Aquino speech reeks of lies and hypocrisy
In his speech before Pope Francis in Malacañang, President Aquino praised the late Bishop Emeritus Antonio Fortich, among other religious leaders, for daring to speak out against the Marcos dictatorship. But he then griped about some bishops now criticizing the way he has been running the affairs of government, even his hair.
The late Bishop Fortich might turn in his grave. Bishop Fortich was not only against the Marcos dictatorship, he was also vocal against landlordism and the exploitation of sugar workers. Fortich’s first act after he was named bishop of Bacolod in 1967 was to call on sugar planters to provide just wages to workers. In a pastoral letter on the plight of sugar workers, Fortich even stressed the right of workers to form unions.
During his time, Bishop Fortich was instrumental in the immediate implementation of land reform on Church properties, the opening of the Social Action Center and the free legal aid program for the poor and the sacadas
(sugar workers); he also gave Church support for the establishment of the National Federation of Sugar Workers, now our local affiliate in Negros island.
In contrast, Luisita sugar workers received a measly P9.50 per payday when they decided to strike against the Cojuangco-Aquino’s Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) in 2004. Mr. Aquino, who was then an administrator of the sugar estate, not only denied Luisita farm workers just wages. Farm workers know for a fact that Mr. Aquino is one of the perpetrators of the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
The violent strike dispersal in Hacienda Luisita on Nov. 16, 2004, killed seven and wounded hundreds of others. Mr. Aquino, who was then a congressman, defended the massacre in a privilege speech only hours after the bloodbath.
President Aquino pompously projects himself as “walang bahid (faultless)” even when his administration has been shamelessly aiding his kin to maintain control of Hacienda Luisita despite a landmark Supreme Court decision for total land distribution. Land reform in Luisita is “a monumental sham,” while
violent eviction, unlawful arrests and threats against farmers continue, 10 years after the massacre.
Mr. Aquino’s speech before the Pope definitely reeks of lies and hypocrisy. The decades of oppression and injustice suffered by thousands of farm workers under the HLI are the perfect example of the “glaring, scandalous inequality” in Philippine society.
Agricultural workers are among the most oppressed in Philippine society. While Mr. Aquino insists that the Pope’s remarks on corruption and inequality were not addressed to him and his regime, we trust that the Pope’s message of solidarity with the poor will bear fruit throughout the nation. We hope to continue the struggle for land, jobs and just wages, with warm support from various sectors, including the Church and its faithful.
—RANMIL ECHANIS, deputy secretary general, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, [email protected]
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