Farm Workers Urge SC To Junk Cojuangco-Aquino’s Plea

by Ronalyn V. Olea

MANILA – Farm workers of the Hacienda Luisita urged the Supreme Court to declare with finality its November 22, 2011 decision ordering the distribution of 4,916 hectares of Hacienda Luisita land to the original 4,296 original farm worker beneficiaries (FWBs).

Through their counsel Jobert Pahilga, the farm workers opposed the motion filed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos last month seeking to increase the amount of compensation and to retain the option between owning stocks or land. In their motion, the Hacienda Luisita Inc. also wants to lift the ten-year prohibition on the sale of the awarded lands.

The Hacienda Luisita land owned by the family of President Benigno S. Aquino III has been placed under the stock distribution option in 1986 to evade land distribution. The Supreme Court decision in November 2011 removed the option to choose between stocks or land, saying that “control over agricultural lands must always be in the hands of the farmers.”

“The issues have already been raised by the HLI in its motion for reconsideration on the July 5, 2011 ruling of the high court. The high court resolved these issues in its Nov. 22 ruling. There is nothing new in their motion. The Cojuangco-Aquinos are only buying time, hoping for a miracle to happen,” Pahilga, executive director of Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra) told the media before the filing of their comment.

In its decision in July, the high court ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to conduct a referendum that would provide option for farmers to choose between land and stock. In its November decision, the SC discarded the said option and ordered the actual distribution of land.

“The farmworkers will never have control over these agricultural lands for as long as they remain as stockholders of HLI. During the operation of HLI, the farm workers were not given any dividends. They remained the minority stockholders. They have no control on the use and disposition of the assets of the corporation including the land. They have no say in the corporate business ventures. Their hours of work were dictated by the corporation. In short, they were at the mercy of the Cojuangco-Aquinos,” the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said in its comment.

Pahilga said the motion filed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos should be considered as a second motion for reconsideration and as such, under the rules, is prohibited. “Their arguments have no bases,” he said.

“The Ambala is hoping that even with the on-going intramurals involving the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court will immediately resolve to deny HLI’s motion, affirm the 22 November 2011 resolution, and order its immediate execution,” Pahilga said.

The Senate is hearing the impeachment case of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

No compensation

In their comment, Ambala maintained that the Cojuangco-Aquinos are not entitled to compensation.
Francine Dizon, Ambala spokesman, said, during a picket outside the Supreme Court, that the Cojuangco-Aquinos have stolen the land from their ancestors.

In 1957, the Cojuangcos purchased the Hacienda Luisita through a loan from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Central Bank with the condition that the land should be distributed to the farmworkers after ten years.

“Up to now, there is no proof that the loan has been paid. The Cojuangco-Aquinos should not be paid a single centavo,” Pahilga said.

Pahilga said that in 1985, the Regional Trial Court of Manila ruled that the entire Hacienda Luisita be distributed to qualified beneficiaries. When Corazon Cojuango- Aquino became president, her administration moved for the dismissal of the case and argued that Hacienda Luisita would be distributed to the farm workers pursuant to the agrarian reform program of her government. The Court of Appeals granted the motion of the government on the condition that should the program fail, the land should be distributed to the farm workers and Tarlac Development Corporation will be compensated only for P3.988 million.

“The SDO [stock distribution option] failed and so, the Court of Appeals ruling should stand. The Cojuangco-Aquinos should only be paid P3.988 million, not P1 million per hectare,” Pahilga said.

Ambala said the HLI management has yet to account for the P1.33 billion sale of the 500 hectares to Rizal Commercial Bank Corporation and Luisita Industrial Park Inc. (Lipco) and the 80.51 hectares sold for Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTex).

In its rulings in July and November, the high court ordered to pay the farm workers from the sale of the portions of the land.

In the event that the high court declares with finality that the Cojuangco-Aquinos be paid, Pahilga said the amount should not exceed P40,000 per hectare, the same valuation given by the Cojuangco-Aquino on November 21, 1989 when they computed the shares of stocks of farm workers.

“There would be injustice if the Cojuangco-Aquinos ask for P1 million per hectare as ‘just compensation’ when they valued the land at a much lower price in 1989 at the expense of the farm workers,” Pahilga said.

As to the HLI’s plea to grant the farm workers the option to sell the land, Pahilga said the argument has no legal basis. “It would defeat the purpose of agrarian reform program as it will lead again to re-concentration of the lands to the Cojuangco family,” he said.

Lito Bais, chairman of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma), said, “The Cojuangco-Aquinos are doing all they can to delay and block the land distribution in Hacienda Luisita.”

The HLI management also demanded the inhibition of Chief Justice Renato Corona in the Supreme Court deliberation on the motion for clarification it filed.

Dizon said the farm workers in the ten villages of Hacienda Luisita are ready to till their own land. “We are ready to cultivate the land that has been shed with the blood of our ancestors and leaders,” he said.

“The high court must act now and stop the decades-old exploitation of farm workers by the Cojuangco-Aquinos,” he said.   (Bulatlat.com)

PHOTO CREDIT:  Ronalyn V. Olea

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