Philippine Online Chronicles
Published 16 November 2009
A shower of gunfire rang across the vast Hacienda Luisita on November 16, 2004 leaving Jesus Laza, Jhaivie Basilio, Juancho Sanchez, Jessie Valdez, Jun David, Jaime Pastidio and Adriano Caballero lifeless. Five years after blood spilled over the Cojuangco-owned sugar estate, the culprits remain on the loose, ready to execute another killing spree.
The massacre in Luisita, which claimed the lives of seven striking farmers and workers, was a nightmare bound to happen in the heavily guarded sugar plantation. A few kilometers from Luisita is the Philippine Army’s Camp Servillano Aquino, which served as guardhouse of the Northern Luzon Command (NolCom), according to an article from Bulatlat.com.
Apparently, the sugar estate’s workers and farmers who fought against the cruelly low P9.50/day take home pay have been held at gunpoint by the Cojuangcos since the start.
On Nov. 6, 2004, the 5,000-strong United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU, the sugarcane workers’ union)launched a strike at 11 a.m. over the illegal dismissal of its 326 members. The Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU, the sugar mill workers’ union) also declared a strike at 3 p.m. on the same day after the management turned down the P150-wage increase proposed by workers, putting the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in a deadlock.
The simultaneous strikes halted operations of the sugar plantation and sugar mill.
The strikers knew that at the root of their woes is the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme implemented by the Cojuangcos. Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law signed by former Pres. Corazon “Cory” Aquino, legitimate beneficiaries were given capital shares in the form of stocks instead of land. Documents have indicated that the ultimate intended use of Hacienda Luisita’s 6,000 hectares of land is not agriculture but industry and tourism, a report posted.
With such understanding of how President Aquino used the law to keep Luisita exempted from agrarian reform and land distribution, the strikers from CATLU and ULWU forged an alliance which served as their sole weapon against armed units deployed in Luisita.