Luisita Magsasaka


After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest

After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest

By STEPHANIE DYCHIU

02/11/2010 | 02:51 PM

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Fourth of a series

(Part 4 of this special report on Hacienda Luisita begins in December 2004, the month after the Luisita massacre. Recognizing that Luisita will be a major campaign issue this year and has divided even presidential candidate Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s own allies, GMANews.TV has been researching the issues surrounding the Cojuangco-owned hacienda for the past three months. Editor-in-chief Howie Severino has been working closely with the author in producing this report.)

The massacre did not put an end to the workers’ protest. Nor did it put an end to the violence.

After the wake for the victims, the picket lines were reestablished at various points around the hacienda. Soon after, however, eight people who supported the farmers’ cause or had evidence supporting their case were murdered one by one.

The killings began on the night of December 8, 2004, when Marcelino Beltran, a retired army officer turned peasant leader who was about to testify on bullet trajectories at the Senate and Congress on December 13 and 14, 2004, was assassinated in his house. Beltran’s 18-year-old son Mark said in a December 10, 2004 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer that his father stepped out of the house to see why the dog was barking. Mark said he heard his father call out “Who’s there?” but there was no answer. Seconds later, he heard gunshots.

Beltran was rushed to the hospital by family members in a tricycle, but he bled to death along the way. Beltran was home on the day he was killed spending his birthday in advance with his family, because he was set to join a march on December 10, Human Rights Day, the actual date of his birthday.

Noynoy escorts tagged in shooting

Less than a month later, on January 5, 2005, picketers George Loveland and Ernesto Ramos were shot at the west gate of Las Haciendas subdivision inside Hacienda Luisita, where they were manning a checkpoint. Both survived, but suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and stomach.

In his sworn testimony on January 12, 2005 at the Senate hearing on the shooting, Loveland said he recognized his assailants as plainclothes security men who were with then-Congressman Noynoy Aquino’s convoy when Aquino entered Las Haciendas subdivision three days before (January 2, 2005).

Something else Loveland said in his testimony seemed immaterial at that time, but is worth noting now in light of the SCTEx (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway) issue hounding Senator Aquino.

Noynoy ‘s “superhighway”

Before entering Las Haciendas on January 2, 2005, Loveland said, Aquino alighted from his vehicle and addressed the picketers about a “superhighway”.

Loveland’s account of what Aquino said is in the transcript of the Senate hearing.


LOVELAND: Sinasabi niya po yung hinihingi daw po niyang pabor yung sa superhighway na hinihingi niya . . . (He was talking about a favor for the superhighway that he was asking for . . .)

SENATOR OSMEÑA: Ano tungkol sa superhighway (What about the superhighway)?

LOVELAND: Project niya daw po, sir . . . (He said it was his project . . . )

OSMEÑA: Ano ang hiningi ni Congressman Aquino (What did Congressman Aquino ask for)?

LOVELAND: Yung ipatupad, sir, yung kuwan expressway, sir (To let it happen, sir, the expressway, sir).

OSMEÑA: Yung galing sa Subic at Clark (The one from Subic and Clark)?

Long before the rest of the country had even heard of SCTex, the farm workers back then were protesting the construction of the Luisita interchange of the highway, and had even tried blocking it with their bodies. The construction led to the loss of a large tract of the hacienda’s land, which the farm workers were claiming, to non-agricultural use.

In his testimony, Loveland said one of the men who were with Aquino went up to him and said the picketers should agree to a settlement. He warned them to be careful, then entered the subdivision.

Three days later, Loveland said, the man and some companions figured in an altercation with the picketers and opened fire on them at the gate.


The January 5, 2005 Shooting at the West Gate of Las Haciendas Subdivision

On January 5, 2005 (or nearly two months after the Luisita massacre), some 20 picketers were manning the picket point at the west gate of Las Haciendas subdivision inside Hacienda Luisita.

According to Police Chief Superintendent Angelo Sunglao of the Tarlac City PNP, at about 10:40 pm, a Nissan Patrol drove up to the gate from inside the subdivision, and an altercation ensued between the picketers and the men on board the vehicle. Continue reading

Sen. Aquino declined through his staff to be interviewed. Questions sent to him about the above incident went unanswered. But GMANews.TV combed the web and newspaper archives for any statements he made about the incidents in this series of reports. His staff also emailed to GMANews.TV several statements of Sen. Aquino on other Luisita-related issues. These statements were included below and other parts of the series.

Noynoy denies link to SCTEx project

In November 2009, an investigation into the SCTEx project was launched in Congress by Aquino’s political rivals. Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla, an ally of Senator Manny Villar, accused Aquino of lobbying for the Luisita interchange of the SCTEx, saying the government paid Hacienda Luisita, Inc (HLI) an inflated amount of P83 million for the road right of way, and assumed the cost of building a P170-million interchange to connect the Central Techno Park inside his family’s hacienda to the SCTEx.


The SCTEX Issue

The 94-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) is presently the longest highway in the Philippines. It connects the Subic Bay Freeport, the Clark Freeport, and Tarlac City.

The Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) was the government arm that oversaw the implementation of the project. According to the BCDA, 85% of the P27 billion cost to build the SCTEx was financed through funds borrowed by the government from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). Continue reading

In a November 12, 2009 report of GMANews.TV, Aquino denied he had anything to do with the project. He attributed the reports linking him to the SCTEx issue to character assassination because he was leading surveys for the presidential elections.

Loveland’s statements about Aquino and the superhighway, however, were recorded five years ago, before anyone had an inkling Aquino would run for president.

City councilor murdered

On March 3, 2005, Councilor Abel Ladera, the man who led the mourners’ procession during the wake for the massacre victims, was killed in broad daylight by a sniper bullet to the chest while buying spare parts at an auto shop.

Ladera was a former sugar mill worker who grew up in one of the barangays of Hacienda Luisita. He became an engineer, then a city councilor. Ladera was at the forefront of the fight against land conversion.

