Head and HAHR’s Full Report on the Hacienda Luisita Massacre
Report of the Health Team on the
Hacienda Luisita Massacre
A paper submitted by Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)
and Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR)
to the SENATE COMMITTEE ON LABOR
(12 January 2005, Philippine Senate)
On November 6, 2004, over 5,000 workers and agricultural laborers of Hacienda Luisita began a strike in order to highlight their demands for higher wages and better working benefits and conditions, as well as signify their disgust over the company’s union-busting and unfair labor practices. These were the main issues that have worsened their already miserable plight.
At the backdrop is the long-standing problem of land. Despite the coverage of the hacienda under Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 1987, the Cojuangcos, who were the landowners of the hacienda, opted for the Stock Distribution Option (SDO). SDO was one of the non-land transfer schemes that made the CARP beneficiaries supposedly “part-owners” of the land while virtually maintaining their status as workers or agricultural laborers. Hence, this historical failure to implement the fundamental principle of “land to the tiller”, which is the social justice aspect of land reform, set the tenor for the current struggle within the hacienda.
Immediately after the strike was set, two attempts were made by the local PNP to break the picket-line and disperse the strikers: the first on the evening of November 6 itself and the second on the morning of November 7. Both attempts failed as the number of strikers and their families and supporters swelled to thousands and bravely defended their positions.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), through Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, then took over the issue through the “assumption of jurisdiction” and immediately issued a “return-to-work” order on November 10. After being largely ignored, Sec. Sto. Tomas then issued an order on November 15 “deputizing” the AFP Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) to assist the Philippine National Police-Region 3 and local DOLE officials in enforcing the “return-to-work” order.
Hence, on November 16, even though the union leaders were still exhausting all avenues of negotiations with the Cojuangcos, a combined force of an estimated 700-strong provincial and regional PNP and 17 truckloads of fully-armed soldiers from the 69th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (PA) and the 33rd Light Armor Company PA stationed at the NOLCOM entered the vicinity of Gate 1 near the picket-line. They were accompanied by two V150 armored personnel carriers (APCs) and two fire trucks.
The dispersal of the strikers outside Gate 1 began at around 3:00 p.m. when the AFP and PNP started shooting teargas canisters into the strikers’ positions. One of the APCs even tried to crash over the barricades set by the strikers in Gate 1. After failing to do so, shots were suddenly heard and the strikers started to scamper away. However, the shootings continued even after the strikers were already fleeing. Many saw other strikers fall even as they were already trying to run for cover or move out of harm’s way.
At the end of the violent and brutal dispersal, 7 people were dead and scores more were wounded, including women and children. Many were hospitalized for gunshot wounds (GSW) although there were also other injuries from the mauling that ensued.
The AFP and PNP were quick to deny any wrongdoing. They both claimed that they fired their weapons in order to defend themselves. Congressman Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Sec. Eduardo Ermita quickly blamed the “Leftists and militants” and alleged “agent-provocateurs” who had supposedly infiltrated the ranks of the workers. Cong. Noynoy only stopped short of outrightly blaming the strikers for the violence, as the PNP and AFP were allegedly “only trying to enforce the law.”
This investigation was conducted, therefore, to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the brutal dispersal in order to determine the victims, especially the extent of damage to life and limb, and to determine those who are accountable. This investigation also indirectly seeks to assist the victims in their quest not just for redress but also for justice.
The health team was headed by Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) and Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) and included health professionals (i.e. physicians, nurses), health workers, and health students.
The health team conducted its investigations in three separate occasions: November 17, November 29, and December 4-5, 2004. The methodology involved direct interviews and medical check-ups of those who were injured (including those who were already hospitalized), interviews with relatives and witnesses of the casualties, direct inspection of the cadaver, and interviews with local officials and medical personnel, including Dr. Saturnino S. Ferrer, the physician who conducted the autopsy on five of the seven casualties.
The team conducted its own documentation, which included signed affidavits, medical records, photo-documentation, taped interviews, and records of direct examinations conducted by health team members. The team also reviewed other pertinent documents available, including review of relevant affidavits/sworn statements and a review of available videos.
The findings are divided into three parts: findings on the casualties, findings on the injuries, and findings on the conduct of surrounding medical facilities and health agencies.
