The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) joined a solidarity mission to the Hacienda Luisita from 16-18 October. The delegates of APWLD were able to speak to women and men farmers, community organisers and City Councillor, Emily Ladera from the Barangays of Mapalacsiao, Cutcut and Balete.
The long history of the struggle for land reform and justice for the Hacienda Luisita workers has been documented by several fact finding missions and human rights groups. APWLD delegates went to Hacienda Luisita to express solidarity with the workers and to document the specific impact on women. Through discussions with farmers and a review of background documents it is clear that women farmers are experiencing violations of their human rights. APWLD will be drafting a mission report and seeking responses from key government agencies before completing the findings.
Women experience human rights violations in ways that are often compounded by their gender:
Right to housing, food, livelihood
Despite repeated court decisions and repeated statements and commitments that the Hacienda Luisita lands would be redistributed to the farmers, farmers have been denied their rights to land reform. Several methods appear to have been employed to evade redistribution and instead favour the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), Central Azucarera de Tarlac and other businesses that have been formed to retain the stockholdings and land ownership of the Cojuangco-Aquino landlords.
Workers of the Hacienda Luisita sugar plantation became farmers after the 2004 strikes and massacre. Despite farming the lands for the past 10 years, they have now been forcibly evicted and face impoverished futures for them and their children. Forced evictions have included the use of violence and destruction of homes as well as crops. No alternative housing or compensation appears to have been provided to those displaced.
Forced evictions have denied people of their only means of survival as subsistence farmers. Women farmers reported having to reduce the number of and size of meals provided per day, particularly to women and children. Several children were no longer able to attend school.
While some farmers were entered into a lottery for distribution of land, it appears that not all land was included with significant areas being retained by the land owners for sale for other purposes.
The lottery method produced unsustainable results with farmers allocated very small parcels of land (.6 hectare) in entirely different locations. The right for women to be separate land title owners is an important right protected in Filipino law but in this case the right appears to have a perverse, discriminatory effect.Women were often allocated land several kilometers away from their husbands or other family members. Travel to the parcel of land, it was reported, would amount to 300 pesos per day making the trip too costly to justify and amounts to more than the average daily income of farmers. Women would have to spend 3 hours a day travelling to tend to the small plot which would prevent them from doing the work they do in the home and from looking after their children and expose them to security risks. The right of women to hold land title should be protected but it must not be used to divide families and expose women to higher risks.
With no land and no means of survival women reported that the only options for them for a very small income wer to become domestic workers or take in laundry or do other menial work. No options for decent work were provided to women in the community. Younger women might attempt to become migrant domestic workers but that would require the families to go into further debt and expose the women to further rights violations abroad.
Freedom of Association
Farmers unions and other people’s associations have been targeted with repeated efforts to limit the opportunities for these unions to organize. The meeting space of the famers union AMBALA, appears to have been destroyed, much of their equipment confiscated and crops destroyed without warrant or purpose. No charges have been laid or proper investigation carried out into these offences.
Freedom to protest has been repeatedly denied through the use of violence and threats from security, police and military.
Women reported taking leading roles in actions to protect property and the lives of their families in the belief that they may be in a position to protect men. Women have been placed at additional risk, arrested and experienced physical and psychological violence as a result.
Rule of Law and Access to Justice
Farmers and their supporters have alleged that the company Security forces and police have committed assaults against farmers. Law enforcement agencies appear to be acting on behalf of the company rather than citizens. TADECO security guards to arrest and charge A child appears to have been illegally detained by TADECO security guards and had property stolen (a phone memory card which included video footage of destructive actions taken by the company). Yet the child was later arrested by police.
Several women reported assaults by security and police. The police have not taken any action to provide protection to the farmers nor to investigate allegations of assaults, willful destruction of property or thefts against farmers.
Women reported that they have lost all confidence in the Philippines National Police and instead feel traumatized whenever they see police. They said they are unable to bring any other matters to the police which may include domestic violence, theft, child abuse or other matters. Access to justice for women appears to be entirely prevented for women at the local level.
Charges have been laid against several workers including women. These charges appear to be of a vexatious manner and designed to prevent workers from exercising their rights to protest as well as seek a remedy. City Councilor Emily Ladera was also charged when she attempted to observe the actions of security guards and requested the police act to keep the peace and protect citizens.
The presence of military, armed private security and police stops were evident during our trip. Militarisation has been demonstrated to increase cultures of violence which have a particularly deleterious impact on women. Rates of violence against women are generally highest in militarized zones and impacts on the right to peace and life.
The failure to deliver promised Agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita has led to several human rights violations. The systemic failures of the current system of land redistribution have failed to deliver land justice throughout the Philippines resulting in one of the highest wealth inequality rankings in Asia. The legislation, the executive processes and the judicial processes all need urgent review. Women experience additional, compounding violations. Consequently our preliminary recommendations include:
- Initiate and conduct a senate and congressional inquiry into land distribution and the history of human rights violations in the Hacienda Luisita. The inquiry should include an investigation into the impunity with which extra judicial killings have been allowed to occur in the past 10 years,
- Order TADECO to remove the fence surrounding the contested area and allow farmers to access the lands until the land dispute has been resolved,
- Review and amend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program to ensure land reform benefits subsistence farmers,
- The Department of Justice should investigate the actions of the police force, the military and TADECO in
- Forcibly evicting families and destroying property without appropriate legal orders
- Collusion between a private company and state agencies (police, military and Barangay officials) in the exercise of state authority including the use of violence, arrest and criminal law,
- The disappearance of complaints filed with local police and agencies by local people,
- The discriminatory impact of the failure to provide access to justice, particularly the inability of women to access local law enforcement and legal remedies.
- Protect freedom of assembly and association rights and the rights of Human Rights Defenders, including women human rights defenders and take action against individuals, agencies, corporations that impinge on these rights.
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura