MANILA – Jobert Ilarde Pahilga, the lawyer for the farm workers in Hacienda Luisita, said HLI’s compromise agreement is “the third time that the Cojuangcos-Aquinos betrayed agrarian reform and the HLI farm workers.”
The first betrayal, Pahilga said, was in 1986, when the Cory Aquino administration, through Solicitor General Frank Chavez, withdrew the case filed by the government against the Cojuangco-Aquinos for the distribution of the land to the farm workers.
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The Marcos government had filed a case to compel the Cojuangco-Aquinos to give back the land to the farm workers, as stated in the conditions of the loan the Cojuangcos obtained from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Central Bank. The loan was used to purchase the sugar mill and the Hacienda Luisita.
The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila then ordered the Cojuangco-Aquinos to fulfill the condition of the loan and to distribute the land to the farm workers. They appealed the decision, however, to the Court of Appeals. While pending appeal and when Cory became president, her administration ordered the withdrawal of the case from the Court of Appeals, according to Pahilga.
“The second act of betrayal was in 1989 when they chose to implement stock distribution option (SDO) in HLI instead of having the lands actually distributed to the farmers. This SDO is the root of all the misery and predicament of the farm workers. This SDO led to the Hacienda Luisita massacre and the farm workers already rejected this scheme,” said Pahilga.
During the so-called referendum for the SDO, the Cojuangco-Aquinos used their private army and the military to harass and intimidate the farmers into agreeing to the SDO, farm workers and residents in the hacienda had earlier told Bulatlat.
Since the 2004 massacre of striking workers and supporters at the Gate 1 of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the hacienda’s sugar mill, several leaders, members and supporters of the unions and groups that are backing the strikers have been murdered.
In the referendum to ratify the new compromise agreement, Pahilga and other progressive groups following the case that the same thing could happen again. Pahilga said there has been increasingly militarization in Hacienda Luisita ever since President Aquino came to power in July. (Ronalyn V. Olea/bulatlat.com)