THE KILLING of 14 people on a picket line at a sugar plantation in the Philippines has shocked the country. The family of former president Cory Aquino, who own the plantation, have been implicated in the killings.
Two of those killed were children, aged two and five, who suffocated when teargas was fired at the picket line.
An additional 35 people sustained gunshot wounds, 133 were arrested and hundreds more wounded when police and troops attacked the picket line on 16 November.
More than 5,000 farmers and workers on the giant Hacienda Luisita plantation began their strike on 6 November.
Workers in the CATLU union employed in the sugar mill barricaded one gate while farmers in the ULWU union barricaded the other. Their protest began when talks to secure improved wages for CATLU members, and to overturn the illegal sacking of ULWU members, fell through.
The farmers live in grinding poverty, earning about 10p a day.
The dispute is also about land reform. President Aquino signed a land reform act while in office in 1987. But her relatives at the plantation used a legal loophole to bypass these reforms.
The strike has received wide support. About 15,000 people joined a protest at the picket lines on 15 November when the police and army made an earlier attempt to disperse the workers, and around 10,000 attended the funeral of those killed.
Union representatives are continuing talks to try to resolve the dispute, but the workers remained determined to continue their fight for livelihood and land reform, adopting the slogan: “It is better for us to die fighting than die of hunger.”