Skip to content

3 victims of political killings

The political killings have not yet stopped. Last night someone told me that two people had been killed in a nearby urban poor community. The person didn’t have many details at the time and they didn’t talk much about it. I came across the article below on bulatlat that speaks about the killings.

People here are busy (non-stop, no sleep busy) preparing for a big demo to protest the president’s state of the nation address. Caloocan City is a community they are organizing, it’s hard to tell whether the deaths have affected them.

By now though, I think most activists, even those in their 20s,  in the Philippines are used to hearing about an organizer, even a friend, being killed. I’ve spoken to two people on seperate occasions who commented about being overwhelmed by the killings under the previous government – “you just kept getting texts that someone was killed”. But they’re incredibly committed to the national democratic movement here.

One reason I think people are able to keep going is that there is a lot of support. The older organizers are like older siblings or god-parents who look out for the younger ones. They make time to check in with the younger organizers and listen to whatever issues they are facing.

——————————————

http://bulatlat.com/main/2011/07/24/3-more-victims-add-to-list-of-political-killings/

3 victims add to list of political killings

Published on July 24, 2011

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – A few days before President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his State of the Nation Address (Sona), three more victims add to the growing list of political killings.

Roque Laputan, 59, a member of Anakpawis partylist, Davao del Sur, was murdered by unidentified men, July 10. Laputan, was at the forefront of protests against the operation of Xstrata-owned Sagittarius Mines Inc. in Davao del Sur and the company’s plan to put up a coal-fired plant here.

Laputan was in a store in Tagansuli village when two masked men on a motorcycle arrived, one of whom alighted, grabbed Laputan by the neck and shot him twice in the head. He died instantly.

Two residents of Pangarap Village in Caloocan City were killed when security guards opened fire at a vigil site set up by residents protesting against the demolition in the area. Soliman Gomez and Rommel Fortadez died and six others were injured.

The guards, who were allegedly drunk, were guarding the property owned by Gregorio Araneta III, a relative of newly-appointed Department of Transportation and Telecommunications secretary and Aquino’s running mate, Manuel “Mar” Roxas III.

“Killings continue just before Aquino delivers his second Sona. Does this tell us that the same policy of extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary killings would continue for the next years of Aquino’s term?” Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general, said. “We ask him, how many more?”

Reacting to announcements made by Malacañang that Pres. Aquino’s SONA will focus on his anti-corruption campaign report for the past year, Hustisya, an organization of families of victims of human rights violations, asked whether human rights is not an alarming issue for the Aquino administration.

“Didn’t he mention an end to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in his straight path? If this is so, why do killings continue?” Guevarra said.

During his first Sona, Aquino vowed to resolve cases of extrajudicial killings, citing the murder of Fernando Baldomero, a local councilor in Lezo, Aklan, among others.

One year after, the case was recently archived because the arrest warrant issued in January this year had not been served, according to Ernan Baldomero, son of the victim and Hustisya vice chairman. The suspect, Ernan said, has eluded arrest.

“We are raising the alarm not only because victims under the past administration have not been given justice, but most especially, killings continue under Aquino. Until when shall we wait for concrete action to stop the killings?” Guevarra asked.

According to Karapatan, there have been 48 victims of extrajudicial killings, not yet including the recent cases.

Congressional probe

Meanwhile, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said they are seeking an inquiry into the incident in Pangarap Village, adding that the this is not the first time that security guards of Araneta-owned Carmel Development Inc. (CDI) indiscriminately fired at the residents. On April 28, three were injured in the shooting.

Carmel Development is claiming ownership of the 7,008-hectare area where the community is located. The area, almost half the size of Caloocan City, includes Pangarap Village that is part of “Tala Estate,” historically a leper colony as determined by Commonwealth Act 161. Anakpawis said the Aranetas want to clear the area, demolish the urban poor community and develop the area into a commercial center.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) filed a case (GR No. 187876) against CDI for illegally claiming the land. According House Resolution 1236 filed by Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Womens Party, Act Teachers Party-list and Kabataan Party, the DENR said CDI had failed to prove that it had fully paid for the land, which is supposedly part of the “Friar Lands,” “over which the Government holds the title and are not public lands but private or patrimonial property of the Government and can be alienated only upon proper compliance with Act No. 1120 or the Friar Lands Act.”

