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Who is using the Hacienda Luisita 'controversy' as a tool for politics?

By Alexander Martin Remollino
Posted May 11, 2010 in Politics
When I interviewed 32-year-old Maribel Valdez on Nov. 16, 2009, during the fifth anniversary of what is now known as the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, she was not saying national candidates and "left-leaning groups" were using the issue as a "black propaganda ploy" against Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III, the Philippines' leading presidential candidate, whose family claims ownership of the 6,453-hectare land encompassing several villages in Tarlac. She was not saying she and her family were "beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita."
Hacienda Luisita was, in late 2004, the scene of a bloody confrontation arising from its supposed owners’ refusal to grant farm and mill workers’ demands for higher wages and additional work days, hospital benefits, and land redistribution. Seven strikers – Jesus Laza, Jhaivie Basilio, Juancho Sanchez, Jessie Valdez, Jun David, Jaime Pastidio, and Adriano Caballero – lost their lives on Nov. 16 that year, when a combined police and military contingent fired upon the picket line. A hundred and eighty-one more were wounded.
Maribel was pregnant with their fourth child when her husband Jessie was killed. During our interview, she said she had become the sole breadwinner for herself and the children, earning a living by planting rice in her native Isabela, where they moved shortly after the massacre.
“It’s still one scratch, one peck for us,” Maribel said when asked how life is for her and her family. “I have no one to depend on for my family’s living except myself.”
At the end of our interview, she was clearly demanding accountability from Aquino.
“He should take responsibility for what they did to us and our loved ones,” Maribel said. “They should give what the people of Hacienda Luisita are demanding.”
I mention all these because just last April 30, the staff of Manuel "Mar" Roxas III, Aquino's running mate, churned out a press release denouncing national candidates and "left-leaning groups" for using the Hacienda Luisita "controversy" as a "black propaganda ploy."
The press release cited a paid advertisement supposedly signed by "members of families of victims of the so-called Luisita massacre and legitimate workers and officers of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU)," who are quoted as making the following appeal:
"Don’t use us for your politicking. We are united in our belief that the solution to our problems is not your politicking.
"Advertisements that are full of negative attacks will not help us. We, the farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita, condemn the repeated use of our plight as a tool for politics."
Maribel is cited as having signed the paid advertisement, together with Adriano R. Caballero Sr. (father of Adriano Caballero Jr.), Fidel Laza (brother of Jesus Laza), Isagani O. Pastidio (son of Jaime Pastidio), two former Hacienda Luisita Inc. supervisors and 23 former ULWU members and officers.
The "appeal" in the statement Maribel supposedly signed is very different from what she clearly said in our interview.
Either someone is lying or someone used eyebrow-raising means to convince someone else and several other people to change their minds.
The Hacienda Luisita issue was the biggest issue that kept hounding Aquino during the campaign period. The press release was issued just 10 days before the elections.
Who is using the Hacienda Luisita "controversy" as a tool for politics?

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