He was also scheduled to make a presentation on March 8, 2005 to an assembly of barangay captains to disprove the claim of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that the violent dispersal on November 16, 2004 occurred because shots were fired from the ranks of the strikers.

The day before he was killed, March 2, 2005, Ladera accessed critical documents regarding Luisita’s Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and Land Use Conversion Plan from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The documents were sealed from the public, but Ladera was able to access them because he was a government official.

In its March 4, 2005 report on the shooting of Ladera, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said Ladera told the paper in an interview a few days before he was killed that resolving the conflict in Hacienda Luisita was going to take time because management did not want to settle matters. The Inquirer reported that Ladera, who was supporting the hacienda’s two labor unions, had earlier sponsored resolutions in the Tarlac city council calling for a congressional review of Luisita’s SDO and other issues.

Rep. Noynoy Aquino denounced Ladera’s murder in the report, saying, “Although he was a leftist, he was willing to talk. He shouldn’t have been killed. Even though we had differences, he believed in dialogue rather than in taking up arms to achieve their goals.”


The murder of Abel Ladera

Tarlac City Councilor Abel Ladera, who was murdered on March 3, 2005, was a former sugar mill worker who grew up in one of the barangays of Hacienda Luisita. He became an engineer, then a city councilor.

Because of his background, Ladera was very active in issues involving human rights and labor and employment. He played a key role in negotiations between the management of Hacienda Luisita and the two unions, ULWU (United Luisita Workers’ Union) and CATLU (Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union). Ladera was also at the forefront of the fight against land conversion. Continue reading

Priest and peasant leaders shot dead

On March 13, 2005, Father William Tadena, an Aglipayan priest who had mobilized his parish to regularly donate rice and groceries to the workers at the picket line before saying a weekly mass for them, was shot dead in his owner-type jeep on the provincial highway in La Paz, Tarlac while on his way to his next mass.

On March 17, 2005, “Tatang” Ben Concepcion, a 67-year-old peasant leader of party-list group Anakpawis in Pampanga, who supported the strikers in Luisita despite his old age and lung and heart ailments, was shot dead in his daughter’s house in Angeles City (40 minutes from Tarlac City). He had just been released from the hospital and was recuperating in his daughter’s house.

On October 15, 2005, Flor Collantes, the secretary general of party-list group Bayan Muna in Tarlac, was killed while cleaning fish in his carinderia.

Union president killed

On October 25, 2005, Ric Ramos, the president of the union of the sugar mill workers (Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union or CATLU), was killed by an M-14 sniper bullet in his hut where he was celebrating with some companions.

Hours before he was killed, Ramos finished distributing cash benefits to the sugar mill workers after he successfully got the sheriff to confiscate sugar from management a few days before, says Lito Bais, current acting president of the union of the farm workers (United Luisita Workers Union or ULWU). According to Bais, management had been claiming it had no money to pay wages and benefits due to the workers.

“Pumunta si Ric Ramos sa DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), pina-sheriff niya ang bodega ng mga Cojuangco kung may mga asukal pa. Nakita puno ng asukal. Nagkasundo na ibebenta ng DOLE ang asukal, pagkatpos ibibigay ang pera sa mga manggagawa (Ric Ramos went to the Department of Labor. He asked the sheriff to inspect the warehouse of the Cojuangcos. It was full of sugar. An agreement was made for the Department of Labor to sell the sugar, with the proceeds to be given to the workers).”

After the sugar was sold, management tried to take charge of the distribution of the proceeds, says Bais. “Ang sabi ng mga Cojuangco, ‘andito ang payroll, dito na natin ipapamahagi ang pera ng mga manggagawa. Yung mga may utang sa amin, ipe-payroll deduction namin’ (The Cojuangcos said, ‘The payroll is here. We should give out the workers’ money here. We have to make payroll deductions for workers who have loans’).

But, Bais says, Ramos refused. “Sabi ng DOLE, ’Bigay niyo sa amin ang payroll, kami ang bahala. Kami ang gumawa ng paraan, kami ang gumawa ng pera, kami ang kailangan mangasiwa’ (The Department of Labor said, ‘Give us the payroll, we’ll take care of it. We were the ones who found a way, we made the money, so we should be the ones to administer’).”

It was agreed that the distribution of wages and benefits would be done at the barangay hall of Mapalacsiao, one of the villages inside Hacienda Luisita where Ramos was the barangay captain. “October 25 yun, masaya ang mga manggagawa ng sentral dahil natanggap nila ang benepisyo nila (That was October 25. The workers of the sugar central were happy because they got their benefits),” says Bais.

Ramos then held a small thanksgiving celebration. “Meron siyang kubo na ganito kataas. May lamesa sa gitna, nag-iinuman sila (He had a small hut that was about this high. There was a table in the middle, they were drinking),” says Bais. “October 25, mga 8 pm o 9 pm, binaril si Ramos ng sniper doon sa kubo nila. Makikita mo ang pinagdaanan ng M-14. Tamang-tama sa ulo niya. Kaya sumabog ang utak niya sa bubong niya (October 25, between 8 pm and 9 pm, Ramos was shot by a sniper in his hut. You could see the path of the M-14 bullet. It was aimed squarely at his head. That’s why his brain splattered all over his roof).”

Another version of the story

Another version of the story came out in the news. Ramos was said to be on the side of management, for which he was killed by leftists.

On October 27, 2005, two days after the murder of Ramos, Rep. Noynoy Aquino’s statement was reported in the Philippine Star: “I am shocked. My mother even more so. Ricardo Ramos has always treated me fairly, even at the height of the Luisita problem. The timing was also shocking, at a time when an agreement had been reached with two unions of the hacienda. In fact, Ramos was at a celebration when he was killed. It had been close to two years since the strike, and he was celebrating the end of a problem.” In the same report, the PNP said leftists were suspected of killing Ramos because he was cooperating with management.