Findings on the casualties
There were seven identified casualties. These were Jhaivie R. Basilio, Adriano R. Caballero, Jr., Jhune N. David, Jaime B. Fastidio, Jesus V. Laza, Juancho C. Sanchez, and Jessie M. Valdez. A summary of the information and findings on each of the casualties is attached as Annex A.
The bodies were brought to different funeral parlors from the site of incidence. Valdez, however, was reportedly brought to Camp Aquino before being brought to the funeral parlor where the autopsy was made. There was a gap of at least 19 hours from the time of incidence to the time the autopsies were conducted by Dr. Ferrer. It was also within this time gap that the alleged paraffin tests were done on the casualties.
Based on the data gathered by the health team, the following were significant:
All of the seven died of gunshot wounds, contrary to the report of the Provincial Health Office that Sanchez died of “severe head injury” and Laza died of “basal skull fracture”.
Three (i.e. Basilio, David, and Laza) suffered from multiple gunshot wounds while the other four had single but fatal gunshot wounds.
Except for two gunshot wounds, both of which were sustained by Laza, none of the 10 gunshot wounds of the other casualties were frontal. All of the entry wounds were either from the back or from the sides.
Two had other concomitant and suspicious-looking injuries. Basilio had contusions and lacerations on his face and neck areas, while Sanchez had a peri-orbital laceration and hematoma of the left eye, contusion hematoma over the lumbar area, and some discoloration on the feet. These were consistent with eyewitness accounts that the two were still alive when taken by the PNP and AFP and were mauled before being shot.
Six of the casualties were workers of Hacienda Luisita and all were residents of the hacienda. All were in their productive ages and had no previous severe illness.
Dr. Ferrer also noted “wax-like material” on the bodies of Basilio, Caballero, and Sanchez. However, the so-called paraffin tests were conducted without any consent or without being witnessed by relatives of the deceased, and even now, the document containing the actual results of the paraffin tests are still to be obtained.
Findings on the injuries
There were at least 121 injured, 44 of whom were seen and interviewed by the health team. Of the total injured, 108 were male and 6 were female, while 7 had no data on their sex. 63 were adults (between 20-59 years old), 11 were children (below 19 years old), 4 were of the geriatric age group (above 60 years old), and 43 had no age data. All were either employed in or residents of Hacienda Luisita and many were the breadwinners of their respective families. A summary of pertinent data on the injured is attached as Annex B.
Of the total injured, 32 were cases of gunshot wounds (GSW), of which 18 were seen, interviewed, and examined by the health team. Some were serious enough to warrant hospitalization, especially those with multiple injuries or multiple GSW. Some are still confined to various hospitals undergoing surgery. At least 5 of the GSW cases seen by the team still had bullets lodged inside their bodies.
Based on the clinical histories taken, many of injured were already running from Gate 1 when they were hit by the bullets. The gunshot wounds were not sustained from a single volley of fire but from a sustained volume of fire lasting up to almost 2 minutes.
Other injuries included teargas-related respiratory irritation, fractures (of the bones), contusions, abrasions, and lacerations, and contusions from blunt trauma. Most of these injuries were from the use of around 100 teargas canisters and from the ensuing stampede due to the shooting. However, at least two (one with multiple fractures and one with a fractured right hand) were the result of being repeatedly bludgeoned by the PNP with their riot sticks after the shooting.
Findings on the conduct of hospitals and health institutions
Based on data obtained by the health team, St. Martin de Porres Hospital, which is the nearest hospital from the site of incidence, being less than 300 meters away from Gate 1, transferred its existing in-patients at least a day before the incident occurred. Moreover, even before the violent dispersal was implemented, the hospital was secured by elements of the Army, aside from the PNP contingent earlier sent there to secure the hospital entrance. Also, Army medical personnel were already stationed in the hospital even before the shooting occurred.
The health team also finds the report of the Provincial Health Office (Annex C) to be flawed. For instance, one of the casualties, Juancho Sanchez, supposedly died of “severe head injuries” whereas autopsy findings show that he died of a single gunshot wound penetrating the left side near the pelvic area that hit his vital organs.
Similarly, the PHO report states that Jesus Laza supposedly died of “basal skull fracture”. However, the Initial Medico-Legal Report of the PNP Crime Laboratory signed by Dr. Reynaldo R. Dave, Jr. shows no head and neck injury and instead notes two GSW to the chest, both of which were fatal. It merits serious consideration as to how much weight should be given to the PHO Report given these significant errors, and why these errors were made in the first place.
