How a workers’ strike became the Luisita Massacre
March 1, 2010, 7:13 am
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How a workers’ strike became the Luisita Massacre
By STEPHANIE DYCHIU
01/26/2010 | 05:24 PM
Third of five parts on the history of Hacienda Luisita, a burning issue facing frontrunner Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s campaign for the presidency. Part four is here.
“It is an illegal strike, no strike vote was called,” then-Tarlac Congressman Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said in a speech at the House of Representatives to defend the dispersal of strikers at his family’s plantation, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on November 17, 2004.
The day before, the dispersal at Hacienda Luisita left at least seven people dead and 121 injured, 32 from gunshot wounds. In his speech, Aquino condemned the violence but defended the dispersal, saying the police and soldiers were “subjected to sniper fire coming from an adjacent barangay.”
Luisita, ‘the symbol of the failure of EDSA’
Five days later, Aquino was flogged by Inquirer columnist Conrado De Quiros.
“At the very most, workers have a right to strike. One would imagine congressmen would know that,” De Quiros wrote in his November 22, 2004 column. “A strike is neither illegal nor immoral, it is sanctioned by the Constitution and enshrined in the tradition of the workers’ movement. Only Lucio Tan and now Ninoy’s namesake think it is not.”
De Quiros further wrote: “Noynoy Aquino says leftists goaded the workers . . . to strike. Well, so what? . . . They could not have succeeded if the workers were not ripe for the goading . . . If leftists had not goaded workers, farmers, students, and other sectors to mount national strikes, or ‘welgang bayan’, during Martial Law, the Aquinos would not be there.”
De Quiros also wrote: “The life of Ninoy is not more important than the lives of the workers who died in the blaze of gunfire . . . Hacienda Luisita will always be the symbol of the failure of EDSA to move the country from tyranny to democracy . . . As in the days of the feudal manor, serfs are owned by their landlords body and soul. They can be told to do anything, including to agree to ‘stock option’.”
Finally: “Ninoy Aquino might have been talking of today when he said: ‘Here is a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy’. Here is a land of privilege and rank—a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste’.”
“If that ain’t broke, what is?” De Quiros concluded.
Lord of the Rings, Luke Skywalker, Noynoy
Five years later, De Quiros was handpicked by the Aquinos to speak at their mother Cory’s funeral.
Exactly one week later, (August 10, 2009), his column carried the headline “Noynoy for president”.
“Noynoy running for president will deliver us back to . . . the time or place of the great fight between Good and Evil,” De Quiros proclaimed. “Between Cory and Marcos, between Obama and Bush, between the Fellowship of the Ring and the Eye of Mordor, between Luke Skywalker and the Evil Empire. Use the Force, Noy.”
Exactly 40 days after his mother’s burial, Aquino “used the Force”and announced he was running for President.
Part Three of this special report begins in November 2004, the month of the Luisita massacre.
The tension began when management retrenched 327 farm workers, including union officers.
On November 6, 2004, the union of the farm workers (United Luisita Workers Union or ULWU) launched a picket and blocked Gate 1 of the sugar mill.
Part 1: Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future
The issues surrounding Hacienda Luisita are being seen as the first real test of character of presidential hopeful Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino, whose family has owned the land since 1958. Our research shows that the problem began when government lenders obliged the Cojuangcos to distribute the land to small farmers by 1967, a deadline that came and went.
Part 2: Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will
There is a haunting resemblance between Senator Aquino’s “Hindi Ka Nag-Iisa” music video and a real-life torchlit march of Hacienda Luisita’s workers days before the November 16, 2004 massacre. What could be worth all the blood that has been spilled?
They were joined by the union of the sugar mill workers (Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union or CATLU), who were in a deadlock in their own wage negotiations. The sugar mill workers blocked Gate 2 of the sugar mill.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) were called in, but were unable to disperse the strikers with tear gas, truncheons, and water cannons.
Almost all 5,000 members of ULWU and 700 members of CATLU joined the November 6 strike, while 80 CATLU members chose to continue working, according to a statement delivered under oath by Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo of the Health Alliance for Democracy at the February 3, 2005 Senate hearing on the Luisita massacre.
Araullo’s group conducted their own medical examination and investigation because of fears of a government whitewash. (Araullo is also the chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or BAYAN.)
Was it legal for the police to intervene in the strike?
The strike of the farm workers’ union (United Luisita Workers’ Union or ULWU) on November 6, 2004 at Gate 1 of the sugar mill was not covered by the assumption of jurisdiction of the Labor secretary. The case was with the National Labor Relations Commission, according to the statement of Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo of the Health Alliance for Democracy at the February 3, 2005 Senate hearing on the Luisita massacre. Continue reading…
Did Gloria help the Aquinos?
On November 10, 2004, four days after the strike started, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) declared an Assumption of Jurisdiction. Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas announced that quelling the strike was a matter of national interest because Luisita was one of the country’s major sugar producers. The Assumption of Jurisdiction legally cleared the way to use government troops to stop the strike. The picketers were ordered to vacate within five days, or else be removed by force.
Under normal conditions, the Labor Code protects the right of workers—even those who have been retrenched—to demonstrate against their employers. Police are not allowed to break up non-violent pickets, and the military cannot be used like a security agency to solve the problems of private businessmen.
The Assumption of Jurisdiction, however, is like a declaration of Martial Law in a labor dispute. It strips workers of their right to demonstrate, and authorizes the use of law enforcement agencies. The Assumption of Jurisdiction is allowed by the Labor Code only if a strike jeopardizes national interest.
The strikers in Luisita grumbled that management was able to get the DOLE to declare an Assumption of Jurisdiction because it had a direct line to Malacañang through former President Cory Cojuangco Aquino, whose children Kris and Noynoy supported President Gloria Arroyo in the presidential elections just six months before (May 2004). The Aquinos and their followers also helped put Arroyo in power after ousting President Joseph Estrada in 2001.
Was Luisita’s sugar mill indispensable to the national interest?
Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas declared an Assumption of Jurisdiction over the Luisita dispute on November 10, 2004. Sto. Tomas said quelling the strike was a matter of national interest because Luisita was one of the country’s major sugar producers. This paved the way for sending government troops to stop the strike. Continue reading…
The strikers stayed put, determined to make management come out and negotiate.
EDSA meets Mendiola
To protect themselves from the forthcoming forcible removal, the workers called on the people in the barrios around Luisita to form a human barrier at the picket line, says Lito Bais, current acting president of ULWU. In an eerie EDSA-meets-Mendiola spectacle, the villagers came, including priests, barangay officials, and children whose families sympathized with the workers. Concerned groups from out of town also sent contingents to help protect the strikers.
On November 15, 2004, the PNP returned as promised with reinforcements. According to Araullo’s report to the Senate, around 400 policemen tried to disperse about 4,000 protesters. CATLU president Ric Ramos was hit and collapsed from a large head wound, but the police were still unable to break the picket.
Can retrenched union officers still represent the union under the Labor Code?
