Hacienda Luisita farmers protest outside Supreme Court
MANILA, Philippines—Tension gripped a demonstration by Hacienda Luisita farmers and their supporters who trooped to the Supreme Court on Wednesday to protest what they called an “anti-farmer, pro-landlord” ruling of the tribunal on a decades-old dispute over a sugar estate owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino.
Led by Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano, about 100 protesters insisted on holding their indignation rally in front of the high court compound on Padre Faura Street in Manila before noon.
But Civil Disturbance Management personnel of the Manila Police District Station 5 set up steel barricades to block the protesters at the corner of Padre Faura and Taft Avenue.
“If you will not remove this barricades in five minutes, the farmers will take these away. We have the right to peaceably assemble and express ourselves,” Mariano told the policemen.
“We just want to tell the Supreme Court that what they did was wrong. Their decision was obviously sided with the rich landlords. Whatever happened to their slogan, ‘Those who have less in life muster have more in law?’ Where’s social justice?” he said.
A certain Chief Inspector Asok tried to pacify the protesters, saying he was just waiting for the orders of his superiors.
After a few minutes, the policemen eventually allowed the rallyists to assemble in front of the Supreme Court.
Lito Bais, acting president of the United Luisita Workers Union, said he was “dismayed and angry” upon hearing of the court’s decision directing the Department of Agrarian Reform to conduct a referendum.
Bais, whose family had been farmer-tenants at the sprawling 6,495-hectare sugar plantation for over 80 years, warned that the high tribunal’s ruling might lead to violence and extrajudicial killings of militant farmer leaders.
“As shown by our experience, the Cojuangcos will definitely use ‘guns, gold and goons’ to make sure that farmers would choose stock shares over actual land distribution,” Bais told the Inquirer.