Conclusions and recommendations
The health team finds adequate substantial evidence to state that the strikers of Hacienda Luisita were shot not “as a defensive stance” or because the PNP and AFP “were provoked” but rather as a direct armed offensive assault on the picket line. This assertion is supported by: a) the number and types of injuries and deaths, b) the character of the injuries and physical findings, and c) the volume and length of gunfire sustained against the strikers.
Moreover, the GSWs suffered by those who were killed and injured dispel any and all allegations that the PNP and AFP elements who fired their guns were doing so because they were under some sort of threat. Not even the alleged paraffin tests, conducted under dubious circumstances by the very same agency under question, can justify the blatant use of firearms, automatic and high-powered at that, against unarmed civilians. These are gross violations of the basic human rights of the strikers.
There is also no doubt that there was an excessive use of force during the November 16 incident. What is disturbing, however, is the fact that this excessive use of force is deliberate and intentional. Again, the injuries sustained by those who died and those who survived attest to this. The types and severity of the injuries belie any randomness and instead, point to a dangerous kind of recklessness spurred by an overarching intent to cause or inflict harm. There were even severe injuries due to blunt trauma sustained immediately after the shooting. The brutality of the dispersal thus casts a pall of shame on the PNP and serves as a grim reminder of why the AFP is prohibited from the picket lines.
Lastly, the findings of the health team point strongly to an element of premeditation rather than spontaneity (as is being alleged by the AFP and PNP), as regards the shooting. The size of the kill zone, as well as the volume of fire, as traced from the clinical histories, the character of the injuries, and the positions of the victims and casualties, all validate the element of premeditation. The events surrounding the St. Martin de Porres Hospital further corroborate this.
The health team, therefore, recommends that the findings and conclusions drawn by this report be investigated further and validated by other independent sources. First of all, the victims should be given immediate and adequate redress, through indemnification, of the damages and injuries to life and limb caused upon them to suffer.
Second, there should be a swift and decisive accounting of the responsibility for the deaths and injuries, not only from the AFP and PNP units involved but also from the government agencies (viz., DOLE, DILG, DND, and DAR) and the local government units. Appropriate administrative and criminal charges should immediately be filed.
Finally, if there is a genuine desire from the current dispensation to address the root causes of the conflict in Hacienda Luisita, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should look closer and heed the demands of the working masses, the workers and agricultural laborers, for land, jobs, wages, and rights. Rather than merely dismissing this problem as a “purely labor issue”, the GMA administration should implement genuine agrarian reform and institute the much needed social justice demanded by the victims.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS ON THE CASUALTIES
Name/Personal Information/Autopsy Findings
Jhavie Basilio 20/male; single, hacienda worker 2 GSW (1 on the chest and 1 on the left buttocks) + contusions and lacerations on the head and neck areas
Adriano Caballero, Jr./23/male; married, caddie in the hacienda/1 GSW on the left side of the chest
Jhune David 28/male; married,/ hacienda farm worker/2 GSW (1 on the zygomatic region and 1 on the trapezoid region)
Jaime Fastidio/46/male; married, hacienda laborer/1 GSW on the mandibular area through the neck
Jesus Laza 34/male; single, hacienda worker/2 GSW on the pectoral region
Juancho Sanchez/20/male; single, hacienda resident 1 GSW on the left pelvic area + peri-orbital laceration and hematoma of the left eye, contusion hematoma over the lumbar area, and some discoloration on the feet
Jessie Valdez 30/male; married, hacienda laborer/1 GSW on the right thigh
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS ON THE INJURED
Total injured: 121
Total seen by the health team: 44
All were either employed in or residents of Hacienda Luisita
Many were the breadwinners of their respective families
Breakdown by sex: Male – 108
Female – 6
No data – 7
Breakdown by age: Children (< 19 years) – 11
Adults (>19 and <60 years) – 63
Geriatric (>60 years) – 4
No data – 43
No. of Gunshot Wounds (GSW): 32
GSW seen by the health team: 18
Some were serious enough to warrant hospitalization, especially those with multiple injuries or multiple GSW
Some are still confined to various hospitals undergoing surgery
At least 5 of the GSW cases seen by the team still had bullets lodged inside their bodies.
Other concomitant injuries:
1. teargas-related respiratory irritation
2. fractures (of the bones)
6. contusions from blunt trauma
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on Dec 10th 2009