Mariano said the violence at Pangarap Village adds to the series of bloody demolitions against urban poor communities. Other incidents of violent demolitions also took place in Sitio San Roque in Quezon City, Barangay Corazon de Jesus in San Juan City and Laperal Compound in Makati City. “Aquino’s neglect on the plight of the urban poor is evident in the series of violent demolitions under his watch.”

Worker Organizing pt 2 – MUSTAD workers on the picket line

The workers outside of the Mustad factory have been on the picket line since late May, 2011. They set up the picket line the day after the company supposedly illegally closed its gates on the workers.

The workers are primarily women in their 30s to 50s. Many had worked at the plant for over 20 years. They had built up a strong union affiliated with Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and had won many rights for their workers.

The closure of the plant will have a particularly devastating impact on these workers, as not only is there an extremely high unemployment rate, most companies do not higher people older than 25 years of age.

The workers are determined to challenge the company’s decision to close the factory and they have stayed on the picket line for over a month now.

The workers used to hand knit the nylon bait to the fishing hooks for Mustad’s “best selling [fishing] hook brand on the planet.” Mustad is a Norwegian company with sale centres in 160 countries.

When the workers approached Mustad about the closure, Mustad claimed they could no longer keep the plant open because of the losses at the factory and provided the workers with a financial statement showing their losses.

But the workers remained skeptical, and for good reason.

First off, the workers say that the company continued to receive production orders.

The workers also question the financial statements provided by the company, as the workers say that many companies operating in the Philippines are notorious for fixing the books.

And then there is Krexim, a company that is supposedly in competition with Mustad.

However, one look at the Mustad compound would have you question that story. Both the Mustad and the Krexim factories are within the same compound, behind gates with the letters “M””U””S””T””A””D” written on them.

In addition to fixing the books, companies also change their names quite often. The original factory operated under the name of Krexim, and was later changed to Mustad, and now we have/had Mustad and Krexim as two separate companies.

Why all the name changes?

The name changes are ways of using changes in the Filipino laws to further extract profits. At one point companies had a 5 year grace period before they would be required to pay taxes. All you had to do was change your name and then you had another 5 years without taxes.

Currently, a new law (or loop hole) has made it easier to contractualize the workforce.

Here comes Krexim with a new organizational design to maximize profits. Krexim has 20 sub-contractors who in total hire 300 workers. These workers work from their home.

At home, the work conditions are more hazardous, not only for the worker but also their family. Remember, these workers are producing fishing lures. Each Mustad worker had numerous stories of puncture wounds from the lures, but at least they had won the right to have a health worker on staff. The workers at Krexim and their children have no access to health and safety services.

The pay is worse. Workers at Mustad were getting paid 464 php a day ($10). While its still hard to live on 464 php, its much harder to live on 80-120 php the workers at Krexim make. They get paid for piece work; 1 peso per finished product.

There has been a significant decline in unionization (and with it a decline in workers’ rights) alongside the increasing contractualization policies implemented by the government and corporations.

Unions like KMU and the workers on the Mustad picket line have been fighting for the rights of all Filipinos workers.

Community Media pt 3 – May Day Multimedia

I recently met someone from May Day Multimedia. They produce really solid videos.

They focus on putting together short and medium sized documentaries. You might remember them from such films as “Ka Bel” and “Worker’s Saga”.

(they have a version with english subtitles, but I don’t think its online)

“Worker’s Saga” was apparently received really well by communities (so much so, that some people are actually selling the movie). Many people within the urban poor communities appreciated the humour. Many of the organizers used the movie to mobilize people for the May Day rally (and with it being only 8min long, it provides a good intro to education/discussions).

Many of their earlier documentaries would show the poverty in urban areas and then at the end tell people to join the rallies. Many people in the urban poor communities had labelled the movies as “poverty with rally at the end” movies. They didn’t really like them, because they already knew poverty and didn’t care to see more of it (the students usually found these movies more interesting).

They also tried producing videos of daily news, but found it really difficult to shoot and edit the videos within a day (I’m also guessing that distribution would have also been an issue). They felt they couldn’t compete with mass media on this level.

Now, they work closely with folks organizing workers to develop the ideas for the documentaries (and also to find out how the film is received). As a group they put together a script and then take it to the organizers to get their input.

