No moral authority

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“The police and Army assault on the strikers was ordered directly from the central government, by then Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas.

Former President Noynoy Aquino in lashing out at former Senate President Juna Ponce Enrile on alleged distortion of history regarding abuses under martial law should come to grips with human rights violations right under his nose.

Enrile in a tete-a-tete with former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos said no massacre happened during the 19 years that military rule was in effect from 21 September 1972 when it was declared.

He cited the Mendiola massacre during the term of former President Cory Aquino where 13 farmers calling for land reform were mowed down by security forces, including Marines blocking a protest rally heading for Malacañang.

A more brutal atrocity against the poor happened in Tarlac, years after the Marcos martial law became part of history.

In the afternoon of 16 November 2004 police and Army units dispersed striking sugar plantation workers at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac owned by the Aquino family, killing 14 of them in the process.

After a standoff with striking workers, a combined unit of about 1,000 policemen and soldiers were sent to the hacienda headquarters, accompanied by two armored personnel carriers, fire trucks and water cannons.

After the launching of a volley of tear gas grenades, Army riflemen fired pointblank at the picketers’ front lines using live ammunition. A 60-caliber machine gun was also used.

Truncheon-wielding police units then chased farm workers into their barracks and later combed the 10 barangays in the hacienda where the workers live.

Soldiers undertook zoning which was notorious during the Vietnam war, dragging men out of their homes and lining them up to be arrested.

Dead bodies were found scattered all around the main gate of the hacienda and the barracks. Among those killed were two children suffocated by tear gas while some 200 were wounded with 30 suffering gunshot wounds.

Similar to the Mendiola massacre, no official or private individual was prosecuted as a result of the incident.

In 2010, under Noynoy’s administration, the Ombudsman dismissed the cases against the military and police implicated in the violent dispersal.

A motion to reopen the case, filed by the victims’ families, was declined by the Office of the Ombudsman on 2 October 2014.

The police and Army assault on the strikers was ordered directly from the central government, by then Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, based on the request of the Aquino family.

A spokesman for the Hacienda justified the bloodbath as a “legitimate exercise of state power” as the work stoppage held among the Luisita workers was “illegal and Left-inspired.”

The farm workers started their strike on 6 November 2004 demanding the reinstatement of some 327 unionists, including nine union leaders, whose employment was terminated by the management of the hacienda and the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

“A motion to reopen the case, filed by the victims’ families, was declined by the Office of the Ombudsman.

As thousands of strikers and their supporters occupied the hacienda facilities, the Department of Labor and Employment declared it was assuming jurisdiction over the dispute and ordered the deployment of three military battalions to break the picket lines and disperse the strikers.

Portions of the hacienda then were converted into a commercial complex, a luxurious modern resort, complete with covered tennis courts, swimming pool with jacuzzi, a championship golf course, a business park and a “simple yet elegant” hotel or “your hacienda home” as the family called it.

It seems that the family’s sins at the hacienda have become a scourge to Noynoy’s clan since the massacre was a reprise of the Mendiola incident in January 1987 where peasant group members also led by farm workers from Hacienda Luisita were killed.

Disputing Enrile’s claims about martial law coming from Noynoy is hardly believable due to atrocities that he failed to account for right in his own backyard.

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