Article 212, Paragraph F of the Labor Code says that the definition of “Employee” includes “any individual whose work has ceased as a result of or in connection with any current labor dispute or because of any unfair labor practice if he has not obtained any other substantially equivalent and regular employment”.
Based on this provision, lawyers of the farm workers argued that management should still have recognized the retrenched union officers because they were still employees of the company under the law, since their retrenchment was still on appeal and they had not yet received separation pay. As employees, the lawyers said, the union officers had a right to self-organization and to fulfill their roles as leaders of the union.
The trip to the Cojuangco house
Sometime in the afternoon of November 15, according to Bais, the union leaders were told to go to the house of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr. in Makati to talk. The negotiations were to be mediated by party-list congressman Satur Ocampo. Ocampo had gone to Luisita along with fellow Bayan Muna party-list congressman Teddy Casiño to aribitrate with the police.
The next morning, November 16, 2004, the union officers left Tarlac for Makati. “Kinabahan na ang mga opisyales namin, pagdating nila sa Makati, na parang may mangyayari dito (Our union officers got worried as soon as they reached Makati. They had a feeling something was going to happen here),” says Bais, who was not yet acting president of ULWU at that time, and had stayed behind. “Parang inalis lang sila dito (It was like they were just lured away from here).”
At the Cojuangco house in Makati, the CATLU officers were told negotiations could only happen if the strike was stopped first. The ULWU officers were not allowed in because they were considered retrenched and no longer authorized to negotiate for the farm workers.
While the union officers were in Makati, the military rolled into Luisita. The union officers now believe the meeting in Makati was just a ruse to lure them away so the military could move into the hacienda.
2 tanks, 700 police, 17 trucks of soldiers
When the union officers returned to the picket line around 3:00 pm after their fruitless trip to Makati, the place looked like a war was about to begin. Near Gate 1 of the sugar mill were “700 policemen, 17 truckloads of soldiers in full battle gear, 2 tanks equipped with heavy weapons, a payloader, 4 fire trucks with water cannons, and snipers positioned in at least 5 strategic places”, according to Araullo’s report to the Senate.
One of the tanks and the payloader rammed through the sugar mill gate that management had previously locked. The protesters were pelted with tear gas and sprayed with water spiked with chemicals from the fire trucks. They fought back by burying the tear gas canisters in soil, and flinging rocks at the fire trucks and tanks using slingshots. Eventually, the tear gas and fire hoses ran out.
“Nagbi-biba na ang mga manggagawang-bukid (The farm workers were cheering their victory),” says Bais. The strikers surged through the gate, waving sticks and throwing rocks at the tank.
Then, gunfire erupted.
1,000 rounds of ammunition used
The first spray of bullets lasted for almost a full minute, as men, women, and children ran for their lives. This was followed by a series of rapid spurts. According to Araullo’s statement, the presidents of the two unions narrowly missed being shot by snipers while running to get behind some sugarcane trucks. Other protesters were beaten and dragged into army trucks and placed under arrest, regardless of gender or age.
Doctors who later autopsied the dead and examined the wounded said the victims were running, crouching, or lying down when they were shot. At the December 1, 2004 Senate hearing on the massacre, videos of the bloody dispersal caught by the media were shown. It was revealed that an astounding 1,000 rounds of ammunition were used by the military and police during the shooting.
Soldiers shut down hospital
Right before the assault on the picket line started, there were unusual movements at the Cojuangco-owned St. Martin de Porres Hospital near the sugar mill, Araullo told the Senate. Existing patients were moved out, and the Army and PNP moved in. At 8:00 pm, just hours after the massacre, the doctors, nurses, and staff of the hospital were told to go home by the police and military, who then took over until the next day. Corpses from the shooting were still in the hospital. The police and military later claimed three corpses tested positive for gunpowder. But no next of kin had given permission or were present during the paraffin tests.
A deliberate attack
The events at the hospital, coupled with the volume of fire, the character of the injuries, and the positions of the victims, Araullo told the Senate, belied the claim that the shooting was done as a defensive move, and indicated that there was “collusion and premeditation between management and the AFP/PNP” to deliberately attack and break up the picket.
When the body count was drawn up, there were seven dead and at least 121 injured. Of the 121 injured, 32 suffered gunshot wounds, 11 were children or in their teens, and four were over sixty years old.
Who were the 7 who died in the Luisita Massacre?
Jhaivie was the youngest of the victims who died. He worked part-time at Central Azucarera de Tarlac, cleaning sugarcane every Monday, to earn money after he stopped going to college when his father died six months before the massacre. His mother said Jhaivie was a homebody, but he went to support the strike because almost all the children in his barangay were children of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita, and he understood what they were fighting for. Continue reading…
Noynoy defends dispersal
On November 17, 2004, the day after the massacre, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported: “At the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III (LP, Tarlac) , only son of the former President, defended the dispersal of the protesters … Aquino said that elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police who dispersed the workers were ‘subjected to sniper fire coming from an adjacent barangay’… Aquino noted that 400 of the 736 workers in question had decided to return to work.”
In the same report, Aquino’s uncle, former Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., said he received a copy of a press statement from ULWU saying it was not the group behind the picket. Ronaldo Alcantara of ULWU said in the statement that a small group of retrenched workers led by Rene Galang, a former official of ULWU, and Ric Ramos, president of CATLU, were behind the incidents at the hacienda.
The next day, November 18, 2004, the Philippine Star reported: “Tarlac Rep. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III said yesterday there was strong evidence that the clash was triggered by gunfire coming from the ranks of the strikers. He said when the police tried to break the barricade using an armored personnel carrier, they were fired upon by strikers. He cited there were at least eight bullet marks on the APC. Aquino also urged his militant colleagues in Congress against conducting fact-finding missions at the Hacienda, which he said could further ‘inflame the situation.’ Aquino earlier claimed that outsiders instigated the rioting.”
PNP report echoes Noynoy defense
Months later, the PNP submitted its own report to the Senate dated January 24, 2005. The PNP’s account was similar to the statements Aquino gave right after the massacre.
Summary of the PNP’s final report on the Luisita massacre
The final report of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the November 16, 2004 Luisita massacre was submitted on January 24, 2005. It cleared the PNP of blame, and reported that:
> The order to disperse the strikers was made only after the police saw that negotiations between the Department of Labor’s sheriff and the strike leaders had failed.
> The PNP observed maximum tolerance and were simply helping the sheriff implement a return-to-work order.
> The “initial burst of gunfire, single shots in succession, came from the ranks of the striking workers after they crossed the gate and invaded the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) compound”.
> Evidence gathered confirmed the presence and participation of the New People’s Army (NPA), but “the evidence will not suffice for their criminal prosecution”.
> The resistance put up by the strikers resulted in the death of seven strikers and wounding of 36 others.
> 100 policemen and soldiers were injured.
> 111 civilians were arrested and assorted guns and several bolos and knives were recovered from the scene.
