Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume IV, Number 21 June 27 - July 3, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Hacienda Workers Score Crackdown
early May, 100 sugar workers in the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita have
been recruited to the Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu). These paramilitary forces augment the Alpha Company of the
69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) that maintains two
detachments inside the hacienda making it the most militarized area in the
province of Tarlac.
Cafgus have been organized in the villages of Pando, Motrico, Astirias,
Texas, Bantog, Cutcut, Balete, Mapalacsiao, Parang and Mabilog. The
recruitment coincided with the elections for the new set of officers of
the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), the union of the hacienda’s
5,339 sugar farm workers.
the first time since its inception in 2001, the Alyansa ng mga
Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala, or the Alliance of Farm
Workers in Hacienda Luista), a militant sugar farm workers’ group,
fielded six of its officers and members to run for the union leadership.
the six, only Boyet Galang, who ran for the presidency, won. Galang is
also the chairperson of Ambala.
the campaign started, said Karina Espino, secretary general of Ambala, the
Cafgu and the military have harassed the candidates and the farm workers
belonging to their group. Espino also ran for treasurer in the union
elections but lost.
mga military, kasama ang mga Cafgu ay umiikot sa loob ng asyenda at
ipinagtatanong kung saan nakatira ang mga opisyal ng Ambala” (The
military, together with the Cafgu, roam around the hacienda and ask around
where the Ambala officers live), said Espino in an interview with Bulatlat.com
in Quezon City.
June 2 during a campaign sortie at the covered court inside Balete, Espino
said soldiers encircled the crowd while Galang was delivering a speech.
The soldiers left the area only after the activity was over.
following day, two military vehicles tailed the union candidates while
they were holding a motorcade.
said the presence of the military and paramilitary forces inside the
hacienda is a ploy by the HLI management to intimidate the voters and
force them not to vote for the progressive candidates from Ambala.
an earlier interview with Bulatlat.com, Galang said that ULWU
officers did not represent the sentiments of most of the HLI sugar farm
described the outgoing president, Boy Sigua, as a “bayarang maton”
(paid goon) of the Cojuangcos and a “yellow leader.” “Kasabwat
siya sa panunupil sa aming mga karapatan (at) sa pagkakait ng aming
kabuhayan” (He is an accomplice to the repression of our rights and
to the deprivation of our livelihood.), he said.
farmer leader said Sigua has always taken the side of the Cojuangcos in
the sugar farm workers’ struggle against diminishing man days, land
conversion, retrenchment and the Stock Distribution Option (SDO).
active participation in the elections is for the promotion of the sugar
farm workers’ rights and welfare through their union, Galang said.
the union elections last June 6, Sigua lost to Galang by around 850 votes.
Galang will assume his post on July 1, according to HLI election chair
Aquino came to power in 1986 after a people power revolt that toppled the
Marcos dictatorship, one of her flagship programs was the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
CARP was aimed at addressing the need for a genuine land reform program.
One of its provisions was to transfer the ownership of land to small
farmers including sugar farm workers.
HLI’s case, critics said however, the Aquino family used CARP to keep
the hacienda ownership.
of the provisions of the CARP was the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) that
distributed shares of stock to beneficiaries instead of subdividing the
hacienda and distributing the land to small farmers.
was established on August 23, 1988 as a spin-off corporation of the Tarlac
Development Corporation (TADECO) to operationalize the SDO in Hacienda
the same year, the HLI distributed certificates of shares of stocks to
more than 6,000 sugar farm workers, technically making them co-owners of
said the SDO virtually made the farm workers give up their rightful claim
to the agricultural lands of the hacienda in exchange for meager shares of
capital stock and production shares.
SDO formula in HLI was used by the Cojuangcos to evade physical land
distribution and has in fact strengthened their control over the
hacienda,” said Galang.
and production shares are distributed on the basis of the number of man
days (working days). The
amount of shares equivalent to each day of work determines individual
shares of each qualified farm worker.
a farm worker is guaranteed only 80 man days a year, the shares of capital
stock amount to P737 ($13.19, based on exchange rate of P55.88 per US
dollar) a year while production shares do not go beyond P1,120 ($20.04).
workload is sufficient during the milling season (i.e., October to
November), there are four to five man days or working days per sugar farm
worker per week. It stretches to six days during the planting season in
December. During the
off-milling season (i.e., January to September), sugar farm workers only
have two man days a week.
each man day, a seasonal sugar farm worker receives a gross pay of P199.17
($3.56) and for casuals, P194 ($3.47) which translates to a maximum of
P1,327.80 ($23.76) and P1,296 ($23.19), respectively, per month based on
80 guaranteed man days.
one year, seasonal sugar farm workers receive P15,933.60 ($285.14) and
casuals, P15,520 ($277.74).
on their pay slips, however, the workers’ take home pay is
P9.50 ($0.17) a day or less than P20 ($0.36) a week as loans and
taxes are deducted from their salary.
said the diminishing man days are significantly affected by land-use
conversion and mechanization in the hacienda.
