“National minorities – 24 lumad from the Manobo tribe and some Calagan Moros were also exploited to work for a measly P9.46 a day – the same paltry sum that the Cojuangco-Aquinos gave their ‘stockholders’ 12 years ago.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Eighteen sakadas from Mindanao who experienced ‘slave-like working conditions’ filed complaints against their recruiters and employers today, Jan. 25.
The sakadas or migratory agricultural workers filed the complaints with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) Region 3 against Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, Agrikulto Inc., and Central Azucarera de Tarlac.
According to Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the sakadas, including women and infants, escaped from Hacienda Luisita, Jan. 15. They were recruited from Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, South Cotabato and Compostela Valley by Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative to work in the vast sugar plantation in Hacienda Luisita and other parts of Central Luzon.
On Monday, Jan. 23, eighteen other sakadas also filed labor cases with NLRC-Region 10 in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
UMA said at least four minors were among the victims.
During the Christmas holidays, 52 sakadas recruited from Bukidnon province were rescued by UMA and its local affiliate Onyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (Ogyon). Early this month, 36 among the first batch of sakadas to leave Hacienda Luisita filed complaints with the NLRC Region 3 in San Fernando City, Pampanga.
The sakadas worked from 4 a.m. until 5 p.m. for a pay way below the minimum wage of P334 per day in Tarlac. They received P9 to P128 (US$0.18 to $2.6) per day due to numerous deductions.
The sakadas cut and hauled cane for Agrikulto Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac. The mill is jointly owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos and Martin Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo landlord family of Mindanao.
The Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Central Luzon today staged a picket-protest in front of the NLRC Region 3 in support of Mindanao sakadas who were exploited in Hacienda Luisita.
Danilo Ramos, UMA secretary general, said Greenhand, the Cojuangco-Aquinos and Martin Lorenzo are also guilty of massive human trafficking and ill treatment of hundreds of sakadas from Mindanao.
UMA noted that the Greenhand’s registration states that it is a cooperative exclusively engaged in job contracting for pineapple plantation operations in Polomolok, South Cotabato.
“National minorities – 24 lumad from the Manobo tribe and some Calagan Moros were also exploited to work for a measly P9.46 a day – the same paltry sum that the Cojuangco-Aquinos gave their ‘stockholders’ 12 years ago,” Ramos said.
UMA said the operations of Greenhand must be stopped and its license forfeited to prevent it from recruiting new sakadas.
Luisita farmers in solidarity with sakadas
Farmer-beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita also joined today’s protest in support of the Mindanao sakadas.
Francisco Dizon, one of the leaders of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), said they were also paid only P9.50 per week 12 years ago for their toil as ‘stockholders’ under the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) land reform scheme.
Dizon said that despite the Supreme Court ruling for the distribution of Hacienda Luisita, “the Cojuangco-Aquinos and their new partner, Martin Lorenzo are still encroaching on our lands through the illicit aryendo or leaseback scheme.”
Cash-strapped farmer-beneficiaries were lured to sell or lease their land to sugar planters.
UMA emphasized that the plight of the sakadas proves that land reform in Hacienda Luisita is a total sham. Ramos said there would be no need to import sakadas from Mindanao if land reform was truly implemented. He said that local farmworkers have been clearly disenfranchised by the illicit aryendo and the ‘tambiolo’ land reform scheme during the Aquino administration.