MANILA - The kin and victims of the Hacienda Luisita "massacre" have asked the Office of the Ombudsman to reopen the cases against President Benigno Aquino III, newly installed Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., and several others.
In a 24-page motion, the farmers and relatives of the victims said there was enough evidence to file criminal or administrative cases against those involved in the death of 7 striking workers, and yet the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the cases against them months after the November 16, 2004 incident at the sugar estate.
“That is an undisputed fact! The corpus delicti has been established. Yet, the honorable office wanted to tell the whole world that no crime was committed and that no one should be held responsible and liable therefore?” the petitioners said.
The struggle between farmers and the relatives of Aquino – the Cojuangcos – came to a head at the sugar estate on November 16, 2004. After the bloody dispersal of the strike, 7 persons lay lifeless and 121 others injured.
Then-Tarlac Representative Aquino made a privilege speech the following day defending the dispersal of the workers saying it was “an illegal strike."
Aquino, who was then House deputy speaker, condemned the violence but claimed the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police members who were there were “subjected to sniper fire coming from an adjacent barangay.”
“To date, no evidence to establish his claim was ever presented,” the petitioners said.
They also alleged that Aquino discouraged his colleagues from conducting fact-finding missions that could “inflame the situation” further.
“Clearly, Mr. Aquino wanted to cover-up the truth behind the incident. That indicates he knew and consented to the bloody dispersal of the striking workers,” they said.
Also included in the motion to reopen the case is Aquino's newly appointed AFP Chief of Staff, who formerly held the reins at the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM). As NOLCOM chief, Catapang was responsible for the deployment of the military in his area of jurisdiction.
The other respondents include Aquino’s uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., former Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, and former Labor Undersecretary Manuel Imson.
“Reading between the lines, the [Ombudsman] wanted to show that the police and the military acted in self-defense… But that is not correct,” the petitioners said.
They said the Ombudsman only relied on the reports of the National Bureau of Investigation, which supposedly did not take into consideration their side of the story.
“The body (sic) of the seven martyrs does (sic) not lie. That by itself is enough evidence to charge the military and police who have participated in the massacre,” they said.