continue.
“Twice, the court has ordered the distribution of land in Hacienda Luisita but it has not happened up to now,” said Christopher Garcia, spokesman of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala). Garcia is referring to the 1985 decision of the Manila Regional Trial Court to distribute the land of Hacienda Luisita to its farmers and the April 2012 decision of the Supreme Court.
“But what happened is that they destroyed our livelihood to pave way for the construction of buildings. They (Tadeco) bulldozed our farmlands where we get our food for everyday consumption and burned the huts of the farm workers,” said Garcia.
Angie Ipong of Tanggol Magsasaka said if the rights of the farm workers continue to be violated, the massacre in 2004 would most likely happen again. “We have to do something about this. That is why we are going to campaign for the resumption of court proceedings on the 2004 massacre to hold the perpetrators accountable and to give justice to those who were killed. We have to show that we are fighting for what is right.”
Maximize the social media
Since the stories of struggles of the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita seldom, if at all, get covered by the dominant media, one way of disseminating their plight is through the social media.
Danilo Arao, Assistant Dean of UP College of Mass Communication, also a member of the Luisita Watch vowed to support the struggle of the Hacienda Luisita farm workers. “There is a shortcoming on the part of the dominant media in covering issues like the struggles of Hacienda Luisita farmers. That is why there is a need to make their story viral and we can only do this in social media.”
“The internet has been the only consistent medium, during the last couple of years, where the travails of the Luisita farm workers with deception and terror have been made known to the public,” said Garcia.
Luisita Watch slammed the recent decision of the SC declaring that the provision on online libel contained in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 as constitutional.
“With the cybercrime law, the narrative of the oppressed but still struggling Luisita farm workers has been further disenfranchised,” Garcia said adding that Luisita advocates have been utilizing social media in exposing what they consider as the sham land distribution process in Luisita and the bankruptcy of the current agrarian reform program.
Despite the threat of online libel, Arao encouraged the people to maximize the social media in disseminating stories about the struggles of the Hacienda Luisita farmers until they receive the land that is rightfully theirs and justice is achieved.