President Aquino Can Be Held Equally Liable for ‘Grand Deception’ vs. Luisita Farmers

MANILA – President Benigno S. Aquino III can be held equally liable for what progressive groups have described as a “sham” deal involving his family’s Hacienda Luisita.

In a statement, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, who is also chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said Malacanang’s admission that Aquino is aware of the so-called negotiations between the Cojuangco-Aquinos and the so-called farm workers “makes the president equally liable in the grand deception and denial of the farmers’ rights to the land.”

Mariano issued the statement after presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that Mr. Aquino’s “only input” was to tell his cousins he wanted the problem resolved.

“If we can resolve this amicably then I’m all for it,” Lacierda quoted the president as telling his cousins a day after Fernando Cojuangco, chief operating officer of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), was reported to have hammered out a deal with the farmers.

“The President’s blessing to his cousins is instrumental in retaining the SDO scheme and striking another highly disadvantageous deal against farmers. This exposes the greedy character of the Cojuangco-Aquinos,” Mariano said.

In media reports on Saturday, Aquino said it was too early for congratulations because majority of the beneficiaries will have to ratify the agreement. “I’d rather that the process is finished,” the president reportedly said.

He told reporters that there were signs majority of the beneficiaries would agree to the deal. “In a democracy, whatever the majority decides is a decision for everybody,” Aquino said, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Aquino has said on more than one occasion that Hacienda Luisita would eventually be distributed to the farmers, even bragging immediately after he took office that the distribution could happen in “substantially less than five years.”

On Friday, he said what is happening in his family’s estate is “an intra-corporate dispute,” a characterization that drew a sharp reaction from Mariano.

“We call on the Supreme Court to junk this sham deal. The Luisita dispute is not simply about intra-corporate dispute as claimed and signaled by the landlord-president to the court. This is about agrarian reform, about social justice to Luisita farmers tied in more than half a century of bondage at the hands of the Cojuangco feudal lords,” Mariano said.

“Land distribution,” he added, “is a matter of right and justice for the farmers of Hacienda Luisita.”

Mariano added that the so-called deal exposes what kind of agrarian reform will be implemented under the Aquino administration. “This so-called deal is a lethal blow to the peasantry’s struggle for genuine agrarian reform,” he said. (Ronalyn V. Olea /

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