“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.”—Exodus 21:16
Forty of the trafficked farmers are finally back in Mindanao. We rejoice with them as they reunite with their families, back to what is familiar, back to what is home. But at the same time we rage. We rage how our society is able to maintain the monstrosity that is Hacienda Luisita, that is the power of a few elites borne on the breaking backs of our poor.
The Cojuangcos have maintained their affluence through the persisting slave relations in their hacienda that for so long eluded agrarian reforms. The master-slave treatment of the landless farmers and agricultural workers in our countryside has continued with a veneer of development in the urban centers.
It is a pity how many of our countrymen turn away from this scene as they continue to celebrate the socialites these barbaric relations have continued to feed for years. These rich families show off their extravagant lifestyles and unabashed power to an adoring crowd.
Many of our countrymen deny the poverty around them, trying to identify with the rich and the famous—the old rich who in the history of the shaping of our country had been the pets of our colonizers, the compadres of tyrants, the traitors to our people. They have now taken on the shoes of corporate moguls who are not ashamed of exploiting other people. Families such as the Cojuangco perpetrate inhumane conditions to squeeze more profit from a crisis-ridden economy.
This in a country that is proud to be God-centered. This from families who claim to champion the cross even as they continue to wield the thorned whip that lashes through the flesh of the poor.
While we celebrate the coming home of the sakadas, we continue to denounce the evil structures that has created this condition.
And we dare to ask our faithful who keep denying the economic quagmire we—the office employees, the daily wage earners, the ordinary people who comprise the bulk of our population—are in, who are we really with?
Advocacy Program Officer
[PHOTO above: From Pangantucan, Bukidnon, Maricel Boling, 32 years old, is the the only woman sakada among the 50 sakadas rescued from Hacienda Luista. Photo by Efren Ricalde]