> The violence was orchestrated by individuals who were not members of the striking unions, and firearms and explosives were used to generate a more violent reaction from the government forces.
>The slain workers were not residents of Tarlac or employees of Hacienda Luisita.
Read “Who were the 7 who died in the Luisita massacre?”
The PNP’s report was debunked point-by-point by the workers and the party-list group BAYAN, which had conducted its own fact-finding investigation.
(Manila Times, December 8, 2005)
In addition, the report said the PNP only went to Luisita on November 16, 2004 to assist the DOLE in implementing a return-to-work order. Maximum tolerance was observed, and the order to disperse was made only after the police saw that negotiations with the strike leaders had failed. Evidence gathered, according to the report, “confirms the presence and participation of the NPA (New People’s Army) in the strike.” The report also said 100 policemen and soldiers were injured.
Noynoy on the Luisita massacre
“It is an illegal strike. No strike vote was called.”
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 17, 2004)
“[The military and the police who dispersed the workers were] subjected to sniper fire coming from an adjacent barangay.”
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 17, 2004)
The clash was triggered by gunfire coming from the ranks of the strikers.
(Philippine Star, November 18, 2004)
When police tried to break the barricade using an armored personnel carrier (APC), they were fired upon by the strikers. There were at least 8 bullet marks on the APC.
(Philippine Star, November 18, 2004)
Outsiders instigated the rioting. Among those injured were sympathizers who came from as far as the Visayas.
(Philippine Star, November 18, 2004)
The workers’ defense
The Department of Labor declared an Assumption of Jurisdiction to quash the workers’ right to strike. The government issued this radical order because the Aquinos had a direct line to Malacañang (Noynoy and Kris Aquino supported President Gloria Arroyo in the 2004 elections).
The sniper fire came from plainclothes men inside the sugar mill compound, which only Luisita management and the military/police could access until the military’s own tank rammed the sugar mill gate open shortly before firing started.
If the strikers started the shooting, why were there no casualties among the military/police, but seven killed and 32 wounded by gunshots among the strikers?
Why would the strikers fire bullets into an APC, which is resistant to bullets, but not shoot any of the 700 military/police around? The bullets on the APC could have been planted by the military/police.
The injured who came from the Visayas were sacadas (seasonal sugarcane cutters) from Negros who were hired by the Cojuangcos, but sympathized with the strikers.
TEDDY BENIGNO’S TAKE
The late journalist Teodoro “Teddy” Benigno was a long-time friend of Ninoy and Cory Aquino. He served as Cory Aquino’s Press Secretary from 1986 to 1989. On November 19, 2004, Teddy Benigno wrote about the Luisita massacre in his column in the Philippine Star:
“I would have wished that Ninoy’s son, Rep. Benigno (Noynoy) Aquino and brother-in-law Jose (Peping) Cojuangco just kept quiet. As it was they sort of blamed the dispersal and massacre on trouble-making outsiders—agents provocateurs—who had nothing to do with Luisita. Noynoy, you’re not Ninoy and you should have kept to yourself. Ditto for Peping. Those were self-serving statements and you knew it.”
Noynoy and PNP statements refuted
The statements of Aquino and the PNP were refuted by the strikers and the leftist political alliance BAYAN, which had conducted its own fact-finding mission.
According to them, it was impossible for the sniper fire to have come from the ranks of the strikers because the shots emanated from inside the sugar mill compound, which only management, the military, and the police had access to until the gate that management had locked was rammed open by the military’s tank right before the firing started.
Moreover, they said, it was highly unlikely that the shooting started from the strikers’ side because there were no casualties among the military and police, while there were 7 killed and 32 wounded by gunshots among the strikers.
As for the bullets on the APC mentioned by Aquino, they said it did not make sense for the strikers to fire at a tank, which is bulletproof, but not shoot any of the 700 soldiers and policemen around. The bullets could have been planted.
The group also said no negotiations with strike leaders could have taken place on the afternoon of November 16, 2004, as the PNP claimed, because the union officers had barely arrived from the Cojuangco house in Makati when dispersal operations escalated. In their sworn statements, the police officers in charge of the dispersal could not even give the names of the strike leaders they said they negotiated with before launching the assault.
Misleading the media
Furthermore, while the PNP linked the NPA to the strike, the PNP also said in their report that “evidence gathered against alleged members of the NPA will not suffice for their criminal prosecution”, in effect negating their own claim.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo Alcantara, the officer of ULWU who denied ULWU was behind the strike in the Inquirer report, was a lower-level former officer of the union who was used to mislead the media, according to current ULWU acting president Lito Bais. The president of ULWU registered at the Bureau of Labor Relations at the time of the strike was Rene Galang. Bais says management encouraged splinter factions in the union led by persons under their control.
The PNP’s report did not say anything about the takeover of St. Martin de Porres Hospital that happened just before the dispersal was launched.
The wake at the sugar mill
Days after the massacre, five out of the seven dead bodies were brought by the farm workers and their sympathizers to the picket line near the gate of the sugar mill.
How were they able to go near the gate when the military was still there standing guard? “Sabi namin, siguro naman, patay na ang dala natin, igagalang naman nila. Sila ang pumatay, e (We just said, maybe, since the people we were carrying were already dead, they would respect that. After all, they were the ones who killed them),” says Bais.
The procession was led by a councilor from Tarlac City named Abel Ladera, who grew up in one of the barangays inside Hacienda Luisita. He became an engineer, and once worked inside the sugar mill. The workers relied on the presence of Ladera, an elected official, and some media men to keep management and the military at bay. As the coffins were being lowered and the barbed wire removed, the soldiers went inside the sugar mill so the mourners could prepare for the wake.
Little did Ladera know that his sympathetic involvement with the strikers would put him in mortal danger.
Union’s office destroyed
After the massacre victims’ coffins were brought to the picket line, Bais says the union’s office was destroyed by soldiers. “Nung balikan namin ang opisina namin, wala na lahat. Ultimo ang computer na gamit namin, giba-giba na. Yung mga file, lahat, wala na kaming inabutan. (When we went back to our office, everything was gone. Even the computer we were using was totally destroyed. Our files, everything, we were not able to save anything).” The collection of pictures of the union’s past presidents since the workers’ struggle began was also destroyed, he adds.
Hundreds of soldiers moved into Luisita’s different barangays. To justify the presence of the military, officials of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) presented a report to the media saying the workers’ strike at Hacienda Luisita was the “handiwork of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) and a culmination of long months of instigation and propaganda work to get the workers to rise up in arms against the Cojuangcos.”
Asked for comment on this story, Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, “Noynoy regrets the massacre but the mass action was infiltrated. It was started by infiltrators.”
After conducting hearings about the massacre and recording the testimonies of witnesses, the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment never issued a formal report.
TO BE CONTINUED
Hacienda Luisita and the Aquinos’ rift with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
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Thank you for this detailed report.