A few days later, these statements were debunked by Nestor Arquiza, an officer of CATLU, the union headed by Ramos. In an October 31, 2005 report of the Philippine Star, Arquiza said three soldiers were seen running away from the scene of the crime immediately after Ramos was shot and were suspected of killing him.

Arquiza also belied the claim that Ramos had crossed over to the side of management, or that a final agreement had been concluded between Luisita management and the two labor unions. He said Ramos had negotiated with Ernesto Teopaco (uncle of Senator Noynoy Aquino) on October 20, 2005 to have some CATLU officers reinstated, but Ramos maintained that management should sign a simultaneous settlement with the other union ULWU before the strike could be declared resolved.

(The loyalty between the two unions, CATLU and ULWU, was key to the strength of their bargaining position. The strike that began in November 2004 and climaxed in the deadly dispersal was launched jointly by the two unions, and CATLU head Ric Ramos had also sent contingents to support the ULWU members in their protests against the construction of the SCTEx interchange, even though the sugar mill workers under CATLU had no claim on Hacienda Luisita’s land unlike the farm workers under ULWU.)

“(The Department of Labor and Employment) levied 8,000 bags of sugar from the sugar mill last October 22 because the company refused to pay the workers’ earned wages,” Arquiza reiterated in the Star report. “Proceeds from the sale of the sugar were used to pay the workers.” He said that the distribution of earned wages just before Ramos was killed was based on a DOLE order, not a directive of the hacienda’s management.

Meanwhile, in a November 2, 2005 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Ramos’s widow Lily said that before her husband was killed, he frequently warned her that he would be the next target for elimination after Councilor Abel Ladera’s muder in March 2005.

Luisita killings in impeachment complaint

The murders of Marcelino Beltran, Abel Ladera, Father William Tadena, Ben Concepcion, Flor Collantes, and Ric Ramos, as well as the shooting of George Loveland and Ernesto Ramos “by unidentified bodyguards of Rep. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino”, were part of the list of human rights violations described in the impeachment complaint filed against President Gloria Arroyo in Congress in October 2008. In the complaint, Arroyo was accused of turning a blind eye to the Hacienda Luisita killings “in collusion with the hacienda owners”. (Arroyo and the Cojuangco-Aquinos were close allies until the latter half of 2005.)

“The Cojuangco-Aquino family, in conspiracy with the military, the police, the paramilitary groups such as the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), and other hired agents/gunmen, has continued to harass, threaten and violate the rights of the hacienda people,” the impeachment complaint stated.

“Hello Garci” and Luisita

The year 2005 was a crucial turning point in the farm workers’ struggle in Luisita, and once again demonstrated the transcendental link between the hacienda and Malacañang that has been manifesting since the time of President Ramon Magsaysay.

Under pressure from public outrage over the November 2004 massacre, the Arroyo administration, through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), formed Task Force Stock Distribution on November 25, 2004 to study the causes of the workers’ strike. The Task Force was later renamed Task Force Luisita. In March 2005, teams were sent by the DAR to Luisita’s 10 barangays to investigate the SDO.

Three months later, while the investigation was ongoing, “Hello Garci” hit the country—and possibly turned the tide in Luisita.

Cory and Noynoy defend Gloria

In early June 2005, tapes of wiretapped phone conversations between President Gloria Arroyo and Comelec (Commission on Elections) official Virgilio Garcillano surfaced. This led to accusations that Arroyo cheated during the 2004 presidential elections, and a clamor rose up for her to resign.

The late former President Cory Aquino and son Noynoy initially defended Arroyo.

Even after Arroyo delivered her famous “I am sorry” speech on TV on June 27, 2005, which the public took as an admission of guilt, and which prompted Susan Roces, widow of Arroyo’s 2004 election opponent Fernando Poe, Jr., to deliver her own famous “not once, but twice” speech, Mrs. Aquino defended Arroyo, saying: “I am glad the President has broken her silence. Her admission of judgment lapses leading to improper conduct on her part is a truly welcome development. Tonight the President has made a strong beginning and I hope she will continue in the direction of better and more responsive governance. Let us pray for her and for all of us Filipinos.”

Rep. Noynoy Aquino, for his part, said in a June 29, 2005 report of the Philippine Star that President Arroyo should be commended for admitting her mistake. He said her televised apology was “a good start” for her administration.

Two days later, on July 1, 2005, the Philippine Star reported, “Cory went on TV yesterday and… warned against using extra-constitutional means to oust President Arroyo.” The article quoted Mrs. Aquino as saying she had gone to see Susan Roces to congratulate her on “the passion of her speech and the sincerity of her convictions”, but also to stress that she would always stand by the Constitution.

Noynoy votes against playing Garci tapes

At the fifth Congressional hearing on the Garci issue on June 30, 2005, three days after Arroyo’s televised “I am sorry” speech, Rep. Noynoy Aquino voted against playing the “Hello Garci” tapes.

“Tarlac Rep. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III disappointed his colleagues in the House when he voted on Thursday night against the playing of the audio tape, although an overwhelming majority had voted yes,” reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer on July 2, 2005.

“(Aquino’s actions) are no less than political payback” because President Arroyo was the “most powerful and influential patron” of the Cojuangco-Aquinos in the Hacienda Luisita dispute, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano said in the July 2, 2005 Inquirer report. Mariano said Arroyo knew what really happened during the Luisita massacre, and that was why Rep. Noynoy Aquino played “guardian angel” to Arroyo.

(Arroyo, whose candidacy in the 2004 presidential elections was supported by Noynoy and Kris Aquino, and who originally ascended to the presidency in 2001 after Cory Aquino and various groups led the campaign to oust President Joseph Estrada from office in EDSA 2, was suspected of aiding the Cojuangco-Aquinos during the November 2004 strike in Hacienda Luisita because of the involvement of the military in the dispersal and the Assumption of Jurisdiction that was declared by the Department of Labor.)

