DAVAO CITY, Philippines —Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao is set to file a house resolution to investigate the alleged abuses against farmers from Bukidnon province recruited to work in Hacienda Luisita.
Casilao sought the investigation through a resolution that he will file sooner while he condemned the reported abuses.
“We condemn this feudal practice of frauding farm workers, deceiving them into exploitative work and subjecting them to abuse, and benefiting from this inhumane act are the Cojuangcos and Lorenzos, who dominate the lands of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac mill,” Casilao said during a news conference Thursday.
According to Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura at the Department of Agrarian Reform, there were 43 farm workers, all tribal Manobos, from different towns of Bukidnon who were brought to Hacienda Luisita to work in the sugar mill.
They were rescued based on calls for help by the other farm workers. The victims were assisted by Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Department of Labor and Employment Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod.
“The victims were desperately looking for work, as it was ‘tiempo muerto’ or dead season in Mindanao. They became vulnerable and promised with higher wages and other provisions, but were subjected to slave-like conditions when they arrived in Hacienda Luisita,” Casilao said.
The farmers were promised a daily wage of P450 along with other benefits such as free meals and provisions or board and lodging, and travel to and from Hacienda Luisita. Including a P7,000 cash advance in three tranches.
“But upon arrival, they were housed in cramped bunkhouse owned by Agrikulto, with hundreds of other sakadas from different provinces in Mindanao. They paid for everything from kitchen supplies to work tools and were deducted from their meagre pay,” Casilao said, noting that agreed wage rate was not implemented, instead, they were subjected to a “pakyawan” (piecemeal) scheme, that averaged to P180 a week.
Casilao said all 43 farm workers were recruited by Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative back in August last year.
“We will not tolerate this gross violation of socio-economic and human rights of poor farm workers, we intend to unravel the system that tolerates this exploitation, from the recruitment to the slavery imposed by the Cojuangcos and Lorenzos,” he said.
Meanwhile, UMA claimed that Agrikulto is chaired by Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, while CAT sugar mill is managed by Fernando Cojuangco and Martin Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo clan involved in Lapanday plantation in Mindanao.
Casilao also urged President Rodrigo Duterte to ensure the protection of poor farm workers and hold those responsible criminally liable.
“We urge the President to give justice for the victims, they came from as far as Mindanao and became helpless victims in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, the very backyard of the past landlord president Aquino,” he said. (davaotoday.com)