The only time the plantation area becomes profitable, he added, is when it is sold and converted to industrial enclaves. Documents acquired by the sugar farm workers show that the Cojuangcos earned not less than P750 million ($13.31 million) from 1998 to 2002.
Distribute the land to sugarcane workers
If it is true that the HLI is not profitable for the Cojuangcos, the HLI workers demand that the land be distributed to them rather than have the plantation converted to industrial enclaves, Mahinay said.
Demanding the Cojunagcos to distribute the land to the sugarcane workers is not an ambitious undertaking, Mahinay said, because this would only mean the fulfillment of the past governments’ agrarian reform program.
Mahinay explained that Don Jose Cojuangco was able to purchase Hacienda Luisita and the CAT, collectively known then as the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) on March 31, 1958 by loaning funds from two government agencies, the Central Bank of the Philippines (CBP) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Their loan, however, stated several conditions, among them the distribution of the land to small farmers in line with the government’s social justice program, Mahinay added.
Since 1967, government officials have inquired from the Cojuangcos as to what has been done to implement the conditions, Mahinay said. But, she added, the Cojuangcos often answered that the fulfillment of the condition cannot be enforced.
In 1980, the Marcos administration, the political archrival of the Cojuangcos and Aquinos, filed a case against the owners of the hacienda (Civil Case No. 131654, Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch XLIII) to comply with the terms of the CBP and the GSIS to turn over the hacienda to the then Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MAR) for the purpose of distributing the land to the hacienda’s small farmers or tenants.
Court records showed that the Cojuangcos contended that the order was unenforceable because: 1) the hacienda is outside the scope of any land reform program; 2) there were no tenants or small farmers in the hacienda; and 3) that there was no agrarian unrest in Hacienda Luisita.
On Dec. 2, 1985, the Manila RTC handed down the verdict in favor of the government, compelling the hacienda owners to turn over the land to the MAR for appropriate land distribution.
The Cojuangcos immediately put the case on appeal at the Court of Appeals (CA).
Odds against sugar farm workers
One of the Cojuangcos’ heirs, Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, became president of the country after Marcos was toppled by a popular uprising in 1986. During her term, agrarian reform became her centerpiece program and thus paved the way for the institution of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Through the CARP, Mahinay said, Cojuangco-Aquino expanded the agrarian reform coverage to include sugar farms. It was also the former president who introduced stock distribution option (SDO) as a means of artificially distributing the land that, Mahinay said, was actually her way to evade the order of the Manila RTC in 1985 to distribute actual parcels of land to small farmers and tenants.
On Aug. 23, 1988, the Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated was established and served as a spin-off corporation of the TADECO for the purpose of operationalizing the SDO in Hacienda Luisita. In effect, the SDO meant that the sugarcane workers’ right to land distribution has been exchanged for shares of stock and made them co-owners of the hacienda, Mahinay explained.
However, the SDO agreement only meant to give 33.3 percent share to sugar farm workers, Mahinay said, and indicated that the Cojuangcos have virtual control of the corporation with 66.7 percent shares.
To make matters worse, court records showed that the CA dismissed the case against the Cojuangcos on May 18, 1988 or two years after Cojuangco-Aquino became president, Mahinay said.
Since the incorporation of the hacienda, however, Galang said sugar farm workers experienced greater hardships due to their diminishing mandays caused by mechanization of sugar cane production and the land use conversion.
According to Galang, they will continue to campaign for the scrapping of the SDO and for the distribution of the land to small farmers and tenants. (Bulatlat.com)