Unfazed by the criticism, both Noynoy and Cory Aquino continued to stand by Arroyo.

Cory and Noynoy drop Gloria

But on July 8, 2005, just a little over a week after Rep. Noynoy Aquino voted not to play the Garci tapes and Mrs. Aquino lauded Arroyo for her “I am sorry” speech before admonishing Susan Roces, the Aquinos dropped their support for Arroyo.

“I ask the President to spare our country and herself . . . and make the supreme sacrifice of resigning,” Mrs. Aquino said in statement issued to the press.

The day before she gave this statement, Mrs. Aquino met with President Arroyo in Malacañang. There were rumors of a shouting match, which Mrs. Aquino denied. “Yes, we met last Thursday, but there was no shouting,” she said in a July 12, 2005 report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “We just kissed each other goodbye.”

From then on, she and son Noynoy actively joined the calls for Arroyo to either resign or be impeached, and to this day the scorching rift between the Aquinos and Arroyos continues to rage.

Luisita—the reason behind Aquino-Arroyo rift?

Luisita farm workers that GMANews.TV spoke to believe the Aquinos’ abrupt withdrawal of support for Arroyo had something to do with the hacienda.

The Aquinos broke ties with Arroyo in July 2005, the same month the DAR’s Task Force Luisita submitted the findings and recommendations of its investigation. This formed the basis for the government’s decision a few months later to revoke Luisita’s Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and order the distribution of the hacienda’s land to the farmers.

The farm workers believe widespread condemnation of the involvement of the military in the massacre pressured the Arroyo government into taking action to absolve itself, causing the breakdown of its ties with the Cojuangco-Aquinos. The original petition the farm workers submitted (mentioned in Part 2 of this series) lay dormant at the DAR since it was filed in December 2003, but began to move after the November 2004 massacre.

By August 2005, a special legal team was formed by the DAR to review the report submitted by Task Force Luisita in July 2005. On September 23, 2005, the special legal team submitted its terminal report recommending the revocation of Luisita’s SDO agreement.

(It was reported in part one of this series that the Stock Distribution Option was included in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law enacted during the Aquino administration. That crucial provision enabled landowners like the Cojuangcos to give farmers shares of stock instead of land.)

On October 1, 2005, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Mrs. Aquino’s reaction to the allegations that she only wanted Arroyo to resign because of the hacienda. “To underscore the point that Cory Aquino should start behaving in a politically correct manner,” Mrs. Aquino told a gathering of teachers and students at Miriam College, “the Hacienda Luisita [issue] was resurrected, a familiar refrain from the years of the Marcos dictatorship.” She added, “If Luisita were the reason, then shouldn’t I have made sipsip or at the very least kept quiet?”

Cojuangcos suffering from “withdrawal syndrome”—Miriam

A few days later, Senator Miriam Santiago, Aquino’s former DAR Secretary in 1989, the year the SDO was implemented on Hacienda Luisita, reinforced the belief that the hacienda was a major motivating factor in the Aquinos’ moves to unseat President Arroyo .

“The Cojuangcos are suffering from acute withdrawal syndrome over the hacienda,” Santiago said in an October 3, 2005 report of the Philippine Star.

The report said “Santiago, for her part, recalled that in 1957, Jose Cojuangco, Sr. purchased Hacienda Luisita with money partially borrowed from the Central Bank of the Philippines Monetary Board and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) on the condition that the land would be distributed to small farmers.”

In 1985, Santiago said in the report, the Manila regional trial court (under President Marcos) ordered the Cojuangcos to sell the land to DAR for distribution to farmers. The Cojuangcos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals. Then Congress (under President Aquino) passed the agrarian reform law that allowed the SDO option in lieu of actual land distribution.

“For heaven’s sake, give it up and store up treasures in heaven,” was Santiago’s concluding advice.

DAR orders Luisita SDO revoked

On December 23, 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) formally ordered Luisita’s SDO revoked, and its lands put under compulsory acquisition.

Outside the hacienda, PARC’s order was seen as reprisal for the Aquinos’ call for President Arroyo to resign. Inside the hacienda, however, it was seen as justice served. Accustomed to political horse-trading deciding their fate, the farm workers rejoiced.

But the Cojuangco family would not give up the land without a fight. A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was obtained from the Supreme Court by June 2006 preventing PARC from revoking the SDO and distributing Hacienda Luisita’s land. This TRO has been in force for more than three years now.

More murders

Meanwhile, another union leader was killed on March 17, 2006. Tirso Cruz, one of the directors of ULWU, was walking home with his father and two brothers past midnight after attending a pasyon at a friend’s house when two men on motorcycles intercepted them and shot Cruz six times at close range.

In a report carried by the Philippine Star the next day, March 18, 2006, Cruz’s brother Ernesto said the gunmen, whose faces were covered with bandanas, made sure his brother was dead by shooting him one additional time after he already lay lifeless on the ground. In the same report, the Central Luzon chairman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which Cruz was a member of, said that Cruz had been leading protest actions against the construction of the Luisita tollway of the SCTEx and the withdrawal of the military from the hacienda’s 10 barangays.

On October 3, 2006, Father Alberto Ramento, the Supreme Bishop of the Aglipayan church who took up the cause of the slain Father Tadena by tending to Luisita’s farm workers, was stabbed to death while asleep in the rectory of his church. The killing looked like a robbery, but persons close to Ramento believe it was related to Luisita.