Since 1988, guaranteed man days have drastically dropped as the
demand for manual work fell.
na ng mga makina ang mga manggagawang bukid sa hacienda” (Machines
replace the farm workers in the hacienda.), he said.
said that the HLI management has acquired high-tech machines for farming,
sprinkling, fertilizer dissemination and harvesting.
The management has so far acquired two hurricanes used for
sprinkling, four targets and around ten mechanical planters.
of the hacienda were converted into the Luisita Golf and Country Club (70
hectares) and the Luisita Industrial Park (Phase 1, 120 hectares; Phase 2,
500 hectares). Japanese investors also came in by developing the
500-hectare Central Techno Park.
hectares have also been converted to allow the planned Subic-Clark-Tarlac
Expressway to wedge through the.
residential lands have also risen including the Family Park Homes
Subdivision, the Don Pepe Cojuangco Subdivision (Phases 1 to 4), and the
Las Haciendas Industrial Subdivision while the St. Luis Subdivision is
ng management, makabubuti daw ang pagtatayo ng mga pabrika sa loob ng
asyenda dahil makapagbibigay daw ito ng trabaho sa mga mamamayan dito pero
malaking kalokohan lang yan” (According to management, the building
of factories inside the hacienda is good since it will give jobs to the
residents but this is a big lie), Galang said.
said that of the total labor force in the LPI, only 5 percent come from
the residents of the hacienda. Galang says the employers refuse to take in
residents from the hacienda on the pretext that they are unqualified and
that they are known to be “militant.”
hindi tinatanggap kung nalaman nila na anak ng kasapi sa Ambala. Iniisip
nila, baka magtayo lang ng unyon dun ang mga it” (The sons of Ambala
members are especially not accepted. Employers think that they may
organize unions), he added.
of the 5,339 sugar farm workers in the HLI, 2,500 are set to be
“de-listed” from the master list.
To make this possible, Galang said, the HLI management started to
push for the early retirement scheme and to approach several master list
members to secretly make them sign a waiver or a “quit claim.”
five-page document secured by Bulatlat.com revealed a letter being
dangled by the management set to be “submitted” to Ricardo C. Lopa
Jr., farm manager of the HLI. According
to the letter, HLI distributed a memorandum dated July 24, 2003 regarding
the optional/early retirement program.
It suggested that if signed, the employee would be given benefits
but would be terminated from his or her work in the sugar farm.
second letter, also signed by Lopa, stated that the HLI is restrained to
undertake a Manpower Reduction Program because of “adverse business
third letter, which had the name of Lopa in the letterhead, signified the
willingness of the sugar farm worker to be included in the list of
employees to be retrenched by the HLI.
fourth and fifth pages are forms for the official Release, Waiver and Quit
workers’ rights and welfare
Ambala officers’ decision to run for seats in the union is to advance
the rights and welfare of the sugar farm workers in the hacienda.
na kami sa mga dilawang lider ng aming unyon.
Dapat nang pamunuan ito ng mga tunay na militante at makabayang
lider na nagsasapuso sa karapatan at kagalingan ng mga manggagawang bukid”
(We are already tired of yellow leaders in our union. It should now be led
by militant and nationalist leaders who take to heart the rights and
welfare of farm workers.), Galang said.
it is not at all easy to fight the powerful Cojuangco clan, he said. Aside
from the harassment from military and paramilitary forces that he has to
bear, he and other colleagues also have to endure red baiting.
the campaign for the union elections, several black propaganda materials
were distributed in the hacienda naming him and three others as
“candidates of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New
Peoples Army-National Democratic Front).”
The materials also said that Galang and the three others are
“controlled” by the communists and that they “aim to be a factor in
the downfall of the Cojuangcos and the HLI.”
Galang said this is just part of the psychological-war operations of the
military in connivance with the Cojuangcos to harass and discourage him
from running in the union elections.
He said it also aims to intimidate the voting populace of the
“We’re ready for any eventuality. Although we take precautions, we remain undaunted,” he said. Bulatlat.com/Photos by Dabet Castañeda