The production of the 8min movie above took about 1 month – 5 days on the script, 5 days getting equipment + volunteers, 1 day shooting, 10 days post production (animation).

When watching all these videos I was thinking why were people putting so much time in making these, when the vast majority of the population does not have access to computers/internet, let alone electricity. What organizers were finding is that many of the younger organizers use the internet and will watch these movies. In this way, the movies become a way of transmitting ideas to the organizers, who then can transmit them to the masses.

Urban Demolitions – Residents Block EDSA

As we drove by an urban poor community in metro Manila the other day, a friend started to tell me about the communities continuing struggle against demolitions.

The government had recently sold a plot of land to one of the Ayala corporations (one of the wealthiest Filipinos). The corporation is hoping to develop a central business district in the location.

However, six thousands families lived in the community that had just been sold.

The national housing authority offered to relocate the families to the outskirts of the city, however there was apparently no electricity or running water, it was far from jobs, and additionally it was on a fault line. The families refused the offer.

About 3 months ago, the Philippines National Police and a large demolition crew were sent in to tear all the houses down.

The people tried to block them, but the police was able to clear the way for the demolition team.

As the demolition team began to demolish their homes, some of the community members began building a barricade on EDSA (one of the main roads into downtown Manila).

Here’s a video produced by May Day Multimedia about the demolitions. The video’s in Filipino so the translation for captions is below.

As a result of the communities resistance, and the governments fear that more people would join the resistance, the president put a hold on the demolition of the remaining houses.

Workers Organizing pt 1 – Export Processing Zones

I was recently talking to a friend about Filipino workers and how they were organizing against the issues they faced but also in solidarity with other Filipinos. He told me that it has become very difficult for workers to organize because more and more jobs are contractual – not permanent positions (this sounded familiar to what is taking place in Canada), many of the factories have moved out of the major cities (this also sounded familiar), and the factories are being relocated to Export Processing Zones.

I remember hearing about Export Processing Zones in the Caribbean, primarily the case of the Canadian clothing company Gilden and its operations in Haiti, but I didn’t know much about them.

Here’s an 2007 article from bulatlat.com on Export Processing Zones in Cavite, which is just south of Manila

———————————————-

BY MA. ROSA CER M. DELA CRUZ

It was almost midnight. The picket line in front of Phils-Jeon Garments Factory, Inc., a transnational corporation (TNC) inside the Cavite Economic Zone (CEZ), was nearly deserted. Some 130 workers were on strike due to the management’s refusal to bargain, forced leave of regular workers and illegal termination of their union president. Aling Norma (not her real name) a Phils-Jeon worker, is inside a makeshift tent with a co-worker when men wearing ski masks entered their tents. “Tinali kami [ng mga lalaki], piniringan at binusalan. Pagkatapos, isinakay kami sa sasakyan kasama yung mga gamit namin. Inupuan kami para hindi kami makita ng bantay. Maya-maya ibinaba kami sa labas ng CEZ” (We were tied, blindfolded and our mouths covered. We were forced to ride on a vehicle, with our belongings, and sat on to conceal our presence. Then we were released and left outside the gates of CEZ.) Aling Norma recounted.

The CEZ is one of the country ’s export processing zones (EPZs), employing over 80,000 workers. EPZs are categorized as special economic zones (SEZ), or “selected areas which have the potential to be developed into agro-industrial, industrial, tourist/recreational, commercial, banking, investment and financial centers,” as stated in the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995.

At present, there are 262 factories inside CEZ, about 240 of which are partly or fully-owned by foreign investors, among them Phils-Jeon and Chong Won Fashion, Inc.

The lure of incentives

Business establishments inside SEZs enjoy fiscal incentives that are exclusively granted by the government. For instance, while corporations outside SEZs are required to pay a 32 percent income tax, the companies in SEZs are exempt from paying taxes, with the condition that five percent of the annual gross income of all establishments inside the zone be remitted to the national government. Any capital equipment or machinery used in production is not subject to real property tax, while other establishments have to pay taxes for equipment bought and owned. Also, losses in operations for the first 10 years are deducted on the taxable income for the six years following the year of loss. However, since TNCs are concentrated in SEZs, these incentives usually benefit foreign investors alone — to the detriment of local industries which, given their small capital, cannot compete with big corporations.

