“Sentra learned that they were given vast tracts of land by Luisita management to cultivate and plant with sugar cane. Thus, while the farm workers were struggling daily to make a living, they lived affluent lives courtesy of the Luisita management,” Pahilga said.
“Even then, Sentra already learned that they were co-opted by the Luisita management. Thus, we do not anymore wonder why they signed the deal. However, we do not know whether in signing the agreement, they were given the green light by the rest of the members of the Supervisory Group,” Pahilga said.
Pingol, Pahilga said, could not represent Ulwu as he was not given the authority to represent the farm workers’ union. Ulwu is not a party to the Supreme Court case.
On Dec. 22, 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) revoked the SDO in Hacienda Luisita and ordered instead the distribution of the land to the farm workers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). The PARC acted on the recommendation of the Department of Agrarian Reform, which investigated the SDO’s implementation and found that it had not improved the lives of the beneficiaries and that HLI management committed lapses in its implementation.
The HLI management contested the PARC’s ruling before the Supreme Court, which, in June 2006, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan. The case is pending before the Supreme Court and an oral argument has been set on Aug. 18.
Lito Bais, acting president of Ulwu, told Bulatlat on Friday that the timing of the disclosure of the agreement was suspect and that it was meant to sway the decision of the high court.
Christian Monsod, an Aquino family friend and who had been involved in the negotiations between HLI and farmers in the past, criticized the agreement. “This is déjà vu,” he was quoted in today’s Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying. “They’re trying this so-called compromise to render the Supreme Court case moot and academic,” he added.
According to Monsod, the Cojuangco-Aquino clan came up with the SDO scheme to evade a court decision in 1985 ordering the clan to distribute the land to the farmers.
The family went to the Court of Appeals but the case got overtaken by the Edsa People Power uprising in 1986. Later, Frank Chavez, the solicitor-general of President Cory Aquino, himself withdrew the government’s opposition to the family’s CA petition, thus invalidating the court ruling and subsequently allowing the SDO, Pahilga told Bulatlat in an earlier interview.
“So, who are they fooling? But they got away with it then,” Monsod told the Inquirer.
SC Approval Needed
Antonio Ligon, the HLI’s spokesman, told reporters this week that the Supreme Court needs to approve the compromise agreement because of the pending TRO against the PARC’s revocation of the SDO. The Department of Agrarian Reform will also weigh in on the matter.
“The farmers are free to decide. If they want to sign, then that’s okay. If not, then that’s also okay,” Ligon said, according to the Inquirer.
But Pahilga asserted that the deal is contrary to law. Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano went so far as to say that President Aquino can be held liable for what he called a “grand deception.”
According to the deal, in the event that the farm workers opt for actual land distribution, they will be given the equivalent percentage of the size of the land from the remaining HLI land actually devoted to agriculture, with a total area of 4,102 hectares, approximately. This means that the farm workers will only be given 33 percent of the 4,102 hectares, which in effect, will total only to 1,400 hectares. This 1,400 will be divided among the farm workers who will opt for land distribution while the rest of the land will remain with HLI.
“This is worse than the original SDO agreement of 1989,” Pahilga said.
Previous story: How Hacienda Luisita Stock Scheme Led to Farmers’ Misery
“HLI has no right to retain the rest of the land because they should be covered by the existing agrarian reform program. Under the existing law, agricultural land in excess of five hectares shall be distributed to the farmers. Clearly, HLI is subverting the law to maintain their control and ownership of Hacienda Luisita,” Pahilga pointed out.
He added that the recent “referendum” conducted by the HLI management, purportedly to make the farm workers choose whether they would continue under the SDO scheme or get a piece of HLI land, is also illegal. The PARC decision to cover the HLI land for agrarian reform still stands. “Unless this decision is reversed, the lands are effectively under the jurisdiction of DAR,” he said.
He explained that while the TRO issued by the high court restrained the implementation of the PARC decision, the decision is valid as things stand. He asserted that only DAR has the authority to decide what to do with the HLI land as the sugar plantation has been placed under the agrarian reform program.
Pahilga pointed out that the “referendum” was not supervised by DAR. He said the conduct of the “referendum” was meant to “maliciously defy” the department.
Teofilo Inocencio, the director of the DAR for Central Luzon, said that the new agreement did not go through his office and that the DAR did not send representatives to the signing ceremonies last Friday, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported. (Bulatlat.com)