Luisita Deal ‘a Travesty of Social Justice’

Jobert Pahilga, lawyer of the farm workers’ group Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala), enumerates some of the provisions of the compromise agreement that are inimical to the interest of the farm workers.


MANILA — The compromise agreement between the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) management and farm workers is a “travesty of social justice” that will only make the lives of the farm workers more miserable, the lawyer of the farmers’ union has said.

A provision in the agreement states that the farm workers can no longer question any decision by HLI to convert the lands to non-agricultural use. This will practically ease out the farm workers from the hacienda, said Jobert Ilarde Pahilga, lawyer of the farm workers’ group Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala).

“Eventually, when the land ceases to be agricultural in use, the farmers will be eased out of the corporation. For they are and will only be useful to the Cojuangcos if the lands are still agricultural in use,” Pahilga said. “When the land ceases to be agricultural in use, their right to the land ceases to exist.”

Pahilga, who is also executive trustee of the Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra), said that this provision alone shows that HLI had no intention to give the farm workers what is rightly due them.

“The Cojuangcos had no intention of letting go of the land and will do whatever is necessary, even if it is illegal, immoral, and unjust, to keep their continued possession and control of the land,” he said.

Pahilga pointed out that the provision violates Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Administrative Order No. 10, Series of 1989, which states that “the agricultural land should remain intact and unfragmented, to maintain the viability of the sugar operation involving the farm as a single unit that would provide the farm workers-beneficiaries a continuing and stable source of income.”

Pahilga said “HLI will be converting these productive parcels of agricultural land so that it could do away with the farm workers and evade the agrarian reform program.”

“It’s the height of deception,” Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, said in a privilege speech Aug. 9. “The sham deal does not only fool the farm workers of the Hacienda Luisita but the whole nation.”

Mariano, who is also chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), further said: “This is not agrarian reform. All the more it is not social justice… The Hacienda Luisita exposes the kind of politics of the new Aquino regime — the politics of deception.”

Under the agreement, the farm workers will be made to choose between shares of stocks or parcels of land. News report indicate on Monday that an overwhelming majority of the farmer beneficiaries have chosen to receive stocks.

To evade land distribution, the Cojuangco-Aquino clan implemented in 1989 the SDO scheme, one of the non-land transfer modes stated in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). As early as 2003, Ambala filed a petition seeking the revocation of the SDO.

The agreement states: “Whatever is the total percentage shareholdings in HLI [Hacienda Luisita Inc.) of the farmworkers opting for land distribution shall be the equivalent percentage of the size of the land to be given to them from the remaining HLI land actually devoted to agriculture, with a total area of 4,102 hectares, approximately.”

This means that farm workers who opt for actual land distribution will only be given 33 percent of the 4,102 hectares, or only 1,400 hectares. This will be further divided to all the farm workers who will opt for land distribution while the rest of the land will remain with HLI.

Pahilga said the HLI has no right to retain the rest of the land because they should be covered by the existing agrarian reform program and that the farm workers are entitled to get the 4,102 hectares.

Pahilga argued that since the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) issued a resolution on Dec. 22, 2005, revoking the 1989 SDO scheme, the remaining agricultural land in HLI has been placed under the compulsory coverage or mandated land acquisition scheme of CARP. The PARC ordered the actual distribution of the 4,102 hectares of land, not a mere 1,400 hectares, to the farm workers.

Even as the HLI questioned the PARC resolution before the Supreme Court on Feb. 1, 2006, and even as the high court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) pending resolution of the petition, Pahilga insists that the PARC’s order still stands.

“The farm workers have the right to the whole 4,102 hectares. The only thing that prevents the distribution of the lands to the farm workers is the TRO issued by the Supreme Court. Once the TRO is lifted and the case HLI filed with the Supreme Court is decided in favor of the farm workers, the whole of the agricultural lands of Hacienda Luisita should be distributed to the farmers,” Pahilga said.

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