read this open letter by akbayan’s etta rosales to for senator benigno aquino 3rd in the manila times today but can’t find it in the online edition. googled it instead and found ellen tordesillas‘ blog post.
I write you as friend and former colleague in Congress re Hacienda Luisita, an issue that involves not just your family and the farmers of Tarlac but, of larger import, the issue of land and the crisis of food production threatened by climate change. I make this an open letter to include in our conversation the people who have clamored for you to run for president.
November 16 marks the day when seven farmers of Tarlac were killed initially and scores injuredby security forces that attacked protesting farmers pressing to open the gates of the Hacienda. It is therefore no surprise that the issue has surfaced in a broadsheet and will continue to be the subject of media reports to get your position on the matter.
The following points may be helpful for us to consider.
We are all committed to seeking a peaceful and just solution to the issue of Hacienda Luisita farmers. This is in line with the spirit of social justicedefined by international law on human rights, the 1987 Charter and tenets of the newly passed CARPER law (although some of its provisions remain controversial, as they represent views from recalcitrant landed interests).
Perhaps we can address specific issues on the ground and resolve them from a rights-based perspective, the underpinnings of governance that ensures government for all and not just for a few.
One, while you may not have been aware, it is true that Hacienda Luisita Inc. issued a letter stating that all occupants must vacate the land end-October. This triggered strong emotions from farmers who had occupied the land as a matter of survival, which occupation followed the paralysis of organized production with the tragic killings of November 16 and shortly after (a total of fourteen farm workers were killed).
Two, it is equally true that some of the occupying farm workers did rent out the land they occupiedto those who were financially capable of using the land for crops they wanted to plant. It must have been a matter of survival – they had nothing to eat, they had zero income, they had no capital for production. Renting out was a way of making both ends meet while the land reform question remains pending. One can readily conclude that it mattered less to the farmers that the renters were insiders or outsiders, farm workers or not. To provide food and shelter for the family was paramount.
Three, the issue of Stock Distribution Option (SDO) as an agrarian reform scheme precedes CARPER; it was in Section 31 of the original CARP. We now have to deal with the new law.
Four, SDO likewise preceded your run for the presidency; you inherited a problem that needs to be resolved peacefully but with dispatch for the common good. This is especially urgent in the light of the emerging food crisis where climate change has affected not just Philippine rice fields but also fields from Vietnam and Taiwan, traditional sources of imported rice.
Five, when farmers lack capital to produce crops, they will not hesitate to reach out to outsiders to rent their lands. Sending notices to the farmers to rid them of non-SDO members does not alleviate the hardship. It merely exposes the problem of the dearth of capital and support services.
Six, the only guarantee that support services can be provided the farm workers is after the land has been fully and completely awarded to them by the DAR. And this is at least a possibility under the CARPER framework.
Seven, AKBAYAN is committed to the call for land redistribution in Hacienda Luisita and we hope that our current alliance with the Liberal Party will hasten and facilitate the enforcement of this call. We look forward to a meaningful and long-term solution to Hacienda Luisita anchored on social justice, human rights and an ecology-based system for sustainable development.
Your friend as always,
Etta P. Rosales
AKBAYAN Chair Emeritus