July 15, 2013
Sr. Cecille, Ruiz, Spokesperson ISM-CL 2013, Karapatan-Gitnang Luson
Int’l delegates to investigate continuing rights abuses in Central Luzon
Foreign delegates from the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP) and members of local organizations, Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights – Gitnang Luson (Karapatan – Central Luzon), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Gitnang Luson (Bayan, New Patriotic Movement – Central Luzon), Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Farmers Alliance in Central Luzon), Pamana-Aurora (farmers group), Resist APECO Movement and Justice for Willem Geertman Movement are enroute to hold the International Solidarity Mission – Central Luzon (ISM-CL) in the province of Aurora, particularly the areas affected by the Republic Act 10083 or Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Act, and at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac city. The activity also aims to further investigate the extra-judicial killing of Dutch missionary and developemt worker Willem Geertman, who was killed at the office of Alay Bayan, Inc. (ABI) on July 3, 2012.
ICHRPP is the international organization promoting human rights and peace in the country which is composed of human rights groups from Europe, particularly in Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Germany, UK; in North America, from US, Canada; Asia-Pacific, from Australia, Japan, South Korea, Hongkong; and from the Middle East. Eleven delegates coming from the Netherlands and Denmark are joining the mission in the region.
The primary objective of the ISM-CL is “to document and expose human rights violations of state forces,” particularly in the APECO area and Hacienda Luisita. The delegates said the human rights cover the socio-economic and cultural rights of the people, and actually could be considered as most violated rights of poor people.
The RA 10083 or APECO the economic program proposed by then Senator Edgardo Angara and his son, then Congressman Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara. APECO covers about 13,000 hectares of lands from five barangays of Casiguran town in Aurora province. APECO’s component programs are threatening the homes and livelihood of farmers, indigenous peoples and fisherfolk in the affected areas, thus, triggering massive protests.
The issue of Hacienda Luisita is public knowledge, but the lands, given the major decision of the Supreme Court for its distribution, are yet to be distributed to the legitimate farm workers. It is also reported that the family of president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, the Cojuangco-Aquino family, is working against the distribution of land, using the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR), to circumvent land distribution by delaying the process and proposing schemes that favor the president’s family.
“The issue of APECO and Hacienda Luisita are major issues in the region, as it affects, tens of thousands of poor farmers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk and other sectors. Their rights to livelihood are obviously breached, thus, the ISM is a significant necessity to promote and protect the rights of poor sectors,” said Sr. Cecille Ruiz, spokesperson of the ISM and coordinator of Karapatan – Central Luzon.
“The people of APECO-affected areas in Aurora province has been protesting for many years as the program evidently threatens their homes and source of livelihood, such as their farms, the ancestral lands of Dumagats and the fishing communities are being covered by APECO,” said Sr. Ruiz.
“We have witnessed the decades-long struggle of the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita, since its inception, the protest against the Cojuangco’s ploy to deceive the government and thwart its coverage to land reform in the 1960s, the deceptive implementation of the stock distribution option or SDO in 1989, the massacre of the farmworkers in 2004, and at present, the efforts of the Cojuangco-Aquinos to sabotage the decision of the Supreme Court,” Sr. Ruiz said.
“Willem Geertman, who is a Dutch missionary, who integrated with the farmers of Aurora, and joined their struggle for genuine land reform, and being the executive director of ABI, supported the struggle of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers, became a victim of extra-judicial killing last year. It is unacceptable for our region to be a dangerous place for those who want to help the poor. This state and reign of impunity must be addressed and exposed for the whole world to see the reality in our country,” she added.
Sr. Ruiz added that the rights to life, liberty, socio-economic and cultural rights of the sectors affected by APECO and Hacienda Luisita issue is at present, continuously violated. She is referring to the continuing grabbing of lands from farmers of Casiguran town, in the name of APECO. While, the rights to land and to livelihood of the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers are clearly violated, through the efforts of the Aquino government and Cojuangco-Aquino family.
“The mere administration building of APECO in brgy. Esteves was constructed on a land snatch from a farmer and 500-hectare rice granary of northern Aurora, located in barangays Esteves and Dibet are threatened to be converted. While in Hacienda Luisita, the Cojuangco-Aquino family has sold lands and continues to cover lands, snatching them away from the legitimate farm workers. The Aquino government has made Hacienda Luisita a laboratory of its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” Sr. Ruiz said.
The ISM-CL 2013 would be in Aurora on July 15 to 16, then in Hacienda Luisita on July 17, the day after in San Fernando, Pampanga. The ISM-CL 2013 is part of the nationwide activity International Solidarity Mission (ISM), that aims to conduct investigations on the issues of large-scale mining; land grabbing by foregin multinational companies; strikes and trade union struggles; forced evacuation; internal refugees and militarization; displacement of urban poor; areas of extensive political repression; detention centers and political prisoners. The ISM is a preceding activity of the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP) to be held on July 19 to 21 in Manila. This would be the incorporation of the reports from all the ISM conducted.
“The ISM and ICHRPP are important activities as these aim to snapshot the human rights situation in the country, and reveal it for the whole world to grasp. It is totally disappointing that the Aquino administration who promised ‘matuwid na daan’ (straight, righteous path) is no different from past governments, particularly the Arroyo government that implemented the Oplan Bantay Laya or OBL, primarily mascotted by the butcher major general and fugitive Jovito Palparan,” Sr. Ruiz said.
ISM-CL 2013 group appeal the people of the region for support as they anticipate the Aquino government’s efforts to deter the witnessing of the international community to the real state of the people inside our country. #