“Justice remains elusive but his death would not be for naught if we continue what my father fought for.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
HACIENDA LUISITA, Tarlac – Alberto Ramento III or Altres to his colleagues held a tarpaulin bearing the photograph of his father, the late Supreme Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI).
Wearing a white polo uniform of the IFI seminarians, Altres, 40, joined the program paying tribute for Hacienda Luisita martyrs at the Mapalacsiao village inside the Hacienda Luisita, Oct. 16. The Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) consider the late bishop as one of the heroes of Hacienda Luisita farmers.
Bishop Ramento, a staunch supporter of Hacienda Luisita farmers, was stabbed to death inside the Parish of San Sebastian in Tarlac City on Oct. 3, 2006.
Eight years later, Altres pledged to continue his father’s selfless service to the poor. “Justice remains elusive but his death would not be for naught if we continue what my father fought for,” Altres told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
Support for the 2004 strike
Bishop Ramento gave his all-out support to the striking farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita in 2004. Altres, who served as his driver and personal assistant, recalled that he often brought his father to the picketline in front of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac.
The United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu) went on strike after the termination of over 300 workers and the Central Azucarera Labor Union (Catlu) reached a deadlock in the negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement with the management. On Nov. 16, 2004, state security forces opened fire resulting in the death of seven farmworkers, known as the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
Bishop Ramento was in the thick of the fight of the struggle of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers. He provided moral and material support and solicited support from other individuals and institutions. During this time, Altres said, his father constantly received death threats through text messages.
When IFI priest Fr. William Tadena was murdered on March 13, 2005, Altres said his father knew the threats were for real. Like Bishop Ramento, Tadena supported the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers.
“Tatay (Father) even told us he was expecting he would be the first target, not Fr. Tadena. He was so brave the threats did not stop him from his activities,” Altres recounted.
Such death threats convinced the Ramento family that the murder was politically motivated. This is contrary to the local police’s conclusion that the killing of the late Bishop was incidental to robbery. Four suspects were detained after the incident but all of them were eventually released, according to Altres.
“Who would benefit from the killing? Clearly, the Cojuangco-Aquinos were the most affected by what my father did,” Altres said.
Hacienda Luisita has been under the control of the clan of President Benigno Aquino III for more than 50 years. On April 12, 2012, the Supreme Court issued its final ruling ordering the distribution of land to the thousands of farmworkers.
Altres prepares himself for a long battle ahead. He said the land dispute in Hacienda Luisita is far from being resolved as the Cojuangco-Aquinos are doing everything to maintain control of the land.