Pahilga confirmed that in July, there were efforts to broker a deal between the HLI management and the farm workers and to subsequently submit a compromise agreement, which would then be affirmed by the SC.
“There was already a meeting with the farm workers and the religious sector who would mediate and arrange a meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino III for the settlement of the case,” Pahilga said. “But the terms and conditions of the compromise agreement is yet to be agreed upon,” he added.
Ambala is composed of more than 6,000 farm workers at the HLI that petitioned the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to revoke the SDO.
“We have to be sure whether those involved in the negotiations were really representatives of the farmers and are negotiating for the benefits of the farmworkers. And we should also know what are the terms and conditions of the deal,” Pahilga pointed out.
“It is equally important to know who are the parties to the negotiation for there is a high probability that the persons privy to the deal are not the real representatives of farm workers but mere dummies of HLI,” Pahilga said.
He revealed that the HLI management submitted to the court lists and signatures of persons who supposedly wanted to continue with the SDO in the hacienda. But Pahilga said that, after a verification by Ambala and Ulwu, many of the individuals who signed the document are already dead, some are not farmer beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita, and some are not even residents of the barangays within the hacienda.
Grandmother of All Lies
“This breakthrough settlement is the grandmother of all lies and deceptions. It is by itself a major act of plunder, corruption and betrayal of collective peasant land rights and public interest rolled into one. President Aquino and the feudal aristocracy of Luisita merely talked to their own shadows and entertained a certain Al Capone when they orchestrated this biggest Mafia crime of the century,” Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) national coordinator Edna Velarde and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary-general Danilo Ramos in a joint press statement.
“The mere fact that the farm workers are unaware of such deal, the Cojuangco-Aquinos are engaging in another attempt to hoodwink the farm workers for the second time around,” Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said in a separate statement.
Mariano, who also chairs the KMP, said that the scheme proposed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos “has practically rendered impossible the break-up and distribution of the Luisita landholdings.”
Under the proposed settlement, the 10,502 farmer-beneficiaries recognized by HLI would be allowed to choose whether to retain their shares of stocks under the SDO or surrender these in exchange for land. Moreover, only around 1,400 hectares out of the 6,500-hectare hacienda, would be distributed. HLI explained this by saying that, under the SDO, the farmers’ shares account for only a third of HLI’s total shares.
Billions in Profit
“At the same time, the Cojuangco-Aquinos will again profit billions of pesos from a so-called sale with the government,” Mariano said.
The Inquirer source was quoted as saying that “the farmers who choose to remain under the SDO would also receive a financial package but they will have to wait for developments because Luisita would undergo a rehabilitation program.”
The source said that around P140 million would be given to farmers to be released “in tranches.” While insisting that the DAR was not privy to the negotiations, the source said that the government would have to pay HLI for the distributed land.
But Mariano said that “the farmers’ 33 percent shares in HLI represent the whole 4,915 hectares of land assets.”
Bais, of Ulwu, insisted the same argument. “The remaining agricultural land must be distributed to the farmers,” he said, adding that portions of the HLI have been converted for other non-agricultural purposes, a conversion the Ulwu considered as a move to reduce the number of hectares that might go to the beneficiaries.
Mariano said the so-called deal confirms that the Cojuangco-Aquinos will never let go of the SDO scheme.
“This newly concocted deceptive and divisive proposal by the Cojuangco-Aquinos, in collaboration with bogus and yellow farmworkers’ organizations, is preposterous and highly unacceptable,” Mariano said.