The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is continuing to assist migratory sugar workers or sacadas escaping Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. Early this month, 19 sacadas who were recruited by a contracting agency hired by the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) from as far as Sultan Kudarat, Davao City and South Cotabato provinces has approached DAR and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) national offices to seek assistance for their plight at Hacienda Luisita.
“This alarming situation of sacadas in vast sugar plantations in Hacienda Luisita and other Luzon provinces needs to be decisively addressed. While the DAR is vigorously correcting the social injustices endured by Luisita farmers and farmworkers brought about by decades of landlessness, the Cojuangco-Aquinos continue to recruit sacadas and impose upon them unfair labor practices and unacceptable working conditions. Worse, labor contractor Greehand Labor Cooperative, affiliated with the Cojuangco-Aquinos are recruiting poor farmers and national minorities from Mindanao to work in sugarcane fields in Tarlac and Pampanga, making them even more vulnerable to abuses,” said DAR Secretary Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano.
The illegal recruitment and grim plight of sacadas in Hacienda Luisita was brought to national attention early this year when more than 40 sacadas, from Bukidnon recruited by Greenhand Labor Contractor, managed to escape Hacienda Luisita due to inhumane labor conditions. Since January, sacadas who escape Hacienda Luisita proceeded to DAR to seek temporary shelter while availing of the balik-probinsya assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Pastor Bernie Caha said the ‘Tarlac employment package’ on which the sacadas were recruited was proven deceitful. They were promised a daily wage of P450 with benefits, including free meals and provisions on board and lodging, and travel to and from Hacienda Luisita. Their families also received cash advance payments. The exact opposite happened as soon as the sacadas set foot on Hacienda Luisita.”
The sacadas personally narrated to Mariano the plight they endured in Hacienda Luisita. They said they were paid much less than what was promised to them by Greenhand Labor Cooperative and Agrikulto Inc. They were housed in cramped barracks and were not provided with food and water. They worked for long hours cutting and hauling sugarcane. It took them three days to finish cutting and hauling a truckload of sugarcane. It’s appalling. The labor conditions that the sacadas endured, we only knew existed in slave camps during wartime. But the sacadas are working in Hacienda Luisita and nearby plantations, at present day,” the DAR secretary said.
The sacadas who escaped Hacienda Luisita said GreenHand Labor Cooperative recruited almost a thousand sacadas from Mindanao, many of whom are unable to read or write. Many were paid even less than P9.50 per day as official payslips obtained state that some received only P43.75 each week or a mere P6.25 a day. The lowest recorded pay for an 11-man team was P38.26 per week or P5.47 per day.
“Those recruited and lured to work in Hacienda Luisita are landless farmworkers. This condition amplifies the need for a genuine agrarian reform to address the landlessness problem perpetuated by the previous Aquino administration,” the DAR secretary said.
Mariano supports the resolution filed in Congress to conduct probe on the sacada issue.
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