I haven’t chosen any Presidential candidate for now. Your report is helping me in choosing the next leader of the land. I would appreciate it more if you could have a documentary that will be shown in one of your top and best news and current affairs program. This might help the Filipino people examine the darker side of Ninoy. I hope you could also feature other Presidentiables.
I always share this report to my friends here in Davao and they liked it so much not because they hate Ninoy but because they see the truth and substance in your reporting. God bless you!
From Maria Elizabeth Embry
March 1, 2010, 6:42 am
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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: “firstname.lastname@example.org” View contact detailsTo: email@example.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.
Mari a Elizabteh Embry
After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest
February 12, 2010, 6:46 am
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After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest
By STEPHANIE DYCHIU
02/11/2010 | 02:51 PM
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.
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
Who were the 7 who died in the Luisita Massacre?
February 11, 2010, 10:35 am
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| Tags: abs-cbn
, balsy aquino
, bea alonzo
, benigno aquino. noynoy aquino
, boy abunda
, buch abad
, deepest darket secret
, election 2010
, Hacienda Luisita Massacre
, Kris Aquino
, Peping Cojuanco
, pilipinas blog
, presidentibale 2010
, yellow camp
Who were the 7 who died in the Luisita Massacre?
Jhaivie Basilio, 20
Jhaivie was the youngest of the victims who died. He worked part-time at Central Azucarera de Tarlac, cleaning sugarcane every Monday, to earn money after he stopped going to college when his father died six months before the massacre. His mother said Jhaivie was a homebody, but he went to support the strike because almost all the children in his barangay were children of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita, and he understood what they were fighting for.
Jhavie was shot when he tried to climb up one of the fire trucks after the military tank broke through the gate of the sugar mill. He was hit on the thigh. As he tried to crawl away, soldiers went to him and hit his face with a rifle butt. A soldier tied barbed wire around his neck, hung his body on a fence, then shot him in the chest. His body was found at 3:00 am the next day along with two other victims. A photo of Jhaivie holding a gun was released. He and the two others were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Jhune David, 27
Jhune came from a family of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita. His late father and 3 of his 9 siblings were farm workers. He started working in the sugarcane fields at age 18. Jhune worked at the sugar mill for 9 years and was a member of the workers’ union until his death. He was shot on the right shoulder, and was taken to the hospital in the sugar mill compound. His body was later found outside the compound. During the wake at the sugar mill, an unidentified couple went to his coffin, lifted his shirt, and took photos. He was later shown in the news as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
(On November 24, 2004, a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the statements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) about the massacre said that “The NPA angle surfaced after one of the fatalities, Jun David, was found to be a member of the group which is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”)
Jhune left behind a wife and one child.
Jesus Laza, 34
Jesus was a farm worker in Hacienda Luisita from 1984 to 1990. Unable to make ends meet, he tried working in Manila. He returned to the hacienda in 1991 to work as a sugarcane cutter and sell dried fish during milling season. For more than a decade, Jesus sold food in buses plying the San Fernando-Tarlac route, until he decided to return to the hacienda, his true home, with his family of farm workers. Instead of selling food in buses, he sold food at the picket line near the gate of the sugar mill. This was where he died when he was shot on the back of the leg and on the right chest while running away from the shooting.
Jessie Valdez, 30
Jessie tried working in Sanyo, UFC, and Kawasaki at the Luisita industrial park, but went back to his true calling as a farm worker. He was shot by snipers positioned on the sugar mill’s water tower. Jessie was taken to Camp Aquino before being transferred to a funeral home. His family was able to retrieve his body only on the day after the massacre. The autopsy showed marks on his fingers and hips that indicated torture. The report showed he bled to death. His wife was pregnant with their fourth child when he died.
Juancho Sanchez, 20
Juancho was a college student at the State University of Tarlac who temporarily stopped schooling and worked as a jeepney driver to help with the tuition of his two younger sisters. His father was a former farm worker who became a pastor. Juancho himself was an active member of a Christian youth fellowship. He went to the picket line to sympathize with the hardship of the workers. On the day he died, Juancho still drove his jeepney in the morning and had lunch at home in Barangay Balete inside Hacienda Luisita. He then said goodbye to his father to go to the picket line. That was the last time his father saw him alive. The autopsy report showed Sanchez died from a gunshot that exited from his lower back, but his family said his face and feet had indications that he was first taken alive and beaten.
Adriano Caballero, Jr., 23
Adriano was born and raised in Hacienda Luisita. He and his father were caddies at the golf course owned by the Cojuangcos. One of his siblings worked at the sugar mill and was a member of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU). Adriano had gone to the picket line to support a friend. Adriano’s wife was five months pregnant when he died.
Jaime Pastidio, 46
Jaime became a farm worker in Hacienda Luisita in 1974. His father and 3 of his 7 siblings were also farm workers. Jaime was shot while running for cover when gunfire broke out after the tank broke through the gate of the sugar mill. Some protesters tried to run back and help him, but soldiers fired at their feet before they could reach Jaime. They saw the military take him inside the hacienda’s hospital, which was then shut down by soldiers. The next day, his family was told that he was dead. Jaime had been working in the hacienda for 30 years.
(From a report by Lisa Ito, and interviews with the victims’ relatives by members of the International Solidarity Mission. The International Solidarity Mission was a group of 80 foreign human rights advocates that visited various areas in the Philippines, including Hacienda Luisita, in August 2005 to look into human rights violations.)
Got it from a Friend…
February 5, 2010, 6:48 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
| Tags: aquino
, bush abad
, Hacienda Luisita Massacre
, Kris Aquino
, Liberal party
, senator benigno noynoy aquino
, yellow camp
AN OPEN REACTION TO THE PRESS STATEMENT OF SENATOR BENIGNO S. AQUINO III
February 3, 2010
1. I am not surprised with this turn of events. First, our opponents have had a long head start in this campaign.
[Yes, but you had a God-given 55% favor of the people which you and your campaign team just pissed away].
And while I diligently perform my functions as a legislator, the others are practically campaigning fulltime, neglecting their mandate with those who entrusted them with their votes.
[Exactly which functions as a legislator have you been working on? Authoring and passing new laws or practicing that hideous rap or writing this gramatically reprehensible Press Statement? I’m glad that education is a focus for you because you definitely need to take some English classes.]
Second, for all the unprecedented and sustained ads spending in all forms of media of the other camp and the unrelenting and increasingly below-the-belt and baseless black propaganda against me by my opponents, not to mention the harassment we have been continuously getting from this administration—the arbitrary transfers and replacement of police directors, the inexplicably adverse rulings we have been getting from Comelec for our local executives, the abrupt cessation of government projects in provinces friendly to us and lately even the denial of venues for our rally sites– I am surprised that I am still on top of the surveys.
[According to Pulse Asia you lost ten points in a month that you ran advertising, and during a survey period where your #1 opponent’s name was being dragged through the mud of a corruption scandal. The minimum expectation should have been “maintenance” of your position. Either there’s something wrong with the way you are being promoted, or there’s something wrong with you.]