By the end of 2007, the construction of the SCTEx was complete. The Subic-Clark segment was formally opened to the public in April 2008, cutting travel time from Subic to Clark to just 40 minutes. The Clark-Tarlac segment was opened in July 2008, enabling travel from Clark to Luisita in just 25 minutes.
– With additional reporting by Howie Severino, GMANews.TV

TO BE CONTINUED


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Dear All:
allow me to post here what I had posted @ a yahoogoups
this is about a lengthy news article written almost 20 yrs ago. be w/ me & let us take a walk down memory lane

Worldwide-Filipino-Alliance] Hacienda Luisita: world famous for “cane-cutters, fighting cocks & golf course”Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:17 AM
From: “maria.embry@sbcglobal.net” View contact detailsTo: worldwide-filipino-alliance@yahoogroups.com
to quote the following article:

“To a large extent, the President herself personifies the contrasts and contradictions that characterize the Philippines. ”Cory would have made a tremendous moral impact if she had started out by giving Hacienda Luisita to the workers,” says Raul Locsin, the editor of a Manila business journal, referring to her family’s vast sugar plantation. Instead, Aquino’s family has profited from a toothless agrarian reform law that permits landlords to keep their property by selling a minority share to the workers over a 30-year period – at prices set by the landlords.

So Hacienda Luisita is shielded against reform. Its contract cane-cutters are packed into barracks located not far from airier pens that house the thousands of fighting cocks bred by the President’s brother, Jose (Peping) Cojuangco. The plantation also boasts a superb 18-hole golf course”

to read more….
http://www.nytimes. com/1990/ 08/19/magazine/ cory-aquino- s-downhill- slide.html? pagewanted= all

Cory Aquino’s Downhill Slide
By Stanley Karnow; Stanley Karnow recently won the Pulitzer Prize for his book ”In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. ”
Published: August 19, 1990

Corazon Cojuangco Aquino glides into the reception room, smartly dressed in a pastel peach suit. Smiling warmly, she radiates serenity and self-confidence as she chats about her family, her travels, the weather. I have known her for two decades, and she has always appeared to be extraordinarily poised, even under enormous stress – a trait she attributes to her fatalism. Now, however, her composure seems to mask a certain uneasiness. She recoils when I seek to steer the conversation toward the problems facing her presidency – as if an admission of troubles might be construed as a sign of weakness. But she is indeed beleaguered by daunting difficulties.

In July, an earthquake that devastated central Luzon, the most populous island in the archipelago, dramatized the inability of Aquino’s Government to cope with a crisis. Not only was its relief effort sluggish, but she was further embarrassed when troops from Clark Air Base and the Subic Bay Naval Station – the two major American bases in the Philippines – arrived on the scene first, thus underlining her dependence on the United States.

Aquino is haunted by dissident army groups, which have already tried six times to oust her. Not a week passes without fresh rumors of a new coup, and one may succeed before 1992, the year she has vowed to retire after her six-year term expires. Neither is she safe from assassination in a land where political violence is endemic. Never far from her mind is the memory of her husband, Senator Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino Jr., who was murdered at the Manila airport in August 1983 as he returned from exile in Boston to challenge Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose corrupt autocracy was crippling the country. She mobilized the opposition and staged a spectacular election campaign. After a military mutiny and prodding from Washington, Marcos and his wife, Imelda, fled to Honolulu in February 1986.

”Ninoy used to say that Marcos would leave so many problems behind that whoever followed him wouldn’t last six months,” Aquino has repeatedly recalled to me and others as an indirect way of emphasizing that she has not only defied that gloomy forecast but has made notable progress.

She regularly points out in public speeches that she has rebuilt the democratic institutions dismantled by Marcos and revived a measure of faith in the shattered economy. She proudly cites her record in servicing the country’s $28 billion foreign debt, another consequence of Marcos’s profligacy. She claims credit for the decline of the Communist insurgency, which grew to alarming proportions during Marcos’s regime. She further asserts that ”people power” – as she called her drive to unseat Marcos – kindled resistance to dictators elsewhere in Asia and even spread to Eastern Europe.

For all her achievements, however, Aquino has lost the luster she enjoyed after toppling Marcos, when the world exalted her as the devout housewife who had exorcised evil. Her approval ratings in the Philippines, once astronomic, have dropped to below 50 percent.

Yet her critics sound sorrowful rather than angry, disappointed rather than hostile. ”We like Cory personally, but nothing has changed,” is a refrain I heard more and more in towns and villages. Though they hector her relentlessly, Manila’s flamboyant politicians and newspaper columnists temper their derision with deference. A noted commentator, Luis Beltran, said a few months ago, ”She is sincere, moral and honest, but the presidency is obviously beyond her, beyond her capabilities, beyond her experience.’ ‘

President Bush is reported to be distressed by Aquino’s lack of direction. ”We’re committed to her, and we hope that she’ll muddle through,” says a senior State Department official, ”but she simply doesn’t know how to govern. Moreover, as the Soviet threat recedes, American strategists no longer see the Philippines as crucial to the security of the United States and their concern for the destiny of that Southeast Asian country has diminished accordingly. ”

Aware that her glow has dimmed, Aquino has explained that her victory over Marcos raised expectations of miracles that she could not conceivably fulfill. But she fuels such illusory aspirations by portraying herself as divinely guided – a belief she holds as a devout Roman Catholic. Her defeat of Marcos, she intoned not long ago, ”was indeed a miracle” as well as ”a symbol of God’s love and the task he set us to do.”

Similarly persuaded that her virtue will serve as an example, Aquino prefers to remain aloof from the political fray. But many Filipinos submit that rectitude does not work in a feudal society like the Philippines, where local bosses and their political surrogates must be cowed, coddled or plied with patronage.

Armando Doronila, the editor of The Manila Chronicle, imputes Aquino’s ”clumsy and arthritic reflexes” to her unwillingness to exercise power. ”Her vision of the presidency is that of a figurehead,’ ‘ he has written, contending that she operates on the theory that the political institutions she restored would ”create their own magic and dynamism.”

Conspicuously absent from her approach is an imaginative vision for the country. John J. Carroll, an American Jesuit who has lived in the Philippines for many years, says, ”She is not a conceptual thinker.”

