Furthering the 43-year Delay of Land Reform in Hacienda Luisita A Litmus Test for Noynoy Aquino

At the start of planting season last year they tried to stop the farm workers from cultivating Hacienda Luisita lands. Failing there, they formed three months later, in September 2009, the Luisita Estate Management (LEM), whose people have been traipsing around the hacienda, talking of a “land use program” that the AMBALA said they have never heard of, and seeking to control or regulate the farmers’ cultivation of the lands.

From its actions and pronouncements, the LEM appears to be the Cojuangcos’ latest tool for dividing and conquering the farmworkers, and presenting to the outside world “peace” in Hacienda Luisita, much like their SDO did for a time under Cory.

The AMBALA (Alliance of Hacienda Luisita Farmworkers) condemned the Cojuangcos’ LEM not only for trying to stop the farm workers from cultivating the land or for requiring them to register, but also for dishing out “misleading statements and reports that touched on the issues presently” being adjudicated by the Supreme Court.

AMBALA asked the High Court to lift the TRO and to penalize the Cojuangcos for spreading the following disinformation and unauthorized acts:

-The Cojuangcos’ LEM is spreading a lie that “there was already a land use program in the hacienda.” If there is any such program, AMBALA said it was solely initiated for the benefit of Hacienda Luisita Inc.

-The Cojuangcos’ LEM is making it appear that the farmworkers were amenable to their land use program. AMBALA said their members who filed the petition to revoke the SDO, consisting of more than 5,000 farm-workers, have not agreed to such “land use program.”

-The Cojuangcos’ LEM is usurping the job of DAR in conducting an inventory of the land and of the farmworkers cultivating it. AMBALA said the LEM has no power and authority to do this.

-The LEM is requiring the registration of the farm-workers allegedly to determine the legitimate farmworker beneficiaries of the hacienda. Again, AMBALA said this is another unauthorized and illegal act by the Cojuangcos’ LEM.

The Cojuangcos’ LEM tells the farm-workers their “land use program” will not supplant whatever SC decision regarding the issue of land distribution of Luisita. But it is vilifying progressive party list groups supporting the farmers and in their newsletter and meetings with farm-workers.

The LEM also frequently stresses the “fair” sharing of Hacienda Luisita lands and produce, and the need to identify and select as “beneficiaries” only those who “are from Luisita.” It is sowing confusion and intrigues and dividing the farmworkers, lamented Felix Nacpil and Lito Bais, chair and vice-chair of AMBALA, respectively.

The Cojuangcos are urging the farm-workers to continue planting the lands with sugarcane, instead of the food crops they are currently growing. Sugarcane will likely prove more profitable for the Cojuangcos not only for sugar and its byproducts but also for biofuels, which the US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas has listed as one of his country’s priorities in the Philippines.

After Aquino’s inauguration, his “righteous road” could lead to a semblance of “peaceful” coexistence with chosen Luisita farmers-beneficiaries, with the LEM as tool for continuing to make the peasants work the land more for the Cojuangcos’ profit.

What is the Supreme Court Waiting For?

It has now been 43 years since the Hacienda Luisita was supposed to have been distributed to farmers and tillers. The past four years that land reform has been impeded was courtesy of a TRO filed by the Cojuangcos before the Supreme Court.

Today, Felix Nacpil, Lito Bais and Federico Laza, AMBALA’s chair, vice chair and member, respectively, stated in their recent petition to the Supreme Court that by this time all “parties have already submitted all their pleadings and arguments.” The case is now “ripe for decision,” they said.

Unfortunately for the Luisita farmers, the longer the SC delays, the more it favours the Cojuangcos. It was the PARC under Cory Aquino that crafted the SDO, an insertion in the CARP which she enacted shortly before handing over the legislative powers to Congress in 1987, right after the Mendiola massacre. It was the PARC again, this time under Gloria Arroyo, that revoked it following the widely-condemned Hacienda Luisita massacre. Could another Cojuangco-Aquino set to preside over PARC rule in favour of real land reform? Or are we in for another massacre? (Bulatlat.com)

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