Aside from these incentives, SEZs have strategic locations in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal,
Quezon and similar areas where goods are traded through a network of international seaports and airports. The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), the governing body of SEZs, ensures that there are no trade disruptions by monitoring the performance of workers.

Labor leaders, however, contest the composition of the PEZA, which includes representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Finance, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Economic and Development Authority, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and the ecozone business sector. Meanwhile, SEZ workers are unrepresented in the regulating body.

Labor leaders further assert that both the national government and PEZA seek to maximize the labor market through flexibility schemes that allow the expansion of TNCs. Among these flexibility schemes are depressed wages, excessive quotas, poor working conditions, and union busting.

Exploitative practices

The minimum wage in the CEZ is pegged at P272 ($6.03 at an exchange rate of $1=P45.04), an amount based on the needs of the workers and the capability of the capitalists to pay. Despite this, some factories inside the CEZ pay 25 percent less than the minimum wage for contractual workers. However, according to the National Wages and Productivity Commission, a family of six in Cavite needs a daily income of P669 ($14.85). Thus, even with both husband and wife earning a minimum wage, their combined income will still fall short of the required daily income.

In addition, some factories require the laborers to work beyond the regular working hours. Aling Rina (not her real name), a worker in Chong Won, said she had to work up to 48 hours nonstop to reach a daily quota of 1,500 to 5,500 pieces of clothing articles.

Aling Rina added that they are not allowed to eat, drink or use the toilet during working hours or even during overtime. Thus, urinary tract infection, usually caused by irregular urination, is common, as well as respiratory problems. Two of her co-workers even died — one due to over-exhaustion and another due to asthma attacks.

To combat these unfair labor practices, the workers formed unions that will represent them in collective bargaining agreements: Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Chong Won (NMCW or United Workers of Chong Won) and Kaisahan ng Manggagawa sa Phils-Jeon, Inc. (KMPJI or Unity of Workers of Phils-Jeon). Their employers retaliated by forming a union of their own and by refusing to hold a certification election, thereby obstructing the process of recognition of the two unions.

According to Antonio Tujan, Jr., Executive Director of IBON Foundation, the formation of unions is discouraged by TNCs since bargaining agreements tend to raise wages and prevent the extension of working hours. Unions also facilitate the organization of strikes and protest actions.

Ruling violence

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Medium Term Development Plan for 2004-2010 equates harmonious labor relations with fewer strikes and more settlements or voluntary arbitration. Thus, some factories inside CEZ employ an unwritten ‘No Union, No Strike’ Policy. The workers who take part in unions are illegally terminated or, as in Aling Rina’s case, given more difficult jobs. From being a sewer, she became a trimmer who had to remain standing while she worked. She was also moved to a place with little ventilation, along with some of her co-workers who are active in NMCW.

“On the government’s part, the main device used to prevent strikes is what is called the assumption of jurisdiction (AJ),“ KMU spokesperson Prestoline Suyat said. “The government uses the AJ to stop strikes instead of investigating what triggered these. In the end, the disputes are resolved in a manner that favors the capitalists.”

NMCW and KMPJI launched their strikes simultaneously on September 25 last year. Two days after, KMPJI members were violently dispersed by PEZA’s Jantro Guards, and the CEZ police, injuring 13 workers. Last June 10 to 11, NMCW members were harassed by men wearing ski masks. “Ang nakapagtataka, mahigpit ang checkpoint noon sa CEZ, paano sila nakapasok?” (What is strange is that with the strict checkpoint at CEZ, how could they have entered?) asked Aling Norma.

Meanwhile, the violent dispersal of workers remained uninvestigated. The strikers were even sued by the management for slight physical injuries supposedly inflicted on the group that dispersed them.

Continuous struggle

After having been dispersed repeatedly and violently, the workers, including Aling Norma and Aling Rina, were forced to abandon their picket lines. The issues have now been brought to the courts: various cases have been filed against the managements of Phils-Jeon and Chong Won, including unfair labor practice, forced leave, illegal termination, slight physical injury, and grave threats. Chong Won has filed a declaration of bankruptcy in a trial court in Imus, Cavite. Phils- Jeon is still in operation.

Phils-Jeon and Chong Won are not the only companies guilty of unfair labor practices. Electronic factories, for instance, use chemicals hazardous to health without the knowledge of the workers. The effects of these chemicals vary from allergies to more serious cases of tuberculosis and cancer. In another case, a union leader of a CEZ factory was nearly killed in an ambush. There are also many cases of accidents due to lax safety precautions.

