Thirteen years ago, seven farmworkers were killed, 121 workers and supporters seriously injured and tens were detained, 34 remain missing when the military led open fired at ten thousands farmers and workers demanding wages and land at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. The strike was led by United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU). In 2010 the Ombudsman dismissed the case filed against then DOLE Secretary Patricia Sto Tomas, military general and the Cojuangco family. Thirteen years have passed and these massacre victims have yet to receive justice and the land is yet to be distributed. The harassments and violence inflicted upon Hacienda Luisita farmers and their advocates also persist.

Today, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and women from Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines representing the Thailand-based Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) join the workers, trade unions and their advocates worldwide in remembering the Hacienda Luisita massacre as an epitome of injustice that the government in cahoots with the landlords and capitalists have inflicted on the poor fighting for their rights and survival. The situation then, and the situation now has not changed despite the repeated promises of previous and current administrations. In fact, repression of workers and unions heightened as government prioritizes the corporate interests to satisfy their insatiable greed for profit.

CTUHR is strongly alarmed that the condition will aggravate as the ASEAN Summit is concluded and Philippines takes pride in several signed agreements that further liberalize the country to satisfy businesses’ desire for an increased investments and trade to profits more from cheap and repressed Fiipino labour.

Workers in the Philippines and ASEAN countries have already paid heaviest price in the progress that the recently concluded ASEAN, East Asia, US, Canadia and other states’ leaders are celebrating. ASEAN are actually hubs of cheap production places for US, Japan and European transnational corporations (TNCs). Big foreign investors extract more from the natural resources of countries like Lao, Indonesia and Philippines for their agribusiness plantations resulting to evictions of farmers from their lands. Trade liberalizations have bred labour flexibilization and precariousness, as well as exclusion of already marginalized communities such as indigenous peoples. Philippines is also pushing for a Compressed Work Week scheme, 4-days 12 hours-work-week to outpace its ASEAN neighbours under the guise of efficiency and increased productivity. These schemes pose more dangers to workers’ health, income and security.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) in fact notes that there are 21 million workers under slave-like condition, half of them are from Asia- Pacific. They are mostly domestic, agricultural, manufacturing, construction and entertainment workers. In all these conditions, workers are asserting for their rights to organize to protect themselves. This condition has to stop.#

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