This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly newsmagazine (www.bulatlat.com, www.bulatlat.net, www.bulatlat.org).
Vol. V, No. 40, November 13-19, 2005


 

Luisita Strikers Nabbed, Detained
Union condemns harassment

Human rights violations at the Hacienda Luisita continue as 10 strikers and a striker's son, were arrested, detained and beaten up last Nov. 14. The military is said to be once again behind the dastardly act.

BY ABNER BOLOS
Bulatlat


At about 2 a.m. of Nov. 14, 10 strikers and a 15-year old striker's son were sleeping near the picket line along the main road in front of Barangay (village) Balete, Tarlac City when about 20 soldiers suddenly and without warning came and searched them. The workers, all members of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), were punched, kicked and hit with armalite rifles.

Arnold Cunanan, one of the workers, was repeatedly hit with a steel tube at the legs and lower part of his body. The 11, which included two women and a minor, were then forced to board the shuttle jeep of the Central Azucarrera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU).

They were taken to a house being rented by the soldiers in Barangay Balete where they were reportedly beaten up again while being interrogated for about three hours. It was only at around 5 a.m. when they were transferred to the police station in Tarlac City. Twenty-one year old Rachelle Bayudan’s cellular phone was confiscated by the soldiers.

The strikers identified the leaders of the arresting team as TSgt. Julius Paman, Sgt. Dennis Mendoza and a certain Michael Salvador who the strikers said is also a soldier.

The two women arrested were Bayudan and Malou Ricardo, 29, both from Brgy. Balete. The minor was Nino Oles, son of Rico Oles, 39 of Brgy. Bantog. The others were: Cunanan, 37; Eduardo Martinez, 25; Arnel Padel, all of Brgy. Balete; Renato Mendoza, 35, Brgy. Cut-cut II; Eduardo Capulong, 27, Brgy. Mapalacsiao; Lito dela Cruz, 35. Brgy. Asturias; and Resty Puzon, 20, Brgy. Motrico.

All barangays (villages) are among the 11 villages that comprise the 6,443-hectare Hacienda Luisita, Luzon's largest sugar estate owned and operated by the family of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino of the powerful Cojuangco clan in Tarlac.

ULWU president Rene Galang said in an interview with Bulatlat that it was another form of harassment against their union, which has successfully staged a one-year old strike resulting in the work stoppage of the sugar estate.

On Nov. 6 last year, ULWU, the plantation workers' union, and CATLU, the mill workers' union, staged a simultaneous strike citing unfair labor practices and a deadlock in the negotiations for a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) as basis.

Criminalization

“This is another vicious attack on the legitimate struggle of the workers of Hacienda Luisita. Instead of pursuing negotiations that the unions have consistently asked for, they resort to another senseless act of violence,” Galang said.

“They have charged three of our members with trumped-up criminal cases. In so doing they are criminalizing an inherent right of the people to act and seek redress for their grievances,” Galang added.

Galang was referring to the charges filed against Cunanan, Ricardo and Martinez who were charged for allegedly violating RA 8294 (Illegal Possession of Firearms) and RA 3553 (Anti-Deadly Arrow Law). The strikers deny they were in possession of any deadly weapon when arrested.

Cunanan and Ricardo are now detained at the Tarlac City Police Station. The two have been under surveillance by the military since the strike started last year. They were listed as members of the New People's Army (NPA) in the book "Trinity of War" published by the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and in a slide presentation of the AFP titled "Knowing the Enemy."

The other nine strikers who were nabbed together with the two have been released to the custody of Balete Brgy. Capt. Rodel Galang.

Charges revived

As the warrantless arrest of eleven strikers took place, Galang and 22 others received their subpoena and are scheduled for arraignment on Thursday, Nov 17. Two of those charged, Isidro Batan and Albert Gonzales, are already dead.

All of those charged are officers and members of ULWU. They have been charged with "alarm and scandal" for staging a protest march inside the hacienda in mid-summer of 2003. The case is now docketed at the Municipal Trial Court in Tarlac under Criminal Case No. 1237-05.

Galang said the revival of their case "is part of the seemingly unending scheme of the Cojuangco family to harass the union. We were surprised that a case that we assumed have been dismissed is being revived at this time, especially just after the murder of [CATLU president Ricardo Ramos].

"In their futile attempt to end the strike on their terms, they are doing everything to make things hard for us," Galang said.

He said the Cojuangcos are desperate to operate the mill before the year ends. Sugar milling season in the country is from October to April of the next year.

During initial negotiations with ULWU last Nov. 10, CAT vice president for operations Ernesto Teopaco said that even with the strike, CAT is expecting to harvest at least 600,000 tons of sugarcane compared to the 900,000 to one million tons of sugarcane harvested during  the previous years.

Meanwhile, during a visit to his troops in Tarlac on Nov. 11, Major General Jovito Palparan, commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, said, “After almost eight months of focused and dedicated efforts, the troops were able to facilitate the surrender of 176 sympathizers and supporters of the CPP/NPA at the environs of Hacienda Luisita, most of them are now undergoing the usual cross-examination and re-orientation processes. Job well done!” Bulatlat 

 

© 2005 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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