At present, CEZ workers continue their struggle not only against their employers, but also against anti-labor policies and directives issued by the government. For as long as the government favors these companies, the workers inside SEZs are left with no choice but to battle mechanisms which deny them their rights.

Community Media pt 2 – Southern Tagalog Exposure

Yesterday I got to speak with some people from another media group – Southern Tagalog Exposure. The group produce some solid short documentaries focusing primarily in the region (Southern Tagalog).

Check out this short documentary on the 43 health workers 

Their approach seems to be to capture as much video footage on issues affecting communities and on struggles waged by the communities, and then to edit the videos. The editing process seems to require the most skill and is very time consuming.

One of the youth was telling me that when they want to do an interview they don’t just go and shoot the interview, but instead they integrate into the community for a weeks time to learn + understand the issues in the community to better represent those issues in the work they produce.

Most of the communities they work with are already organized (I asked them about how they worked with communities that weren’t yet organized, but their answer was more hypothetical).

I was surprised to learn that there are only about half dozen people in the organization, with only a few full timers.

They have run media workshops for workers and peasants, but it hadn’t worked out as they had hoped. It seemed as though people did not have the time to contribute to the media work. They have started trying to recruit students from universities in the region so that they can do more.

You can check out a few of their videos here – http://www.youtube.com/user/STExposureRealReels

Will the new president be better? – the Hacienda Luisita Massacre

When I ask people whether the new government of Benigno Auino is any better than Arroyo, many people bring up the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre.

The massacre took place on land owed by the Aquino family – land which according to the law should have been distributed to the people living on the land.

Here’s a short (8min) documentary by Kodao Productions (its in Filipino, but I thought it would be good alongside the article) –

Here’s a 2004 article from bulatlat.com by Bobby Tuazon (http://www.bulatlat.com/news/4-42/4-42-massacre.html)

———————————

The violent dispersal of the strike of Hacienda Luisita farm workers on Nov. 16 that led to the death of 14 farmers including women and children and the wounding of 200 others was a massacre bound to happen.

The labor dispute that pitted, on the one hand, the hacienda’s 5,000 farmers and 700 milling workers who were demanding among others the reinstatement of 300 workers and on the other, the management that has rejected every inch of their demands was in a deadlock. With their families living on starvation wages and themselves threatened with a mass lay-off, there was no way by which the workers could push their cause except by staging a strike.

From the very beginning, it appeared that the only response that the powerful Cojuangcos – including former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino – had in mind was by military means. Most of the accounts that have been reported about the Nov. 16 massacre have overlooked the fact that the 6,000-hectare hacienda, known in the past as Asia’s largest sugar plantation, has been militarized since the beginning. The military detachment that was put up at the hacienda reportedly carried out harassment operations against union leaders particularly in the thick of the election of union officials. Union officials were accused as “NPA rebels” or “sympathizers” – a demonization campaign that, in the military’s counter-insurgency strategy, is usually the prelude to the summary execution of progressive activists.

Just across the commercial complex that adjoins the hacienda along the MacArthur Highway in Tarlac is the Philippine Army’s Camp Aquino. Camp Aquino, while serving as the headquarters of the Army’s Northern Luzon command, virtually guards the vast hacienda and its units are at the beck and call of the Cojuangcos and other powers-that-be in the region during times of labor unrest or during election.

Other flashpoints

Yet the public outrage that the Luisita massacre has generated should also keep an eye on other potential flashpoints that could lead to similar acts of state terrorism. We refer to the fact that there are several other plantations, large estates as well as development projects and mining exploration areas in many parts of the country that are under militarization. These are areas where the lands of farmers were either grabbed from them or where agricultural estates due for land distribution have been subjected to land conversion schemes.

These are also areas where communities of upland farmers and indigenous peoples are displaced to pave the way for so-called energy, irrigation or similar development projects and mining exploration activities. In these areas, landlordism and transnational corporate power cast a net of terror backed by government agencies, local officials and military and police forces and often also by paramilitary and private armies.

Thus, in Negros for instance, farmers and human rights groups have accused another Cojuangco – former Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. – of using his political influence to use the military, police and even a gun-for-hire “rebel” group to protect his landholdings and corporate property. On Mindoro island over the last few years, scores of activists, community organizers including human rights volunteers have been killed reportedly by government troopers and their assets. Today the island has once again been opened for the entry of transnational mining corporations out to exploit Mindoro’s mineral deposits.

In Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte where the Arroyo administration has allowed the Canadian firm Toronto Ventures, Inc. (TVI) and Benguet Corporation to conduct mining exploration and production, military and paramilitary forces have been deployed to block attempts by the Subanons to stop the destruction of their communal and sacred lands.

In these and many other provinces, counter-insurgency has been used as a ploy by civilian and military authorities to suppress the resistance of hapless farmers and indigenous peoples. Too many cases of human rights violations have been committed against unarmed protesters in the name of counter-insurgency.

“Outnumbered”?

In the Tarlac massacre, government has said that the soldiers and police units deployed at the height of the strike were “outnumbered” by the protesters who were able to mass up 4,000-strong. And so sword had to be unleashed: an APC (armored personnel carrier) rammed through the workers’ picketline while machine gun and snipers’ bullets were fired into the crowd from several directions coming – so surviving victims and eyewitnesses said – from atop buildings of the hacienda. Apparently, the strike was violently broken to allow at least 50 truckloads of sugarcane to be milled, also inside the hacienda, and hence allow the Cojuangcos to continue reaping some more money.

The ghosts of the past have returned. The whole of Central Luzon – which includes Tarlac province – has probably the most number of massacres that have taken place in recent memory. The list takes you all the way from the Philippine-American war at the turn of the 20th century where whole communities were raided and pillaged and their inhabitants murdered without mercy by U.S. mercenary troops, to the massacres perpetrated by soldiers and constables under the command of then Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay and CIA operative Col. Ed Lansdale as well as during the Marcos dictatorship and until today.

One of the most gruesome cases was the massacre in Lupao, Nueva Ecija in the early part of the Aquino presidency, where 17 farmers including women and children, were killed by Marines on suspicion that they were NPA rebels. Before that in January 1987 – the second year of the Aquino presidency – 13 farmers were shot and killed by Marines and policemen as some 10,000 farmers from Central Luzon and Southern Luzon marched to Mendiola to demand genuine land reform.

Central Luzon used to host the biggest U.S. military bases outside the U.S. mainland – Clark Airbase in Angeles City, Pampanga which is some 20 kms from Tarlac, and Subic Naval Base in Olongapo City, Zambales. The military bases were there not only because of the vast valley’s strategic location but because their presence was supported by the powers-that-be, such as the Cojuangcos and Aquinos.

More important however is that Central Luzon has been historically dominated by traditional oligarchs with big landowners maintaining haciendas not only here but in other regions as well most especially in Pangasinan, Iloilo and Negros. Some of the country’s presidents – including the current one – come from here. Indeed the elite power that originates in Central Luzon casts its tentacles far and wide.

In Congress, landlord-representatives were the first to emasculate the much-touted Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), reducing it, as organized farmers said, into a mere scrap of paper. At the village level, town and agrarian officials colluded with judges preventing large landholdings from being subjected to CARP through trickery and other machinations. The myth about President Aquino’s sympathy for the peasant masses through her “centerpiece” CARP quickly crumbled when she unleashed her total war policy where tens of thousands of peasant families bore the brunt of militarization and atrocities. She and her successors hyped about land reform while the sword of war was pointed against the peasantry.

Landlordism has made Central Luzon as having one of the biggest populations of tenants and farm workers and the displacement in the livelihood of many others is being made possible by the bulk importation of cheap rice, corn, vegetables and even salt, no thanks to President Arroyo’s trade liberalization policy. Probably the only flicker of hope that an ordinary family can grope for today is a contractual work abroad. The region is thus where many overseas Filipino workers now in Iraq and other Middle East countries come from. From them one can sense the strong will to survive despite the hopelessness they leave at home: “Di baleng mamatay sa Iraq hwag lang magutom ang pamilya sa Pilipinas” (It’s better to die in Iraq [by having a job] than see my family starve to death at home).

Widespread poverty, landlessness, union repression and state terrorism help fuel the armed revolutionary movement here. One cannot mourn of the Hacienda Luisita massacre without thinking that this would ignite some kind of a prairie fire that would engulf the entire region once again – as it has been in recent past. Bulatlat Analysis

______________________