Press Release
January 25, 2017

Privilege Speech by Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri
"The Sacadas from Mindanao"

The world is astounded by a lot of big things.

A President wakes up to massive protests worldwide even before he starts his first day at the White House.

Yale University announces imminent fisheries collapse with China's island grab and construction in the West Phlippine Sea.

OPEC fuels oil price hikes.

Avalanches and floods cause deaths and destruction.

Our military confirms foreign terrorists are training in the country.

Indeed, we should be astounded by these big things.

However, Mr. President, let us hear the plight of the small man called the sacada, some of them Manobo, some of them children. They are now in the midst of a deception foisted by a labor recruiter masquerading as a cooperative serving one of the biggest sugar haciendas in the country. I am referring to the hundreds of sacadas from Bukidnon, Cotabato and Davao recruited by a certain Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative to work in Hacienda Luisita.

My kababayans were promised big wages, good accommodation, all mandatory social security and health benefits, free transportation to and from work, and, free meals. All those promises were broken. The wages were starvation wages. The bunkhouses were cramped. No proof of mandatory contributions remitted to government agencies were found. Clearly, these are labor issues. That would have been a simpler issue against Greenhand and the Hacienda. However, one aspect of this deception has made this much more serious.

The sacadas were recruited from far away Bukidnon. They were ferried from Mindanao Island into the Central Plains of Luzon. If the sacada, even just one sacada opted out of working at the Hacienda, and, even if Greenhand allowed him to go; he could not have done so on his own. Everyday, the sacada is worked to the bone not being given the decent meal promised and shortchanged monetarily with a wage as low as Nine pesos and Forty-Six centavos (P9.46) per day due to the pakyawan nature, cutting and loading of sugarcane.

"Dahil napakalayo ng Tarlac, hindi niya kaya ang pamasahe at lalung hindi niya kayang lumangoy pauwi sa bahay niya sa Bukidnon." It smacks of human trafficking. Greenhand made sure the sacada would not dare escape Greenhand's strangle hold on him.

That's why they had to be rescued by the DAR and the DSWD from the Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, may I enjoin everyone to listen to the interview of one of the rescued sacadas, Mr. Mario Memper Jr.

(Play first part of video.)

Mr. President, it is the 17th year in the 21st Century, yet evil hands still employ 16th Century tactics to force fellow Filipinos to work the land for the cash crop, sugar.

We have the Sugar Amelioration Fund. It addressed planters' and farmers' need for capital.

We have the Sugar Industry Development Act. It addressed farmers income, productivity, marketing, health, education and pension needs of workers and agrarian reform beneficiaries in sugarlands.

We have the Philippine Cooperative Code that encourages self-help and achieving economic strength through cooperativism.

In other words, we Filipinos have always struggled to free fellowmen from exploitation. Filipinos won the Revolution. We launched reforms. Our laws, development plans and our national budgets have been evolving in order to address old and emerging problems, especially economic inequality.

And, now, to our chagrin, comes a labor recruiter calling itself a cooperative and giving cooperatives a bad name. It ferried workers to a hacienda which bullheadedly resists change. Their business model harks back to the cacique system of centuries ago. They have a hard time acknowledging and implementing basic reforms. So much so, that many Tarlaqueños refuse to work their land. The canes were ripe for harvesting, but, bitter labor conditions and paltry wages made harvesting sugar not sweet at all. So now, they preyed on workers from Bukidnon.

Mr. President, let me echo the plea of Mr. Memper to those who would be approached by Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative or other similar devious scheme.

(Play second part of video.)

Mr. President, at this time, the DOLE and the NLRC are investigating the matter. Based on those developments, your Committee on Cooperatives proposes to investigate the plight of the Bukidnon workers in order to address their demands for fair treatment, just compensation and for the parties responsible for their plight to be brought to justice. And, crafting measures to prevent the same in the future. Towards these ends, I filed Senate Resolution No. 274.

Mr. President, my kababayans are trying to get the best value for their labor - which, with their small plot of land - are all that they possess.

Let no one cheat them with false promises. Let no one violate their economic and social rights by uprooting them from their homes and preventing them to seek real greener pastures at their own free will.

Lastly, let no one destroy our chance for rural development thru cooperativism, as mandated by the Constitution. Let no oppressive labor practices disguise as labor service cooperative destroy the good name and noble ideals of true cooperatives.

On these, I enjoin you to support the inquiry to be carried out by the appropriate committees to resolve and craft measures so that the sugar workers do not receive the short end of the cane.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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