“The president cannot feign neutrality in this issue, for his silence and inaction will mean an implicit endorsement of the unjust compromise deal orchestrated by Cojuangco-owned HLI,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said in a statement.
By LYN V. RAMO
MANILA – The Catholic church appealed to President Benigno s. Aquino III to fulfill his pro-poor platform of governance by implementing the agrarian reform law by not honoring the compromise deal, which, they said, runs counter to state laws and policies ordering the distribution of some 4,415 hectares of land in the Hacienda Luisita complex he and his family own.
“The president cannot feign neutrality in this issue, for his silence and inaction will mean an implicit endorsement of the unjust compromise deal orchestrated by Cojuangco-owned HLI,” the bishops said
in a statement.
With the second hearing Aug. 24 on the oral arguments surrounding the two-decade impasse on the Hacienda Luisita land question, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said “the Church in the Philippines acknowledges that agrarian reform is still the one big issue that touches our rural poor most directly.”
A statement the CBCP released through Fr. Edwin Garuiguez, read “the agenda for social justice and the realization of our preferential love for the poor are seriously tested in our resolve to address the problem of inequity and rural poverty through our commitment to implement genuine land reform.”
Farm workers under Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala) and the United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu) and hundreds of supporters from various progressive groups trooped to the Supreme Court (SC) in Manila to reiterate their demand to revoke the stock distribution option (SDO) and distribute Hacienda Luisita, the sugar estate owned by President Benigno S. Aquino III and his family.
The SDO is one of the non-land transfer schemes cited in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL). The Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra) has questioned its constitutionality, arguing that the Constitution states that land, not shares of stocks, should be distributed to farmer-beneficiaries.
“The SDO scheme is unacceptable for it is an outright circumvention of the agrarian provision for land distribution,” CBCP said. It stressed that the 21 years of implementing the SDO had not lifted the
farmers out of their impoverished and vulnerable state.
“The SDO scheme facilitated the virtual surrender of the farmers of their rightful claims to the agricultural lands of the hacienda in exchange for a pittance or meager shares of capital stock and
production shares,” added the statement.
CBCP said it would laud and support any initiative to immediately resolve the two-decade land dispute, but it should be in a manner that is fair and would uphold the farmers’ rightful claim to the land as it assailed the “unusual haste that characterizes the whole process of arriving at a compromise.”
Hacienda Luisita management brokered an alleged compromise deal with leaders whose credibility are being questioned among 10,000 farm worker beneficiaries inside the 6,453 hectare sugar plantation in
that covers Tarlac City, and two more towns in Tarlac.
“The present leadership both of Ulwu and Ambala question the authority of the company-designated leaders, namely Noel Mallari and Eldifonso Pingol, to represent the organizations that had already disowned and expelled them a long time ago,” according to CBCP.
The compromise agreement also provided for the implementation of the SDO, which the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) revoked in 2005.
The Catholic bishops also assailed the manner by which the management gathered signatures for the compromise agreement, saying “the strategy of capitalizing on peoples’ poverty to trick them into accepting the disadvantageous compromise is another form of grave injustice committed against the farmers. “
“We affirm the social teaching of the Church that explicitly underlines that ‘the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that the goods are meant for everyone,'” the CBCP said.
During the August 24 oral arguments, the Supreme Court ordered the formation of a body that would mediate between the HLI management and the farm workers. (Bulatlat.com)