The police and military dispersal on Nov. 16, 2004, of farmworkers staging a strike at Hacienda Luisita left at least seven dead. But the deaths linked to the decades-old land dispute didn’t stop there.
At least seven other union leaders and agrarian reform advocates were killed after the bloody dispersal.
Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Tarlac chair Marcelino Beltran, a witness to the Nov. 16 dispersal of striking workers, was gunned down in his house in Sta. Ignacia town on Dec. 8, 2004.
On March 3, 2005, Councilor Abelardo Ladera, a supporter of the labor unions and a member of the party-list group Bayan Muna, died from a single bullet wound in the chest while being rushed to Central Luzon Doctors’ Hospital.
Ladera, who sponsored a resolution calling for a congressional review of the stock distribution option (SDO), was buying parts for his jeepney at an auto supply store in Barangay Paraison when he was shot.
The SDO is a scheme under the 1988 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program which allows workers to own shares of stocks instead of land. Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) was the first corporation to employ the stock option.
William Tadena, a proworker priest of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Aglipayan Church or Philippine Independent Church), was killed on March 13, 2005, suffering bullet wounds in the head and chest.
Four days later, Victor Concepcion, Anakpawis coordinator and a supporter of the striking workers, was killed.
Ricardo Ramos, Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union president, was in a drinking session with other union officials in his backyard in Barangay Mapalacsia on Oct. 25, 2005, when a lone gunman approached from behind and shot him dead.
Tirso Cruz, director of the United Luisita Workers Union which represents more than 5,000 farmworkers, was shot dead on March 17, 2006, in Concepcion town.
Aglipayan Bishop Alberto Ramento, who took the cudgels for striking workers at Hacienda Luisita, was stabbed dead on Oct. 3, 2006, inside his convent in Tarlac City.
Farmers in the sugar plantation claimed in 2003 that the stock option agreement failed to uplift their living conditions, prompting the supervisors of Hacienda Luisita to file a petition in the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to revoke the SDO.
The strike focused national attention on the situation of the farmworkers in the hacienda and led to the DAR revoking the SDO in 2004. It was then upheld by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) the following year.
In 2006, a temporary restraining order was issued by the Supreme Court after HLI raised the issue to the tribunal.
Last year, a compromise deal, which promised a P150-million financial package for the beneficiaries, was signed by the HLI management and leaders of various Hacienda Luisita unions.
Farmers lined up on Aug. 12, 2010, to receive their share of the P20 million which was the first tranche of the financial settlement. The balance of the package, HLI said, would be released once the Supreme Court approved the compromise deal.
The high court, however, upheld on July 5 the DAR’s revocation of the SDO at Hacienda Luisita and called for a referendum to allow farmers to vote again on whether they want land ownership or shares of stock.
The DAR and Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) subsequently filed motions for reconsideration and various clarificatory questions in the Supreme Court. Ana Roa, Inquirer Research
Sources: Inquire Archives