Aquino recently formed a new movement, Kabisig, roughly meaning ”linked arms,” whose purpose is to inspire citizens to jolt the stagnant legislature and bureaucracy out of their inertia – and revive her waning popularity should she run for re-election. The traditional politicians – ”tradpols” as the Manila press calls them – dismiss the movement as an effort to blame them for Aquino’s own inadequacies. And they can obstruct her further, as they have been doing for years, by rejecting her appointments and tying up bills in committee.

The present mood of the Philippines reminds me of the 1960’s, when I covered the country as a correspondent in Asia. The disorder, drift and doubt of that period prompted many Filipinos to support Marcos’s imposition of martial law in September 1972, and I suspect that numbers of them might now welcome another Marcos, perhaps in different guise. For despite their love of freedom, Filipinos respect an iron hand. Marcos, who understood this duality, skillfully gave them doses of both – at least before his regime slid into decay. Revisiting Manila recently, I was surprised by the expressions of nostalgia for Marcos, who died in Hawaii last fall, especially from his former foes. ”With all his faults, he was a strong leader,” several said, evoking his best years, when he enforced discipline and improved the economy.

This yearning for decisive leadership currently benefits Aquino’s estranged cousin, Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangco, a former Marcos insider who amassed a pile from various monopolies. A vigorous figure beneath his gentle exterior, he fled to Los Angeles when Marcos fell, and subsequently hired Chwat/Weigend Associates, a firm of Washington lobbyists, to teach him to act like a statesman.

Returning covertly to Manila after Marcos’s death, Cojuangco began organizing for the 1992 election, either to sponsor a presidential candidate or to run himself. He has lured a large following, mainly by dispensing money. His chances of gaining power may be thin, but for a one-time Marcos crony to attract support at all reflects the growing frustration with Aquino.

Other contenders for the presidency include Vice President Salvadore H. Laurel, who broke with Aquino in 1987, and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, her former Defense Secretary. The most popular among them, judging from opinion polls, is Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, a West Point graduate and Aquino’s present Defense Secretary.

”Manila is a place to make a fortune,” Cory Aquino has said, citing as proof new construction, flourishing corporations and a lively stock market. But the boom has been lopsided. Expensive condominiums tower over squatter shacks that lack electricity and running water, while the extravagant parties at the lavish homes of the wealthy seem to be taking place a million miles away from nearby slums. Fancy restaurants cater to clients who spend more on a meal than a peasant earns in a month. The levels of destitution are such that the servants of the affluent themselves employ servants.

The income gap is visible in statistics showing that the top fifth of the population receives half of the national income. In 1988, the World Bank reported that half of the population lived in ”absolute poverty,” their income unable ”to satisfy basic needs.” The poverty is most glaring in rural areas, home to more than half of the country’s 60 million people.

To a large extent, the President herself personifies the contrasts and contradictions that characterize the Philippines. ”Cory would have made a tremendous moral impact if she had started out by giving Hacienda Luisita to the workers,” says Raul Locsin, the editor of a Manila business journal, referring to her family’s vast sugar plantation. Instead, Aquino’s family has profited from a toothless agrarian reform law that permits landlords to keep their property by selling a minority share to the workers over a 30-year period – at prices set by the landlords.

So Hacienda Luisita is shielded against reform. Its contract cane-cutters are packed into barracks located not far from airier pens that house the thousands of fighting cocks bred by the President’s brother, Jose (Peping) Cojuangco. The plantation also boasts a superb 18-hole golf course.

The Philippine Congress, whose election in 1987 Aquino hailed as a hallmark of democracy, is dominated by landed and business factions opposed to change. She has not introduced effective measures to streamline the snarled bureaucracy, whose underpaid employees are responsive only to bribes. Out of religious conviction, she has been slow to endorse birth-control programs aimed at curbing the soaring population. Aquino and her husband were victims of Marcos’s despotism, but she has ignored human-rights violations by vigilante groups, whose creation she approved as a weapon to combat the Communists. Aquino’s plans to privatize state-owned enterprises like the Manila Hotel and Philippine Airlines have crumbled, partly because the appointees who direct them have been battling to keep their jobs. Cool to ”unsolicited advice,” as she puts it, Aquino often disregards or revamps her cabinet, which, in any case, has been chronically divided by rivalries.

Her personal probity is above reproach, but rampant corruption costs the Philippine treasury some $2.5 billion a year – or about a third of the national budget. Shortly before his death two years ago, Joaquin Roces, a distinguished newspaper publisher and one of her early backers, startled Aquino at a reception by openly accusing her of yielding to ”vested interests, relatives and friends.” Stung, she told an interviewer soon afterward that she had warned her family against taking advantage of her position. ”Short of ordering them to hibernate or go into exile,” she added, ”I don’t know what else I can do.”

To stroll through some of Manila’s downtown streets requires sidestepping uncollected garbage, and driving through the city’s chronically congested traffic is a nightmare. The breakdown in basic public services, the political uncertainties and mounting violence as well as corruption and bureaucratic tangles, have unnerved foreign investors, with potentially grave repercussions on the economy. A planned $360 million petrochemical plant, to be built by a Taiwan group, has been shelved, as has an electrical-power project contemplated by two American companies, Cogentrix and Caltex Petroleum. Of the 388 multinational corporations that maintained offices in Manila in 1985, only 120 remain – and many of those are pondering a pullout. The Communists, badly split by internecine disputes, have resorted to terrorism in an effort to sustain their momentum. Within the last three years they have killed seven American servicemen stationed at Clark Air Base and Subic
Bay. All 261 members of the Peace Corps, the third-largest contingent abroad, were withdrawn in June as Communist guerrillas abducted a volunteer on the island of Negros. The volunteer was released earlier this month, but Washington’s unilateral withdrawal had shocked Aquino, who had sought to dispel the picture of a country in turmoil.

