PARC Stalls Luisita Land Distribution

A cloud of anxiety now stalks the ranks of farm-worker beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita, the 6,453-ha. sugar estate owned and operated by the powerful Cojuangco clan of Tarlac (120 kms north of Manila). After seeking justice for 37 years, they are made to wait a little longer after the Presidential Agrarian Reform Committee announced, October 13, the formation of another committee to validate the findings of the Department of Agrarian Reform.


A cloud of anxiety now stalks the ranks of farm-worker beneficiaries (FWB) of Hacienda Luisita (HLI), the 6,453-ha. sugar estate owned and operated by the powerful Cojuangco clan of Tarlac (120 kms north of Manila). After seeking justice for 37 years, they are made to wait a little longer following the Presidential Agrarian Reform Committee’s (PARC) Oct. 13 announcement regarding the formation of another committee to validate the findings of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) president Rene Galang said over the weekend they fear that the delay in the revocation of the Stock Distribution Plan (SDP) will give room for the Cojuangcos to use their clout to lobby for a reversal of the DAR decision.

On Sept. 30, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Nasser Pangandaman referred to the Presidential Agrarian Reform Committee (PARC) its recommendation to recall the SDP of Hacienda Luisita.

The DAR had earlier created a task force to investigate the HLI’s SDP implementation based on two petitions filed by the agri-corporation’s supervisory group and the farm worker beneficiaries (FWB) in 2003. The petitions alleged that the HLI violated provisions of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) provided for under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). This option allows landowners to distribute stocks in lieu of land to their farmers.

The task force started its investigation in November 2004 after seven FWBs and their supporters were massacred reportedly by government forces in a violent picket line dispersal Nov. 16, same year. The FWBs went on strike simultaneous with that of the mill workers of the Central Azucarrera de Tarlac Labor Union (Catlu) Nov. 6.

Pangandaman, who also acts as vice-chair of the PARC, said that the government agency shall convene its Executive Committee (execom) to decide on the matter and shall announce its decision in two weeks.

PARC executives have also said that it is the agency that has the authority to revoke the SDP as it is the highest governing body of the government’s land reform program. There are 12 other landholdings implementing the SDP, nine of them (all sugarlands) in Negros and the three others in Iloilo and Davao del Sur.

Since Pangandaman’s announcement, the PARC execom has met twice. On Oct. 13, the execom told the media that it has created a validation committee to verify significant matters of the report. The validation will focus on financial and legal issues, particularly the auditing of HLI’s financial status.

Pangandaman also said the PARC would want to make sure that its final decision would not have any loopholes because the Luisita issue is a big case and it has political ramifications. This controversial decision comes at a point when Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency is highly in question and one of her staunchest critics is Cojuangco-Aquino.

Speculations are rife that Macapagal-Arroyo, who is facing ouster moves from various sectors because of election fraud, among other charges, is using the HLI issue to blackmail Aquino, who has called for the incumbent president’s removal.

No violation?

In a separate interview, HLI spokesperson and legal counsel Vigor Mendoza said the management welcomes the PARC’s decision to validate the DAR’s findings. “There’s more to the facts of the case and this development has further strengthened our claim that there never was a violation of our SDP,” he said.

Although Mendoza said that the management knows its legal options, he, however, could not give details.

He also maintained that the management is concerned to know what the FWBs feel about the impending SDP revocation. A referendum is being mulled, he said, to validate in their own way the DAR findings that showed majority of the FWBs want the SDP revoked.


Galang however said the DAR investigation is in itself conclusive. He said most FWBs prefer land distribution over the SDP. He cited as proof the participation of majority of the farm and mill workers during the strike. According to him, the recent strike is the first in the history of the farm workers’ struggle to own the land since the Cojuangcos acquired the sugar estate from its Spanish owners in 1958.

The DAR findings showed that the HLI management violated provisions of the SDP and the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the management and FWBs entered into in 1989.

Cited as one of the major basis for DAR’s recommendation to cancel the SDP is the miserable condition of the FWBs after 16 years of the SDP implementation. With a take home pay of P9.50 a week, the FWBs live in dire poverty. This, DAR said in its report, is contrary to what the SDP has envisioned – to improve the FWBs’ quality of life through greater productivity of the agricultural land.

The DAR report also showed that the management violated the MoA provision stating that the FWBs are entitled to a three percent share of the total gross sales from the production of the land and 33 percent share from the proceeds of the sale of the land. Actually, the department said, the HLI only provided for three percent production share and another three percent from the gross selling price of the 500 has. sold to Japanese investors in 1996. The management even called the latter only as a “bonus” for the FWBs.

Based on the same report, the conversion of the said 500 has. from agricultural to residential and industrial use also violated stipulations under the CARP’s land conversion policy. Under CARP rules, converted lands should be developed within five years from approval. After nine years however the land remains idle thereby leaving the areas unproductive.

The DAR report also concluded that the conversion itself violated the SDO provision that the agricultural lands should remain unfragmented.

Also, not all FWBs were given homelots as provided for in the MoA.

On the issue of stock distribution, the DAR report criticized management’s practice of pegging the share of a FWB on the number of man days s/he worked. It is management that assigns the number of mandays per farm worker. Consistent with this questionable practice, retired and retrenched FWBs no longer received their shares.

The SDP stipulates, however, that the stocks should have been distributed within three months of the SDP implementation and not within 30 years as the MoA prescribed.

The DAR also found ground on the FWBs’ complaints over their inadequate representation in the HLI’s Board of Directors (BoD) in which they only have four representatives as against seven by management.

The DAR also upheld the FWBs’ decision to boycott the BoD elections in 2003 stating that with the lack of confidence (of the FWBs) on the BoD, “no fruitful and harmonious corporate activities can be expected as any resistance will be counter-productive, that to continue operations under the SDP that is challenged will only be an empty exercise.” (

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