2. By the day, it is becoming clear that an unholy alliance is developing between this administration and my opponent. No wonder the Palace spokesman couldn’t restrain himself in expressing his gratitude to one of my opponents for keeping quiet on the many issues confronting this administration.
[We’ve already hit the Opponent on C5 and that didn’t work. Must we really rely on another conspiracy theory to win this election? Do you think this guy will be dumb enough to allow an association to GMA to stick to him? Again, you are seriously underestimating your competitor.]
3. Of course, that is not to say that we do not face challenges in the campaign. Quite a lot, I must say, foremost of which is the ability to bring our message—a clean, decent, transparent and accountable government will put an end to massive corruption, dedicate precious public resources to basic services for the poor and alleviate our people’s hopelessness and poverty—across to as many of our people as possible. It is a strong and relevant message that we are certain has had and will continue to have traction among more and more of our voters. We have been able to address this. In the coming days, we will be able to do this with greater frequency and in a sustained manner through ads.
[There you go again with your damned motherhood statements. You’re just as bad as everyone else. Everyone else is saying exactly the same thingto the point that it just makes you look insincere and trapo. Also, it’s not just what you’re saying but HOW you’re saying it. Your ads have not been proven to convert.]
[Also, if you are thinking about running more ad campaigns, the first thing you should do is fire your current creative team and hire a new one. You ran five different ads and two jingles in the last 60 days and you lost 10 points doing so. If you were a Unilever or P&G and you lost 10% market share, the first to get axed would be your ad agency, and the second would be your marketing and imaging team.]
4. On top of this, I believe that our comparative advantage—the organizational strength coming from our ability to mobilize volunteers all over the country—still has to make itself felt in the campaign. We expect that to happen as we formally start the campaign this February, the historic People Power month.
[Maybe you should have thought about this six months ago? Have you noticed that your Opponent has almost the same size of supporter network on Facebook? Again — your marketing team dropped the ball on this one. Obama had his volunteers going full steam months before the election.]
5. I have been through this before. When I first ran for office as a Congressman in 1998, I faced eight opponents and initially attracted about two-thirds of the votes. After the eight ganged up on me, throwing everything they could at me, my numbers fell to half of what I started with. But since the issues they threw at me did not stick and since I brought a message of change and hope, in the end, I prevailed with plenty to spare.
[Whoop-de-doo, you ran for Congress in your hometown of Tarlac where a Cojuangco/Aquino name carries a lot of weight. WHO CARES? Even your Senatorial position involved just being one name in twelve. This time it’s just you or the other guy. You may not have noticed but this is a much larger arena where you will be under much closer scrutiny. Nobody said this was going to be a walk in the park.]
6. What should not escape all of us is that I still lead the surveys—from the time I declared my candidacy to this day. I would like to assure everyone, especially our supporters, that as the formal campaign period starts, we will work harder to make sure that we remain on top of the fight and the hope of our people for a clean, competent and compassionate government through my tandem with Senator Mar Roxas will be fulfilled.
[Are you fiddling while Rome is burning all around you? You’re down to somewhere between a 2 and 7% gap depending on whether you believe Pulse Asia or SWS. The other guy is not going to stop working until election day. You have to cut the crap about “not wanting this” or “destiny” and actually get some work done. For God’s sake maybe you should stand for something.
[You’d better work harder. You’d better spend money. You’d better get Kris and Baby James and the ghosts of Cory and Ninoy and get them working fulltime for you. You need to fire your existing branding team and get some competent people on your staff who will not just say “Job well done, we’re #1”. ]
[How long do you think all those sycophants Kris rounded up for your showbiz ads are going to stick around when the momentum isn’t on your side? How long do you think ABS-CBN and the Inquirer are going to be friendly to you if the pendulum goes the other way? How long will it be before donors start backing another horse?]
[Noynoy, you need to get your act together because if your administration is anything like the way you run your campaign, we’ll be in for a really lousy six years. You had every advantage, and you’ve pissed it all away.]
Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future
January 23, 2010, 7:32 am
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| Tags: aquino
, Finest Masaccre
, Globe Telecoms
, hacienda luisita
, Hacienda Luisita Massacre
, HLI inc
, king of masaker
, Kris Aquino
, Liberal party
, noynoy masaker
, Senator Benigno Aquiono III
, Senator Noynoy Aquino
, Yellow Ribbon
This week the country commemorates the tragic shooting of protesting farmers on January 22, 1987, an incident better known as the Mendiola massacre. Along with the Hacienda Luisita massacre of November 16, 2004, these two incidents represent the darker side of the Aquino legacy.
The struggle between farmers and landowners of Hacienda Luisita is now being seen as the first real test of character of presidential candidate Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino, whose family has owned the land since 1958. Our research shows that the problem began when government lenders obliged the Cojuangcos to distribute the land to small farmers by1967, a deadline that came and went. Pressure for land reform on Luisita since then reached a bloody head in 2004 when seven protesters were killed near the gate of the sugar mill in what is now known as the Luisita massacre. This is the story of the hacienda and its farmers, an issue that is likely to haunt Aquino as he travels the campaign trail for the May 2010 elections.
First of a series
Senator Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino has said he only owns 1% of Hacienda Luisita. Why is he being dragged into the hacienda’s issues?
This is one of the most common questions asked in the 2010 elections.
To find the answer, GMANews.TV traveled to Tarlac and spoke to Luisita’s farm workers and union leaders. A separate interview and review of court documents was then conducted with the lawyers representing the workers’ union in court. GMANews.TV also examined the Cojuangcos’ court defense and past media and legislative records on the Luisita issue.
The investigation yielded illuminating insights into Senator Noynoy Aquino’s involvement in Hacienda Luisita that have not been openly discussed since his presidential bid. Details are gradually explored in this series of special reports.
A background on the troubled history of Hacienda Luisita is essential to understanding why the issue is forever haunting Senator Noynoy Aquino and his family.
Remnant of colonialism
Before the Cojuangco family acquired Hacienda Luisita in the 1950s, it belonged to the Spanish-owned Compaña General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera). Tabacalera acquired the land in 1882 from the Spanish crown, which had a self-appointed claim on the lands as the Philippines’ colonial master. Luisita was named after Luisa, the wife of the top official of Tabacalera.
Tobacco used to be the main crop planted in Luisita, but in the 1920s, the Spaniards shifted to sugar. Sugar production had become more profitable because demand was guaranteed by the US quota. In 1927, the Spaniards built the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac to accompany their sugarcane plantation.
Around the same year, the wealthy Cojuangco brothers Jose, Juan, Antonio, and Eduardo also put up a small sugar mill in Paniqui, Tarlac. The eldest brother, Jose “Pepe” Cojuangco, Sr., was the father of former President Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino, and the grandfather of Senator Noynoy Aquino.
