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Revisiting Hacienda Luisita

The Cojuangco-Aquino clan seems to have found a new ally in Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano. The DAR secretary has not implemented a Supreme Court promulgation ordering the DAR to enforce its ruling to distribute parcels of land to farmers from the Hacienda Luisita owned by the powerful family in Tarlac. We realize Mariano has only been on the job less than three months but the High Court has already ruled in favor of the farmers’ case against the owners of Hacienda Luisita. He doesn’t have to study the case since the Supreme Court has already ruled on it. All Mariano has to do is implement the tribunal’s decision—or face contempt of court.

Two Aquino administrations—Cory and Noynoy—sat on the case for 12 years. Somehow the Cojuangcos were also able to dissuade Presidents Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo from distributing the land to the farmers despite a Supreme Court ruling. The late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona upheld the farmers’ case but was soon unseated through the machinations of Malacañang under BS Aquino who was protecting the Cojuangco interests.

It’s rather strange, if not ironic, that Mariano used to be a militant who espoused the plight of the poor. But being appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as agrarian reform secretary must have changed Mariano’s social and political outlook. A former congressman representing the farmers group Anakpawis, Mariano was once a farmer himself and a chairman of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. He is a survivor of the Mendiola massacre in 1987 when a group of farmers marched to Malacañang to present their plight to then-President Cory Aquino.

In a petition to President Duterte, the Ambala group of farmers and residents of Hacienda Luisita called for an end to the intimidation, killing and militarization of the area under the control of the Cojuangco-Aquino family. The group demanded the implementation of the Supreme Court order to distribute the farmlands that was already allotted to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. With the end of CARP, pursuing the farmers’ case has been made more difficult.

Although the Duterte government has not yet reached its first 100 days, it has shown resolve in the fight against crime and illegal drugs and in the pursuit of peace. By talking with the National Democratic Front and Joma Sison’s Communist Party of the Philippines, the government panel was able to reach an indefinite ceasefire agreement with the New People’s Army. Despite his differences with the media, Duterte signed the executive order on Freedom of Information and exhorted Congress to pass an FOI Law.

The President can show his sincerity in introducing meaningful change if he steps in on the long-drawn Hacienda Luisita case. Doing so would endear him even more to the masses who voted him into office.

Not a window of opportunity

Our people go abroad to look for windows of opportunity to improve the lives of their families. But our Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong instead find themselves washing windows while perched precariously on ledges of high apartment blocks. It is not in the job description of the Filipino maids —but their employers have no regard for their safety. They overwork their maids and won’t hire professional window cleaners in order to save money. Last month, a 35-year-old Filipino maid fell to her death while cleaning the window of a high-rise apartment.

Stories of Filipino domestic helpers falling out of windows are often ruled by police as suicide. Philippine embassies abroad find it difficult to prove the death is either accidental or she was trying to escape from an abusive employer. There are instances the maid was fleeing from the male employer attempting to rape her or the wife’s wrath who blamed her for thinking she seduced her husband.

Last Sunday, Filipino maids staged a protest march on the streets of Hong Kong asking the authorities to stop the dangerous practice of employers ordering the help to wash windows. There are some 100,000 Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

We don’t know if the abuse of the maids has something to do with the massacre of eight Hong Kong Chinese tourists at the Rizal Park in front of the Luneta grandstand. That former President Noynoy Aquino did not apologize for the August 2010 incident didn’t help assuage the anger of the Hong Kong Chinese for the botched rescue attempt. A dismissed policeman had hijacked the tourist bus and held its passengers as hostages.

Topics: Alejandro del Rosario , Hacienda Luisita , Department of Agrarian Reform , Secretary Rafael Mariano , Cojuangco , Aquino
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