Nothing, however, has afflicted her more than dissension within her military establishment. The army, modeled on American lines during the period of United States colonial rule, before World War II, had scrupulously avoided politics – until Marcos imposed martial law. He co-opted his generals by giving them smuggling and other illicit privileges, which alienated younger officers who felt that favoritism and corruption were hobbling their fight against the Communists.

The disaffected officers created the Reform Armed Forces Movement, or R.A.M., under the auspices of Juan Ponce Enrile, who was then Marcos’s Defense Minister but was turning against him. In February 1986, Enrile and Ramos, at the time Marcos’s acting Chief of Staff, triggered the military mutiny that catapulted Aquino into office.

Recalling her husband’s years in army jails during the Marcos years, Aquino at first distrusted the dissident soldiers and even denied her debt to them. But, recognizing their strength, she soon acceded to their demands. She retreated from promised social reforms, gave them greater latitude to fight the Communists and ignored their human-rights abuses.

Emboldened, the rebels launched a series of comic-opera coups designed to intimidate rather than overthrow Aquino. Each time, fearful of antagonizing them further, she punished them lightly – in one case ordering them to do 30 push-ups. In August 1987, however, dissident soldiers staged a serious, though abortive, uprising that left 53 dead.

Aquino seemed to be recovering from that attempt when, on Dec. 1, 1989, rebel troops again attacked. They were close to winning when President Bush, heeding her appeal for help, sent in two Phantom jets from Clark Air Base, 50 miles north of Manila, to protect Malacanang, the presidential palace, against the dissidents’ planes. The American display of force initially deterred the rebels, who may have also been discouraged by a White House warning that all American aid would be cut off if they prevailed. Nevertheless, they fought on for nearly a week, and more than 100 Filipinos, most of them civilians, were killed before a truce was declared.

Even Aquino’s most vocal critics were relieved when the coup failed, concluding that, for all her defects, she was preferable to a military junta. But the assault shook her badly. If crowds did not rush out to acclaim the rebels, neither did they pour into the streets to cheer Aquino. And her plea for American intervention predictably drew charges that, out of gratitude for her rescue, she would bow to American pressure to retain the bases in talks then due to start. Aquino has privately hinted that she favors renewing the leases on the bases, at least for a limited time. To deflect her nationalist critics, however, she will say publicly only that she is ”keeping my options open.”

The uprising also revealed a new dissident army faction: the Young Officers Union, or Y.O.U., composed mainly of majors and captains. More ideological than R.A.M., it has called for ”genuine national and social liberation” – a slogan that has inspired conjecture that the group might join the Communists in a coalition.

Six weeks after the attempted coup, President Bush sent a special envoy to Manila on a mission that aggravated Aquino’s woes at home and further impaired her image in Washington.

Bush’s deputy national security adviser, Robert M. Gates, met alone with Aquino. After reaffirming America’s support for her Government, Gates bluntly told her to ”get your house in order” by regaining the allegiance of the army, checking corruption and bureaucratic red tape, and introducing urgent economic and social reforms. ”The most pressing problem is stability,” he reportedly said. ”It’s time to stop putting off the hard decisions.”

American officials recalled that Aquino had ”listened impassively’ ‘ to Gates. However, Filipinos close to her revealed that she was ”stunned” by Bush’s message, and doubly wounded when American officials, to intensify the pressure on her, leaked its details to the American press. She was even more rankled when Congress cut $96 million off a proposed $481 million assistance package to the Philippines as part of a global reduction in foreign aid.

Aquino retaliated in February by refusing to see Dick Cheney, the United States Defense Secretary, then due to arrive in Manila on a tour of Asia. Never before had a Philippine leader snubbed a high American official, and her gesture ignited protests in Washington, where it was read as a gambit to extract more aid for the bases.

Representative Patricia Schroeder, a Colorado Democrat who heads a House subcommittee on Military Installations and Facilities, accused Aquino of ”upping the ante.” Toby Roth, a Wisconsin Republican and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asserted: ”Let them keep their bases. We do not want them, we do not need them. They are only an albatross around the necks of the American people.”

Bush was equally dismayed, but he admonished Aquino in his typically casual manner. ”Listen,” he said in a newspaper interview, ”every time I talk to Dick Cheney I come away smarter. . . . So maybe you’d be like me, maybe you could learn from the man – or he could learn from you.”

Aquino’s rebuff of Cheney boosted her stock in Manila, where newspapers blared headlines like ”Cory Gets Tough.” But several Filipinos, her partisans among them, soon began to chide her for ”overreacting. ” While tweaking Uncle Sam’s nose might be gratifying, several observed, American ”rent” for the bases and other expenditures bring in about $1 billion a year. Aquino’s former press secretary, the columnist Teodoro Benigno, wrote: ”We lose a lot in this refusal, because it is based on personal pique and not . . . on the national interest.”

Nevertheless, convinced that flexing her muscles would enhance her popularity, Aquino went after Enrile, her fiercest critic, now a senator. Late in February, she ordered his arrest for ”rebellion and murder” in connection with the aborted December coup – the same charge she had denounced as ”politically motivated” when Marcos had used it to jail her husband.

The episode was vintage Manila theater. Enrile sauntered into an air-conditioned ”cell” equipped with a television set and telephones, spent a week being feted by relatives, friends and journalists, and sauntered out on bail of 100,000 pesos, or about $4,500. In June, the Philippine Supreme Court dropped the charge, ruling that it lacked substance.

Another Aquino initiative backfired in March when one of her generals was killed in northern Luzon while trying to seize Rodolfo Aguinaldo, a rebellious provincial governor, who escaped and is still at large.

Aquino was further embarrassed last month when a New York jury acquitted Imelda Marcos and her co-defendant, the Saudi Arabian expediter Adnan M. Khashoggi, of fraud and racketeering charges. Aquino had hoped that a conviction would confirm Marcos’s culpability in looting the Philippines and, by implication, improve her own image.

Whatever her deficiencies, Corazon Aquino largely owes her predicament to the past, which has dealt the Philippines a bad hand.