Ninoy brokers purchase of Luisita
In 1954, Corazon Cojuangco married Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. with President Ramon Magsaysay as one of the ninongs (sponsor) at the wedding. In 1957, Magsaysay talked to Ninoy Aquino about the possibility of Ninoy’s father-in-law, Jose Cojuangco, Sr. acquiring Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Hacienda Luisita from the Spaniards. The Spaniards wanted to sell because of the Huk rebellion and chronic labor problems.
Ninoy Aquino wanted the azucarera and hacienda to stay only within the immediate family of his father-in-law, not to be shared with the other Cojuangcos, wrote American development studies expert James Putzel in his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines.
(Dr. James Putzel did extensive research on agrarian reform in the Philippines between the late 1980s to the early 1990s. He is currently a Professor of Development Studies at the London School of Economics.)
The exclusion of Jose Cojuangco, Sr.’s brothers and their heirs from Luisita caused the first major rift in the Cojuangco family, Putzel wrote. This played out years later in the political rivalry of Jose’s son Peping and Eduardo’s son Danding. Today, this divide is seen between Noynoy Aquino (grandson of Jose Sr., nephew of Peping) and Gibo Teodoro (grandson of Eduardo Sr., nephew of Danding), who are both running in the 2010 presidential elections.
(Click here to view the the Cojuangco family tree)
Government loans given to Cojuangco
Jose Cojuangco, Sr. received significant preferential treatment and assistance from the government to facilitate his takeover of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac in 1957.
To acquire a controlling interest in Central Azucarera de Tarlac, Cojuangco had to pay the Spaniards in dollars. He turned to the Manufacturer’s Trust Company in New York for a 10-year, $2.1 million loan. Dollars were tightly regulated in those times. To ease the flow of foreign exchange for Cojuangco’s loan, the Central Bank of the Philippines deposited part of the country’s international reserves with the Manufacturer’s Trust Company in New York.
LAND REFORM AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
When Spain colonized the Philippines by force beginning 1521, its lands were claimed by the conquistadors in the name of Spain. The natives who were already there tilling the land were put under Spanish landlords, who were given royal grants to “own” the land and exact forced labor and taxes from the natives. After the Spaniards left, the Americans took over. When the Philippines became independent in 1946, history had to be set right by giving the lands back to the people whose ancestors have been tilling them for centuries. However, a new feudal system developed among the Filipinos themselves, and once again drove a wedge between the tillers and their land.
The Central Bank did this on the condition that Cojuangco would simultaneously purchase the 6,443-hectare Hacienda Luisita, “with a view to distributing this hacienda to small farmers in line with the Administration’s social justice program.” (Central Bank Monetary Board Resolution No. 1240, August 27, 1957).
To finance the purchase of Hacienda Luisita, Cojuangco turned to the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System). His application for a P7 million loan said that 4,000 hectares of the hacienda would be made available to bonafide sugar planters, while the balance 2,453 hectares would be distributed to barrio residents who will pay for them on installment.
The GSIS approved a P5.9 million loan, on the condition that Hacienda Luisita would be “subdivided among the tenants who shall pay the cost thereof under reasonable terms and conditions”. (GSIS Resolution No. 1085, May 7, 1957; GSIS Resolution No. 3202, November 25, 1957)
Later, Jose Cojuangco, Sr. requested that the phrase be amended to “. . . shall be sold at cost to tenants, should there be any” (GSIS Resolution No. 356, February 5, 1958). This phrase would be cited later on as justification not to distribute the hacienda’s land.
On April 8, 1958, Jose Cojuangco, Sr.’s company, the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), became the new owner of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac. Ninoy Aquino was appointed the hacienda’s first administrator.
In his book, Putzel noted that the Central Bank Monetary Board resolution from 1957 required distribution of Hacienda Luisita’s land to small farmers within 10 years. The controversies that would hound the hacienda for decades can be traced to the Cojuangcos’ efforts to retain control of the land long after the deadline for land distribution passed in 1967.
Land not distributed to farmers
“Ang pagkakaintindi ng mga ninuno naming manggagawang-bukid ng Hacienda Luisita noon, within 10 years, babayaran na [ng mga Cojuangco] ang utang nila sa gubyerno. Pagdating ng 1967, ang lupa ay sa magsasaka na (The way our elders, the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita, understood things at that time, within 10 years, the Cojuangcos were going to pay back the money they borrowed from the government. By 1967, the land would belong to the farmers),” says Lito Bais, one of the present-day leaders of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU). Bais was born on the hacienda in 1957, the year before the Cojuangco family took over. His mother was also born on the hacienda.
When 1967 came and went with no land distribution taking place, the farm workers began to organize themselves to uphold their cause. That year, Ninoy Aquino also became the Philippines’ youngest senator. His entry into national politics marked the start of his bitter rivalry with President Ferdinand Marcos.
After Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, his most voluble critic Aquino, who was planning to run for President, was one of the first people arrested.
Government files case vs. Cojuangcos
The Cojuangcos’ disputed hold over Hacienda Luisita had been tolerated by Marcos even at the height of his dictatorship. However, as Ninoy Aquino and his family were leaving for exile in the US, a case was filed on May 7, 1980 by the Marcos government against the Cojuangco company TADECO for the surrender of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, so land could be distributed to the farmers at cost, in accordance with the terms of the government loans given in 1957-1958 to the late Jose Cojuangco, Sr., who died in 1976. (Republic of the Philippines vs. TADECO, Civil Case No. 131654, Manila Regional Trial Court, Branch XLIII)
The Marcos government filed this case after written follow-ups sent to the Cojuangcos over a period of eleven years did not result in land distribution. (The Cojuangcos always replied that the loan terms were unenforceable because there were no tenants on the hacienda.) The government’s first follow-up letter was written by Conrado Estrella of the Land Authority on March 2, 1967. Another letter was written by Central Bank Governor Gregorio Licaros on May 5, 1977. Another letter was written by Agrarian Reform Deputy Minister Ernesto Valdez on May 23, 1978.
The government’s lawsuit was portrayed by the anti-Marcos bloc as an act of harassment against Ninoy Aquino’s family. Inside Hacienda Luisita, however, the farmers thought the wheels of justice were finally turning and land distribution was coming.
Cojuangcos claim hacienda has no tenants
In their January 10, 1981 response to the government’s complaint, the Cojuangcos again said that the Central Bank and GSIS resolutions were unenforceable because there were no tenants on Hacienda Luisita.
“Inilaban ni Doña Metring, yung nanay nila Cory, na wala raw silang inabutan na tao [sa hacienda], kaya wala raw benipesyaryo, kaya ang lupang ito ay sa kanila (Doña Metring, the mother of Cory, said there were no tenants in the hacienda when they took over, therefore there were no beneficiaries, therefore the land belonged to them),” recalls Bais. “E, tignan mo naman ang lupang ito. Paano mapapatag ang lupang ito? Paano makapag-tanim kung walang taong inabutan? (But look at this land. How else could this land have been tamed? How could it have been cultivated if there were no people here when they took over?)”
