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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, April 1, 2016
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with Rolly Espina

In search of sugarcane farmers

Rolly EspinaThe Philippine Inquirer carried in its front page yesterday a story on the need for more than 12,000 sugarcane workers, more than half of which is needed in North Cotabato.

According to Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz, this is the first time that an agricultural sector landed in the top 20 of in-demand jobs and attributed it to the present sustainable state of the sugar industry.

The bulk of the workers though are being hired by a corporation which still affirms what the sugar industry has long been crying for, that it must be run at a macro level for it to be sustainable compared to those lands that have been distributed in small portions under the CARP.

Hiring of sugar workers on a seasonal basis has been a practice in Negros, thus we have the sakadas that mostly come from Panay but apparently, the one in Cotabato does not fall under this category and might indicate a migration of sugarcane workers to other fields.

It can also be an indication that sugar workers have uplifted their lives and would rather work and live elsewhere.

We've heard of success stories about children of sugar workers, who under the various livelihood, development and scholarship programs from the industry, have become professionals and have relocated their families to urban areas.

Speaking of the sugar industry, I heard from the grapevine that some big sugar planters, while they are for Mar Roxas for president, are campaigning for Sen. Bongbong Marcos for vice president.

Though undeniably Bongbong has helped the sugar industry in some capacity, I cannot fathom the idea that others would look beyond what his father's regime has done to the industry and to Negros in particular.

The sins of the father are not the sins of the son is one argument I heard. However, Bongbong cannot wash his hands off these since he was undeniably of age at that time and saw what his father and mother have done, not just in Negros, but in the entire country.

Running as an independent, it is quite baffling how Bongbong has surged in the survey, coming in second but in a statistical tie with Sen. Chiz Escudero who has the more popular Poe for his presidentiable to give him those added boost, and 5 points ahead of administration candidate, Rep. Leni Robredo who is backed by government machinery.

Who is funding Bongbong? Perhaps there is truth then in the claims of senatoriable, Rep. Neri Colmenares that the funds must have come from the ill-gotten wealth that the Marcoses refused to return to the Philippine coffers and to victims of the Martial Law.

It is understandable that his good looks and suave speaking ability which he inherited from his father has earned Bongbong the admiration of the youth and of course their known baluarte that have remained loyal to their family all these years.

And I think part of the fault lies among us who lived and witnessed Martial Law and who have remained silent about it post the EDSA Revolution. Yes, we are a race with very short memory and we have failed ourselves if we allow another Marcos to take back Malacañang.

As Neri said, voting Bongbong will further inflict injustice among those who survived Martial Law and trample on the sacrifices and lost lives under that dictator.

Bongbong may have delivered for the sugar industry, but is it enough for us to turn a blind eye to the abuses and the killings that raged in our own province during his father's time? Can we even face survivors of Martial Law and the families of those who continue to search for justice to this day and tell them why we want a Marcos back in power?

The sugar industry is a macro industry. I hope our stakeholders have a macro mindset as well on the future of this country, and not just on the industry's gains in his two terms as senator.

Can't we look beyond our personal agenda as an industry or as a planter and weigh it against the pain of a nation, of a people that has been silenced, oppressed and robbed blindly by a dictator.

Bongbong was not a child when these abuses were committed. We were not children when these happened. We saw it, we lived through it, we survived it and let us not forget that while thousands were imprisoned, while thousands more were killed, as the son of the one who ordered it all, Bongbong was enjoying the life of the privileged few.

How can we then justify voting for him? Just asking.*

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