Women’s group Gabriela on Wednesday, November 16, called for justice for victims of human rights abuses, especially for those who died in the so-called Hacienda Luisita massacre.
“Exactly 18 years have passed since the massacre, but justice still eludes the families of the victims,” said Gabriela secretary general Clarice Palce in a statement.
She claimed that “intensified military operations” in the provinces even continue to be carried out by the Armed Forces of the Philippines under its “counterinsurgency program.”
Palce said “focused-military operations” conducted by the military in the countryside “have led to grave human rights violations against peasant women and their children.”
The women’s group called on the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos “to ensure justice to victims of Hacienda Luisita massacre and end militarization in rural communities.”
Hacienda Luisita is a 6,435-hectare sugar plantation in the province of Tarlac owned by the Cojuangco family.
On Nov. 6, 2004, United Luisita Workers Union and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union launched a strike near Gate 1 of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac sugar mill.
The protesters were pushing for an increase in their PhP9.50 weekly wage, increased worker benefits and, more broadly, a greater commitment for national land reform.
Over a thousand farmers, and several thousand union members attended the demonstration.
On Nov. 16, 2004, ten days after the start of the strike, police and soldiers were dispatched by then Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomás, to storm and disperse the blockade.
The enforcers utilized tear gas, water cannons, guns, and military vehicles to disseminate the crowd. Seven of the people participating in the rally were killed, an estimated number of 121 people, adults and children, were injured, and 133 people were arrested and detained.
The incident has sparked a national outcry, however, then Deputy Speaker Benigno Aquino III, representative of Tarlac, claimed that the dispersal done by the enforcers was justified.
A case was filed against the police and military with regards to the injuries and deaths, but it was dismissed by the office of the Ombudsman in 2010.
A motion to reopen the case was filed by the families of the victims, however, it was declined by the Office of the Ombudsman on October 2, 2014.
The November 2004 massacre, or more popularly known as the Hacienda Luisita massacre, is one of the most prominent instances of protest related deaths of Filipinos in recent years.
In the months following the Hacienda Luisita massacre, eight more people who either supported or provided evidence to the farmers’ cause were found murdered, beginning with the assassination of peasant leader Marcelino Beltran just before he was to testify about the massacre.