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    Court acquits soldier charged in murder of local labor leader

    President BS Aquino kin continues rights violation rampage in Hacienda Luisita

    “Ruthless impunity and agrarian unrest hang over Hacienda Luisita. It’s like President Aquino is setting the stage for more bloodshed,” said Florida “Pong” Sibayan, acting chairperson of the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers alliance AMBALA.

    The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA, Agricultural Workers Union) said that the acquittal of Pfc. Roderick U. Dela Cruz, main suspect in the killing of Ricardo Ramos, leaves a chilling effect amid continued and grave rights violations in Hacienda Luisita.

    Ricardo Ramos was the chairman of Barangay (village) Mapalacsiao and president of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU). He was killed in the night of 25 October 2005 after distributing back wages and benefits of sugar mill workers retrieved through the union’s efforts. Ramos was also a vocal critic of the unwarranted presence and operations of the military elements in the hacienda during the Luisita strike. After the strike, the Armed Forces of the Philippines established detachments in all Luisita barangays, except for Mapalacsiao and Balete where residents led by their village chairmen actively opposed the army’s proposals.

    In two separate occasions, Ramos also led his constituents in barricades to stop the construction of the SCTEx (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway), a pet project of then Congressman Noynoy Aquino. Aquino’s bodyguards were involved in a shooting incident which resulted in the wounding of Ramos’ uncle. Contractors allegedly tried but failed to bribe Ramos the amount of P1.2 million (US$27.2 million) just so he would allow the project to continue.

    Police investigators and eyewitnesses named two Army men as prime suspects in the killing of Ramos — Roderick “Joshua” dela Cruz and Romeo Castillo, Jr. The acquittal of Private de la Cruz comes at a time when the Cojuangco firm Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) has ordered the ruthless clearing of farmers’ crops and homes in around 400 hectares of agricultural lands in Barangays Balete and Cutcut.

    Tadeco’s hirelings bulldozed about 10 hectares of farm lands in barangay Balete, cultivated by farmers since 2005, amidst heavy deployment of military forces belonging to the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion (3rd Mech), the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), and provincial police personnel. These state forces virtually act as Cojuangco private armies and have set up permanent camp and detachments within the barangay and around the contested areas to support renewed land grabbing efforts by President Aquino’s family.

    Furthermore, TADECO has filed charges of unlawful detainer against more than 100 farmers in barangays Balete and Cutcut to intimidate them to leave their farm lots. Since the anomalous land distribution activities of the Department of Agrarian Reform in July, the Cojuangcos have cordoned off farm lands and violently dispersed farmers who tried to repair farm huts destroyed by typhoon Santi. TADECO security guards are also suspect in the mysterious death of AMBALA member Dennis de la Cruz last 1 November.

    “The acquittal of  ‘Kap’ Ric Ramos’ killer comes as no surprise, when one of the main perpetrators of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre now sits as the most powerful person in the country,” said Sibayan.

    Reference:
    Florida “Pong” Sibayan
    Acting- Chairperson, AMBALA
    Cell Phone # +639293201477

    Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
    (Agricultural Workers Union)
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