(The distinction between a tenant farmer and seasonal farmers hired from outside was key to the Cojuangcos’ defense. A tenant farmer is one who is in possession of the land being tilled. In his book A Captive Land, James Putzel noted that the Central Bank resolution mentioned distribution not to tenants but to “small farmers.” Raising the issue of tenancy thus seemed ineffective in the defense.)
The Cojuangcos also said in their January 10, 1981 response that there was no agrarian unrest in Luisita, and existing Marcos land reform legislation exempted sugar lands. Further, they asserted that the government’s claim on Luisita had already expired since no litigation was undertaken since 1967.
Court orders Cojuangcos to surrender Luisita
In the meantime, vague rumors of a planned conversion of the hacienda into a residential subdivision or airport, or both, cropped up among the farm workers, causing anxiety that they would be left with no land to till. (This was likely due to the decline of the sugar industry in the Philippines after the US quota ended in the 1970s. Conversion became a buzzword among big landowners all over the country. The Cojuangcos formed Luisita Realty Corporation in 1977 as a first step to turning the hacienda into a residential and industrial complex.)
The government pursued its case against the Cojuangcos, and by December 2, 1985, the Manila Regional Trial Court ordered TADECO to surrender Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. According to Putzel, this decision was rendered with unusual speed and was decried by the Cojuangcos as another act of harassment, because Cory Aquino, now a widow after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, was set to run for President against Marcos in the February 7, 1986 snap elections. The Cojuangcos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (Court of Appeals G.R. 08634).
Cory promises to give “land to the tiller”
Cory Aquino officially announced her candidacy on December 3, 1985. Land reform was one of the pillars of her campaign.
A farmer GMANews.TV spoke to said they were told by Cojuangco family members managing the hacienda during this time that if Cory became president, Hacienda Luisita would once and for all be distributed to the farmers through her land reform program. He said this promise was made to motivate them to vote for Cory and join the jeepney-loads of people being sent to Manila from Tarlac to attend her rallies.
On January 6, 1986, Aquino delivered the first policy speech of her campaign in Makati and said, “We are determined to implement a genuine land reform program . . . to enable [beneficiaries] to become self-reliant and prosperous farmers.”
Ten days later, on January 16, 1986, Aquino delivered her second major speech in Davao and said, “Land-to-the-tiller must become a reality, instead of an empty slogan.”
In the same speech, Aquino also said, “You will probably ask me: Will I also apply it to my family’s Hacienda Luisita? My answer is yes.”
This campaign promise would haunt her for many years to come. To this day, it haunts her son.
Marcos flees, Aquino dissolves Constitution
The snap elections took place on February 7, 1986. Marcos was declared winner, but was ousted by the People Power revolution. Cory Aquino was sworn in as President on February 25, 1986. She named her running mate Salvador “Doy” Laurel Prime Minister through Presidential Proclamation No. 1.
A month later, Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation No. 3 declaring a revolutionary government and dissolving the 1973 Constitution. This nullified Laurel’s position as Prime Minister, and abolished the Batasang Pambansa (Parliament). Aquino announced that a new Constitution was going to be formed. Legislative powers were to reside with the President until elections were held.
To critics, Aquino’s abandonment of Laurel and her taking of legislative power were early signs that a web of advisers was influencing her decisions. The sway of these advisers would be felt later in the choices Aquino would make regarding Hacienda Luisita.
Juan Ponce Enrile’s link to Hacienda Luisita
On September 16, 1987, Laurel formally broke ties with Aquino. The New York Times reported that Laurel had confronted Aquino about her promise in 1985 to let him run the government as Prime Minister after Marcos was ousted, because she had no experience. This was the reason Laurel agreed to shelve his own plan to run for President and put his party’s resources behind Aquino during the snap elections. “I believed you,” the New York Times quoted Laurel saying he told Mrs. Aquino. Aquino just listened without response, Laurel said.
Laurel found an ally in Juan Ponce Enrile, another disenchanted EDSA veteran who now opposed Aquino.
Enrile also happened to be the lawyer of Tabacalera when Hacienda Luisita was taken over by the Cojuangcos in 1957. He was retained by the Cojuangcos after the sale. Enrile’s inside knowledge of the controversial transaction would be a big thorn in the side of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
Mendiola, a portent of the Luisita massacre
On January 22, 1987, eleven months into the Aquino administration, the Mendiola massacre happened. Thousands of frustrated farmers marched to Malacañang demanding fulfillment of the promises made regarding land reform during the Aquino campaign, and distribution of lands at no cost to beneficiaries. At least a dozen protesters were killed in the violent dispersal. More were seriously injured.
In a protest march for land reform in January 1987, 13 protesters were killed near Malacañang in what has gone down in history as the Mendiola Massacre, a low point in the administration of former President Corazon C. Aquino. Photo by Mon Acasio
Under pressure after the bloodshed in Mendiola, Aquino fast-tracked the passage of the land reform law. The new 1987 Constitution took effect on February 11, 1987, and on July 22, 1987, Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order No. 229 outlining her land reform program. She expanded its coverage to include sugar and coconut lands.
Her outline also included a provision for the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a mode of complying with the land reform law that did not require actual transfer of land to the tiller.
(Aquino’s July 22, 1987 “midnight decree”, as Juan Ponce Enrile called it back then, raised eyebrows because it was issued just days before the legislative powers Aquino took in 1986 were going to revert back to Congress on July 28, 1987, the first regular session of the new Congress after the May 1987 elections. The timing insured the passage of the SDO.)
LAND REFORM AND SDO
Why is land reform a big issue in the Philippines?
Land reform is linked to social justice. When Spain colonized the Philippines by force beginning 1521, its lands were claimed by the conquistadors in the name of Spain. The natives who were already there tilling the land were put under Spanish landlords, who were given royal grants to “own” the land and exact forced labor and taxes from the natives. After the Spaniards left, the Americans took over. When the Philippines became independent in 1946, history had to be set right by giving the lands back to the people whose ancestors have been tilling them for centuries. However, a new feudal system developed among the Filipinos themselves, and once again drove a wedge between the tillers and their land.
What is the SDO (Stock Distribution Option)?
The Stock Distribution Option (SDO) was a clause in the 1988 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that allowed landowners to give farmers shares of stock in a corporation instead of land. The landlords then arranged to own majority share in the corporations, to stay in control. This went against the spirit of land reform, which is to give “land to the tiller”. The SDO was abolished in the updated land reform law CARPER (CARP with Extensions and Revisions) that was passed in August 2009.
Cory withdraws case vs. Cojuangcos
On May 18, 1988, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case filed in 1980 by the Philippine government—under Marcos—against the Cojuangco company TADECO to compel the handover of Hacienda Luisita. It was the Philippine government itself—under Aquino—that filed the motion to dismiss its own case against TADECO, saying the lands of Hacienda Luisita were going to be distributed anyway through the new agrarian reform law.
