13th Anniversary of Hacienda Luisita Massacre
November 16, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Reference: Nikki De Leon, Chairperson, Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
November 16, 2017 marks the 13th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. Hacienda Luisita (HL), a 6,543-hectare estate and sugar plantation located in Tarlac City, Philippines, is owned by one of the most powerful landlord families in the country - the Aquino-Cojuangco clan. Thirteen years ago today, 7 people were killed (including two children), hundreds injured, and a total of 133 strikers and their supporters were arrested after police and military personnel opened fire on thousands of farm workers picketing unarmed for fair wages.
On the morning of November 15, 2017 in Tarlac City, Philippines, farmers, protesters, and members of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) - the group of agrarian reform beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita - were serving an eviction notice to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), which claims 500 hectares of the Hacienda Luisita estate. This disputed land is covered under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), but instead of being returned to the farmers, was sold to RCBC in 2004 by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan.
Sources on the ground reported that anti-riot police used violent force to disperse the farmers, injuring at least 2 protesters. In the midst of the dispersal, Florida Sibayan, 61, chairperson of Ambala, was abducted by a man in civilian clothing and is currently being illegally detained by the Tarlac provincial police.
Thirteen years later and the Hacienda Luisita Massacre remains unresolved, no investigations conducted nor has anyone been arrested for the murder of the farmworkers. Thirteen years later, farmers and beneficiaries continue to picket for their rightful land, and again are met with the same police brutality and unlawful arrest and detainment. The actions of the government and armed forces of the Philippines continue to violate the basic human rights of the workers, farmers, and peasants of the country failing their duties to justly serve the majority of the people.
Portland Committee for Human rights in the Philippines (PCHRP) strongly condemns the unlawful abduction and detainment of Florida Sibayan and the attacks on the farmers and protesters. On the anniversary of Hacienda Luisita, we call on our communities to demand justice for the victims and families of the massacre, justice for those attacked on November 15, for the redistribution of Hacienda Luisita lands to its 6,000 rightful farmer beneficiaries, to the release of Florida Sibayan. We call on our communities to demand just and lasting peace in the Philippines.
In this vein, PCHRP calls for significant amendments to the US Senate Bill 1055, the Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act. While we support the bill’s ending of financial support for the Philippine National Police, we believe it does not go far enough. We call for a policy of de-escalation of military aid and training as this perpetuates human rights violations through militarization and war. We further call for a removal of foreign direct investment from multinational corporations--ostensibly in the name of Filipino people--as the historical record shows that this will in fact heighten crackdown of peasants and workers by the elite 1% landlord class. Finally, we call for unconditional support of human rights defenders like Florida Sibayan as the alternative to US investment in corporate land grabs for big landlords.