#OccupyLuisita campaign vs Cojuangco-Aquinos is just and legitimate

“The arduous struggle for land distribution of Hacienda Luisita is just and legitimate, as landlords Cojuangcos and Aquinos continue to deny the return of land to its tillers, a condition which constituted the original agreement between the Cojuangcos and the Magsaysay government way back in 1967,” said Jigs Clamor, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General, on the “bungkalan” and land occupation of peasant farmers and farmworkers dubbed as #OccupyLuisita campaign.




On April 23, 2017, the Alyansa ng Manggagawang-bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), supported by peasant organizations such as Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), started the #OccupyLuisita to assert the farmers right to the 6,000-hectare sugar plantation.

On April 24, hundreds of farmers and their supporters successfully broke down the walls built by the Cojuango-Aquinos and their business partners, the Yuchengcos of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) and Lorenzos of Lapanday, around agricultural lands in Brgy. Balete, which was subjected to land conversion in 1996. “In their typical despotic fashion, the Cojuangco-Aquinos have mobilized State security forces to the area to protect the interests of the landlords. They have long grabbed land meant for distribution, circumventing court decisions and taking advantage of land conversion as a means to further gain huge profits,” said Clamor, citing HLI’s sale of the 500-hectare property to RCBC and LIPCO and 80.5 hectares used for the SCTEX amounting to PhP 1.33 billion

The Supreme Court (SC), in a unanimous decision, ordered the distribution of HLI to the farmer-beneficiaries on November 22, 2011. This decision was reaffirmed by the SC on April 24, 2012.

“Hacienda Luisita has been a site of emblematic cases of human rights violations, notably the 2004 massacre of seven striking farmworkers who were among those who demanded the turnover of the land to its rightful beneficiaries. The massacre exposed the greed and fascist character of the landed elite, fully backed by State security forces at their disposal. No member of this Cojuangco-Aquino family, nor any of the military and police elements involved in the massacre, was ever persecuted. This makes policies and steps for a genuine land reform all the more necessary,” Clamor added.

Clamor cited the recent developments in the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), particularly the progress in discussions and drafts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), of which free land distribution is a central issue and principle. He also cited the positive steps of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano in responding to the clamor of peasants for free land distribution and a moratorium on land conversion.

“All forms of support for the peasants’ struggle against feudal exploitation, including the historic campaign of the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers, are necessary. Likewise, we challenge the Duterte administration to stand with the farmers to exact accountability from the Cojuangco-Aquino clan for their crimes against peasants,” Clamor ended.