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Farmers mark Hacienda Luisita deaths

Seven were killed in dispute over Aquino family land

Farmers want justice for the seven who died Farmers want justice for the seven who died
  • ucanews.com reporter, Manila
  • Philippines
  • November 15, 2012
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Farmers from Central Luzon have marched on the presidential palace in Manila to mark the eighth anniversary of the killing of peasants in Hacienda Luisita, an estate owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino.

In a dispute that has spanned decades, the farmers claim that a portion of the sprawling 6,000 hectare estate - nominally owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family - is rightfully theirs.  Several farmers have been killed and seven others have disappeared without trace in their 23-year campaign to regain it.

Most tragically,  seven were killed during a violent dispersal of protesters on November 6 2004.  The farmers started a three-day protest yesterday with a Mass for those "seven Luisita martyrs" at the National Shrine of Our Lady Perpetual Help in Parañaque City.

The farmers accused the president of "working against justice and genuine land reform" even on his own landholding. They said that since becoming president, Aquino has done nothing to bring justice for the victims of the massacre.

"Aquino's presidency is useless for the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita. Worse, it is detrimental as it continues to promote his family's interests, not the poor farmers," said Joseph Canlas, chairman of a peasant group in Central Luzon.

The Alliance of Farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita said in a statement that it will not stop its struggle "until justice is served to Luisita’s seven martyrs.

“They paid the ultimate prize for our struggle, which we continue today. This includes asserting that Hacienda Luisita must be given to the farmers for free and without pesky conditions and complicated processes,” the group said in a statement.

“It is an inseparable issue. The Cojuangco-Aquinos must be held liable along with other culprits including the past administration, the military and police.”

The group appealed to the devotees of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to support their quest.

The conflict appeared to be moving toward resolution in April, when the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of more than 4,000 hectares of Hacienda Luisita to 6,296 people. But farmers have questioned the accuracy of the list of beneficiaries and an official at the Catholic bishops' conference has advised that the list should be thoroughly screened.

Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action, said he has received reports that there were some dubious claimants.

"If the organizations in charge of the screening believe that a certain person in the list is not qualified then they should present evidence to prove it," he said, adding that the Church is willing to help verify the list.

Related reports

Church wants land dispute intervention

Farmers win Hacienda Luisita battle
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