Tension flares at rally on Hacienda Luisita

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 06 2011 12:34 PM | Updated as of Jul 07 2011 09:05 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Some 100 protesters composed of farmers of Hacienda Luisita and militant sympathizers led by Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano successfully overcame a police barricade at Padre Faura Street in Ermita, Manila on Wednesday morning.

The rallyists wanted to hold a protest action right in front of the Supreme Court (SC) against the high court's decision in the Hacienda Luisita agrarian reform dispute case but were barred from passing through Padre Faura, which was closed to traffic in the morning.

The rallyists outnumbered the 12 policemen deployed in the area and successfully pushed the barricades aside.

To prevent the situation from escalating, the policemen allowed the rallyists to pass through and stage their protest across the high court's main gate.

The farmers, with placards in tow, slammed the high court ruling that ordered a farmers' referendum to settle the agrarian dispute.

"Sa referendum, pwede ang suhulan, marami ang pwedeng mangyari. Kaya kami, ang gusto namin, lupa ang agad nang ipamahagi," Lito Bais, acting president of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.

"We never asked for referendum and the high court can review the proceedings of this case if there is one single instance that such political animal came to our mind," farm worker Rodel Mesa of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura(UMA) said.

The high court's ruling directed the conduct of a referendum to be supervised by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to allow some 6,296 farm worker beneficiaries to choose whether to stay as stock holders of Hacienda Luisita Incorporated or opt for land.

"Those who want stocks, will get stocks. Those who want land, will get land," Court Administrator and spokesman Justice Jose Midas Marquez said in a news conference Tuesday.

The farm workers will ask their chief legal counsel, Atty. Jobert Pahilga, to study legal remedies available to them.