Before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the archipelago lacked common bonds or a remote, divine emperor who symbolized central authority. The United States took over in 1898 and ruled until 1946. Hence Philippine history is essentially colonial history. A neat quip accurately sums it up: ”Three hundred years in a Catholic convent and a half-century in Hollywood.”

This heritage has inhibited Filipinos from forging a strong sense of their national identity, so that their society today is fragmented by family, clan and regional loyalties. Thus their unity lies chiefly in an allegiance to Christianity and the legal definition of Philippine citizenship.

Under Spain, the Philippine economy languished until the 19th century, when the industrial revolution in the West spurred a demand for such commodities as sugar, hemp and copra. Plantations grew, developing a class of big landlords – many of them Chinese immigrants married to Filipino women – whose dynasties dominate the Philippines today. Corazon Aquino’s great-grandfather arrived from China in the 1890’s, converted to Catholicism, prospered as a trader, and acquired the plantation still owned by his descendants. The Americans were benign imperialists compared with their European counterparts. Their dream was to turn the Filipinos into imitation Americans – ”our little brown brothers,” as the first civilian governor, William Howard Taft, dubbed them. American teachers spread English, and facsimile political and judicial bodies were housed in Greek-style buildings copied from those of Washington. By 1907, the Filipinos had the first freely elected
legislature in Asia. The United States Congress voted nine years later to grant them eventual independence, and from that point on the people virtually ruled themselves. During World War II, they fought alongside American troops against the Japanese.

But American officials failed to protect the peasantry against exploitation by big plantation owners. American manufacturers were allowed to export their products to the Philippines duty-free, in exchange for which Philippine commodities could enter the United States without tariffs. This classic colonial arrangement, besides stunting the growth of local industry, preserved the traditional landed oligarchy. The United States Congress imposed the same trade system after the Philippines became independent in 1946, when the country, shattered by World War II, desperately needed American aid. Filipinos were, and continue to be, captivated by American culture. They adopt American nicknames, American food and American sports. Yet their fundamental values remain largely unchanged. Suspicious of impersonal institutions, Filipinos function through a web of personal ties based on mutual obligations.

This is especially true in politics, where parties have customarily been cliques whose members seek office not to govern but to furnish jobs, public-works contracts and other favors to their families and friends, who in turn labor to elect them or to keep them in office. So lucrative are the spoils of power that Marcos spent nearly one-quarter of the national budget on his 1965 re-election campaign. Limited to two terms under the law, he scrapped the system, remained in office and went on pillaging without restraint.

The Philippines never became a ”showcase of democracy,” as many Americans often claim. The most prominent Filipino politician during the American colonial era, Manuel Quezon, was an autocrat. The old dynasties that opposed Marcos were outraged less by his despotism than by his expropriation of their assets to reward his cronies. Neither was the martyred Ninoy Aquino an unalloyed champion of civil liberties. His models included Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and the South Korean General Park Chung Hee, neither of whom would qualify as democrats.

Looking back, many political analysts argue that Corazon Aquino ought to have used her initial burst of popularity to push through drastic reforms rather than depend on the democratic process, which has, in effect, restored the reactionary oligarchy. But she felt that to resort to arbitrary rule would have violated her campaign pledges. Her occasional excursions into liberal oratory notwithstanding, she is also deeply conservative.

However the future unfolds for Aquino, the Philippines still resembles the portrait painted by her husband, Ninoy, in Foreign Affairs magazine in July 1968.

”Here is a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor,” he wrote, ”where freedom and its blessings are a reality for a minority and an illusion for the many. Here is a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy . . . dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.” Its government was ”almost bankrupt,” its state agencies ”ridden by debts and honeycombed with graft,” its economy ”in pathetic distress.” Filipinos were ”depressed and dispirited . . . without purpose and without discipline . . . sapped of confidence, hope and will.” But, he concluded, the fault was chiefly their own. ”They profess love of country, but love themselves – individually – more.”

Photos: Senator Juan Ponce Enrile waving from prison in February following a December coup attempt. Charges were later dropped. President Corazon Aquino reviewing troops in Manila shortly after last year’s rebellion. With her are Lourdes Quisumbing, then the Secretary of Education (left), and Sergio Barrera, Chief Protocol Officer. (Photographs By Andy Hernandez/Sipa) ; Government soldiers in Manila rushing to positions during last December’s aborted takeover. (Sygma)

A version of this article appeared in print on August 19, 1990, on page 624 of the New York edition.

Comment by Maria Elizabeth Embry

Yes, Sir! The Aquinos will kill for the Hacienda
Luisita. That is how greedy they are!

Comment by Hyden Toro

The Aquinos did these to protect their interests:

1. Collaborate with the Japanese Imperialist
during World War II.

2. Collaborate and financed the NPA Rebels. Ninoy
Aquino financed the MV Karagatan armed shipments
bound for the NPA rebels. Ninoy Aquino was killed
by Sparrow Unit of the NPA. To prevent him from
talking. Marcos did not kill him. He rode on
the back of the NPA Tiger. Then, ended up inside
it. When he tried to dismount.

3. Cory Aquino shelved the Land Reform Program of
Marcos to protect the Hacienda Luisita.

4. The Aquino family ordered the massacre of
unarmed farmers.

5. Noynoy Aquino did not do anything for Land
Reform.

6. Kris Aquino is a notorious Adulterer. The
Catholic Church condones her as an Adulterer.

Comment by Hyden Toro

I have been following up this special report on the Luisita Massacre at GMAnewsTV website. Before it was easy to find the report in their website, now it appears that you have to really search for it to read it. Part 1 is easy to find, it will lead you to Part 2 and Part 3, but there is no link to Part 4. That will explain why it has very slow rise in retweets and Facebook share counts. I’ve emailed GMA about it but no link yet from part 3 to 4.

Comment by Anita




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