DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A partylist lawmaker said 53 farmers from Bukidnon who were rescued in Hacienda Luisita are now on their way home.
On Sunday, Jan.8, the farmers who worked in the sugar cane plantations in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac were able to go home with the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, according to Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao.
In a phone interview with Davao Today, Casilao said the farmers took a ferry from the Manila Pier going to Cagayan de Oro City.
Casilao said the farmers suffered from abusive labor conditions in contrast to what was promised to them when they were recruited to work in the Hacienda Luisita.
Meanwhile, a farmer’s group urged the Department of Labor and Employment to sanction both the recruiters and employers of Hacienda Luisita, following the expose of the “slave-like” working conditions of the farmers from Bukidnon.
“We demand immediate action from the DOLE chief and the Duterte administration,” Danilo Ramos, secretary general of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura said in a statement Monday. He noted that DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello III was mum on the plight of sakada from Mindanao.
Ramos’ statement came as 36 farmers from Bukidnon filed labor complaints against the Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, Agrikulto Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) before the National Labor Relations Office – Regional Arbitration Board in San Fernando City last week.
“The public is outraged by this practice of modern-day slavery by despotic kontratistas (labor contractors) and the Cojuangco-Aquino and Lorenzo oligarchs helming Agrikulto Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac,” he said.
The farmers were represented by the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center, which was a mulling to file criminal charges against their recruiters and employers for human trafficking.
UMA said that the farmers were made to work long hours for slave wages as low as P9.46 a day. It said that four of the rescued workers are minors, while one is currently confined in a public hospital in Quezon City for sustaining a head injury.
“Almost half, or 24 are indigenous people or lumad from the Manobo tribe whose datu or chieftains were allegedly duped to recruit workers with the promise of assistance in their ancestral land claims,” the group said.
Meanwhile, Ramos said that the workers were promised a daily wage of P450 but received even less than this amount for their weekly toil. Numerous deductions for food, provisions, work tools, were deducted to their net as low as P66.21 a week or P9.46 a day.
“Sakadas working in Central Luzon must be suffering extremely horrific conditions, if the subhuman living quarters in Hacienda Luisita is touted by DOLE officials as the best,” he said.
Ramos also noted the workers were working more than 8 hours a day to fulfill the daily quota. “They assume that cane cutters must work 10 hours a day – but it could be up to 15 hours a day, as attested to by the sakadas.”
Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, according to OGYON, the group’s local affiliate in Bukidnon, requested “to supply Agrikulto Inc. approximately 1,000 migratory sugar workers to work in our farm as cane cutters for the coming crop year 2016-2017.”
Agrikulto and CAT are now jointly-owned and managed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos led by Fernando Cojuangco with Martin Lorenzo, a scion of the Lorenzo landlord family also currently embroiled in land disputes with farmworkers in banana plantations under Lapanday Foods Corporation in Mindanao. (With a report from Zea Io Ming C. Capistrano/davaotoday.com)