The 1989 MoA also stated that the parties entered into this agreement “with the end view of improving the lot of the qualified beneficiaries of the stock distribution plan and obtaining for them greater benefits.” In the same article, Chavez reiterates the benefits the farmer-beneficiaries (FBs) are supposed to gain: continued employment with salaries, allowances, and other benefits; 1/30th of the total agreed shares of stock to be distributed annually at no cost to the FBs, or a gross annual amount of P3.9 million; an amount equivalent to 3 percent of gross sales distributed annually to the FBs; FBs shall be entitled to dividends on shares transferred to them; and titled home lot of not more than 240 sq. m. to be given each qualified family beneficiary for free.
Comparing what it amounts to if a farmer-beneficiary opts for land distribution against acquiring stocks from the agro-corporation, Chavez said an FB would only acquire ¾ (or exactly .78 has.) of the land considering that there are 6,296 FBs entitled to a total of 4,915.75 ha.
“It is obvious,” he continued, “that this size of land will not be able to support a farm-worker’s family if he is to depend on the income potential of the size land.”
Citing a study made by the Center for Research and Communications (CRC), Chavez said that a farm owner who cultivates a one-hectare lot and produces 40 tons of cane makes a net profit of only P17, 702 a year (based on 1989 prices).
On the other hand, an FB who works for 214 days in a year under the SDO will receive P33,967 in basic pay and fringe benefits.
In a House hearing on the implementation of the SDO in HLI on Dec. 14, HLI corporate secretary lawyer Emmanuel Cochico defended the Cojuangcos’ SDO saying the land distribution option would only give a small and economically-less beneficial lot to each farmer and hence no decent livelihood.
But why are the hacienda’s farm workers on strike?
In has been 15 years since the implementation of the SDO but the sugar farm workers are collectively unsatisfied and poor. Representing the farmers, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala or Alliance of Farm Workers in Hacienda Luisita) petitioned the DAR on Dec. 4, 2003 to revoke the SDO. The plantation farm workers’ union, ULWU, is asking for the nullification of the SDO which incidentally is one of the issues raised in their strike.
In a statement emailed to Bulatlat, Ed Tadem, associate professor of Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, said that the SDO was implemented by the former president, who is part of a landlord clan, to “evade land reform.” This scheme was inserted into CARP, he said, by pro-landlord legislators during the term of President Aquino, to allow landowners who run their farms as corporations. Shares of stocks are distributed to farm workers in lieu of outright land transfer.
Citing scholars of agrarian reform, the UP professor said that stock distribution can never be a substitute for land transfer which is the heart and soul of any genuine land reform.
The Luisita stock option plan had also been denounced as “unconstitutional” by the University of the Philippines Law Center in a position paper submitted in June 1990 to the Senate Agrarian Reform Committee. The law center’s memorandum stated that the “scheme is violative not only of the social justice provisions but even more so of the specific provisions of the Constitution on agrarian reform” since it “allows the original owners to remain the controlling interest at the expense of the supposedly farmer beneficiaries.”
ULWU president Rene Galang disputes claims by the Cojuangcos that under the SDO farm workers are assured of continued employment. In fact, he says, union records show that 1,009 farm beneficiaries lost their jobs since the implementation of the SDO in 1989. In addition, on Aug. 24, the HLI management laid off 150 permanent and 176 seasonal workers.
Aside from those already retrenched, about 2,500 more are set to be dropped from the master list, Galang said. To fast track this action, the HLI management is dangling an early retirement for the farm workers.
Bulatlat obtained a copy of a five-page letter issued by HLI on the early retirement plan. Anyone who avails of early retirement would be given a separation pay but would automatically be dropped from the rolls, the letter reads.