The Department of Agrarian Reform and the GSIS, now headed by Aquino appointees Philip Juico and Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte respectively, posed no objection to the motion to dismiss the case. The motion to dismiss was filed by Solicitor General Frank Chavez, also an Aquino appointee. The Central Bank, headed by Marcos appointee Jose B. Fernandez, said it would have no objection if, as determined by the Department of Agrarian Reform, the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to small farmers would be achieved under the comprehensive agrarian reform program.
Stage is set for “SDO”
A month after the case was dismissed, on June 10, 1988, Aquino signed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Soon after, Hacienda Luisita was put under the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) that Aquino included in the law. Through the SDO, landlords could comply with the land reform law without giving land to farmers.
On June 8, 1989, Juan Ponce Enrile, now Minority Floor Leader at the Senate, delivered a privilege speech questioning Aquino’s insertion of the SDO in her outline for the land reform law, and the power she gave herself through Executive Order No. 229 to preside over the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), the body that would approve stock distribution programs, including the one for Hacienda Luisita.
Enrile also questioned the Aquino administration’s withdrawal of the government’s case compelling land distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmers. All these, Enrile said, were indications that the Cojuangcos had taken advantage of the powers of the presidency to circumvent land reform and stay in control of Hacienda Luisita.
Aquino’s sidestepping of land reform would stoke the embers of conflict in Luisita, climaxing in the November 16, 2004 massacre of workers fifteen years later.
TO BE CONTINUED
This story was first published in November 2009, the fifth anniversary of the Luisita massacre. This updated version has been expanded to accommodate additional information. Succeeding parts of this series will be published in the coming days. Part Two is here.
The Ampatuans’ Yellow ties
November 27, 2009, 3:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
| Tags: 27. Media Killings
, daily tribune
, Hacienda Luisita Massacre
, Maguindanao Massacre
, Philippine Massacre
, Presidentiables 2010
, Senator Benigno aquino III
, Senator Noynoy
, stop yellow mafia
, Tarlac Massacre
, Yellow Ribbon
DIE HARD III
By: Herman Tiu Laurel
My source from the Yellow forces had this to say about the Ampatuans: After the 1986 “Yellow” coup d’ etat where a “revolutionary government” was imposed, thousands of local government officials were summarily dismissed and replaced with OICs (officers-in-charge).
Through the sponsorship of Tingting Cojuangco (Peping’s wife), Zacarias Candao was appointed OIC of Maguindanao and went on to become ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) chief. It was under Candao that the Ampatuans were tapped to control the province to manipulate its elections. Thus began the rise of the Ampatuans.
Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor, who provides supporting research for his report last Nov. 24 entitled, “Philippines massacre: The story behind the accused Ampatuan clan,” says that “Many Filipinos are pointing to the massacre of 46 unarmed people (now 57) in the southern Philippines province of Maguindanao Monday as evidence of the deadly influence of a dynastic clan that has been nurtured by the central government for almost 20 years.”
Yes, folks. That’s 20 years of the Yellows holding the reins of government — interrupted only by less than two and a half years of President Estrada. Liberal Party (LP) chief Frank Drilon’s attempt to cash in on the massacre, despite the Yellows’ long history with the Ampatuans, by saying that the aggrieved Mayor Mangudadatu is joining his party, smacks of malice, hypocrisy and opportunism. The Ampatuans and their warlordism have been part and parcel of the feudal-oligarchic system, which the Yellows have long fostered. So this isn’t something new as far as the Yellows are concerned. In fact, it is their trademark.
There is no question that Edsa II only strengthened the power of the Ampatuans even more. In sweeping aside the Constitution and justifying the illegal removal of an elected president, thereby legitimizing the illegitimate, Gloria and the rest of the Yellows had to resort to force, deception, and fraud to supplant the Rule of Law. Hence, chaos ensued. The bloody May 1 end of the Edsa III march, where unnumbered Erap supporters were machine-gunned in Mendiola; the countless rallies dispersed with tear gas and truncheons; the hundreds of “extra-judicial” killings; the worsening corruption; the 2004 electoral fraud (which none of the Yellows nor the PPCRV exposed or denounced, until Estrada’s forces helped the late NBI Director Samuel Ong bring out the “Hello Garci” tapes); the declarations of a state of rebellion, emergency, ad nausea; and the barbaric ambushes, bombings, and beheadings in Mindanao are but reflections of the current lawless order.
We must recall that in 2007, 14 Marines were ambushed and killed, with 10 beheaded in Basilan. The suspected perpetrator, administration Rep. Wahab Akbar, was then killed in a motorcycle bomb attack as he was stepping out of the House of Representatives five months later. Norberto Gonzales was acting defense secretary at that time. Now that another grizzly episode has taken place a few days after he was returned to that post, is it still mere coincidence, considering Gonzales’ perpetuity gameplan for himself and his principal?
For sure, Basilan is a less important vote manipulating base than Maguindanao is because it has much fewer fraudulent votes to add to the regional total. But in all, ARMM politicians assumed heightened importance in the era of massive electoral fraud thanks to Edsa II and the Yellows. Undoubtedly, from 1986 to 2004 and 2007, until today, the Yellows have been allied with these feudal-warlord Muslim politicians for this very reason.
While Drilon still tries to cash in on the deaths of the 57 to score points for his party, the significant recollection in many people’s minds is that of President Estrada’s success at pacifying and stabilizing Mindanao when he crushed the MILF and other rebel groups. Now could the Maguindanao massacre have happened under Estrada? Many believe that he would have been far more effective in containing any seething warlordism in Mindanao. Given his record of cracking down on crime and injustice in the entire country, he would have gone hammer and tongs after the culprits immediately after discovering Monday’s crime. And since several governments have traditionally cultivated these warlords as a counterfoil to the mercenary MILF and Abu Sayyaf, Erap’s crushing of these groups would have rendered those warlords more dispensable too.
The truth is, the Ampatuans would sooner or later have forged an alliance with the Yellows again the way many of Gloria’s people have done. The LP, notwithstanding Philippine Star columnist Billy Esposo’s hypocritical protests against the Yellow dummy’s new recruits, is proving to be “Lakas Pala!“ anyway — a party of hypocrites and opportunists composed of: Drilon, Abad, the Hyatt 10 of Dinky Soliman, Purisima, et al.); NGO stalwarts Dan Songco (of the PeaceBonds infamy), etc.; plus incumbent Arroyo officials who have sworn allegiance to the LP while still serving Gloria, such as Romulo, Bello, and others.
Yellow is not only the color of cowardice but also of opportunism — taken from the color of the balimbing no less. The Republic’s colors should thus fly high above this yellow jaundice to return this country to honor, dignity and democracy.
(Tune in to 1098AM, Sulong Pilipinismo, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Global News Network, Destiny Cable Channel 21, Talk News TV, Tuesday, 8:15 p.m. to 9 p.m. on “An Analysis of the Maguindanao Massacre;” also visit http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com)