DAVAO CITY — With broadening support from across the nation, the demand for land of the Hacienda Luisita farmers was reiterated here this week as farmers and protestant groups in Davao City joined the nationwide, simultaneous protest against the “compromise agreement” being offered by the Cojuangcos to end the Hacienda land dispute.
“The Aquino-Cojuangco clan concocted the compromise agreement so it can retain its monopoly of the hacienda. This agreement will reinforce the anti-farmer schemes of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and continue to deceive the farmers, who invested their blood and sweat to cultivate these lands,” said Pedro Arnado, KMP-SMR chairperson and regional coordinator of ANAKPAWIS Partylist.
The Supreme Court commenced Wednesday the first oral argument that will decide the fate of the SDO scheme and hopefully, of thousands of farmers, in the Hacienda Luisita.
KMP filed a petition with the Supreme Court calling for the junking of the SDO, a scheme that turned the hacienda farmers into so-called stock holders.
This system, KMP said, “dilutes” the issue of the peasant’s struggle in the hacienda. The scheme “awards” the farmers with paltry values of stocks instead of actual lands.
KMP urged for genuine distribution of the more than 6,000-hectare estate to its small farmer beneficiaries.
KMP have previously urged the Supreme Court to favor the decision of the DAR and the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council in 2006 to junk the SDO. This has so far met with success due to the workers’ and farmer’s massive strike in 2004.
Land versus stocks
The compromise agreement offered by the Hacienda Luisita management compelled the farmers to choose between land distribution and stocks distribution option.
Through a referendum, the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) shifted the burden of resolving the problem to the peasants. HLI promises to distribute a portion of the land from the 4,201 hectares allotted to agriculture if the majority chose land distribution, whereas if the SDO option got the majority vote, the farmers would be promised dividends from the stocks they “own”.
“The compromise agreement is a huge insult and betrayal of the farmers who developed the lands of the hacienda. A farmer could get between P1 to 500 pesos with this stinking deal. One farmer who have worked in the hacienda for 20 years got only as much as P20,000. This is a big injustice to the most productive force of our country’s economy,” said Arnado.
“They only got P9.50 net income on a given working or “man”-day, and since it’s the HLI who decides how many working days each farmer was given, they only got to work for once or thrice a week,” said Arnado.
A Poke on President Aquino
KMP further criticized President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino for his “hand-off” posturing on the issue–a stance likely to give his family’s HLI a bigger edge to manipulate the peasant and pursue the devious SDO scheme.
“Noynoy is taking the neutral stance to serve his family’s interest above all else. He cannot pretend to be neutral about a life and death issue such as this, as it affects the fate of thousands of farmers – it affects whether their families will have anything to eat at all in the coming days,” said Arnado.
He added, “If a captain of the ship chooses to sink together with his ship, so should a president make that sacrifice of giving up his or his family’s interest for the sake of the poor majority. There’s no other moral or humane road than this.”#