By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Defy the Supreme Court
This is the standing call of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) to both farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) .
The groups said that farmers should not fall into the trap of being made to choose between “owning” stocks in HLI or lining up for land distribution. It also said that the DAR should see the injustice in the SC’s decision and it’s inherent unlawfulness and refuse to implement it.
The groups along with Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) have put up a protest camp outside the DAR in Quezon City. They’re calling on HLI farmers to boycott the referendum and instead continue fighting for the right to completely own the land. They said that the DAR should reject the role the Supreme Court imposed on it to oversee the referendum.
“The DAR’s mandate is to process land distribution and not organize such referendum that is totally contradictory to land reform. Pushing farmers to being stockholders to a corporation established by the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) is like pushing them to jump over a crevasse to their death,” said Joseph Canlas, Amgl chairperson.
Canlas said that if the DAR pushes through with the referendum, it would be the “end of its quiet time.” He said that President Benigno Aquino III will have a headache that “cannot be remedied by paracetamol tablets.”
On July 5, the Supreme Court laid down a ruling Hacienda Luisita invalidating the Stock Distribution Plan (SDP), but not the SDO provision particularly Section 31 of the Republic Act 6657 or Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). The justices voted six to four revoking the SDO scheme, but Chief Justice Renato Corona voted against it, saying that agrarian reform means land distribution, and that the absence of such will lead to the eruption of a “social volcano.”
Secretary general of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Rodel Mesa adamantly said that only landlords are happy over the Supreme Court’s decision favoring the Cojuangcos. He said that landlords throughout the country see the SC’s decision as a positive sign that under the Aquino governrment, they’ll be able to maintain control over the land and thwart the righteous demand of land reform beneficiaries for ownership. (Photo by Ina Alleco R. Silverio / bulatlat.com)
The farmers groups said that the high tribunal has lost its ability to act on reason “by acting as the instrument of the Cojuangcos. It said that how the SC considered the Cojuangcos as the aggrieved party was “callous” and that it “serves to undermine further the already waning trust of the public on the people.”
“We advise DAR to exercise circumspection. The department should actually be pushing its decision to revoke the SDO as it decided on the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council Resolution 2005-32-01 and not to act on any referendum,” Canlas said.
Canlas said that the DAR should be decisive and defend its previous decision, revoking Sec. 31 or the SDO provision.
“The referendum the Supreme Court prescribed to end the land row in Hacienda Luisita not only diminished the agency’s duty ensuring the poor and landless farmers access to land but also perpetuates social injustice,” he said.
The AMGL belied President Aquino’s declaration that he is adapting a “hands off” policy on the Hacienda Luisita when the DAR, PARC, the office of the Solicitor General are not defending its resolution and even considering the referendum.
“The referendum is not even a referendum as it is not a majority issue, undemocratic and has no check-and-balance mechanism, thus, being manipulated by the Cojuangco-Aquinos. It is illegal as it has no guiding laws, and the DAR is not mandated to implement such,” Canlas said.
The AMGL said that the DAR should defy the Supreme Court and instead push for the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to its farm worker beneficiaries. “The DAR should not defy the unlawful and deceptive decision of the high court,” he said.
Cojuangco bribe farmers to support the referendum
In the meantime, the KMP and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) accused the presidential relatives anew of employing “bribery and coercion” in Hacienda Luisita. They said that the Cojuangcos are exploiting the recent decision of the SC ordering a referendum.
KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said that there were reports coming directly from farmers and farmworkers in the hacienda that the Cojuangcos are bribing them to support the referendum.
((Bulatlat file photo)
UMA chair Lito Bais, said that a certain Juanito Luna, a supervisor of HLI, is paying P5,000 ($116) each farmer. Bais, who is also acting President of the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU), said the Cojuangco-Aquinos are now using the Supreme Court decision to sow disunity in Hacienda Luisita.
Bais said that the SC decision only bolstered the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ divide and rule strategy.
“This is a preview of things to come once the SC-ordered referendum pushes through,” said Bais. He said that they’re expecting the president’s family to implement more schemes and tactics to undermine the struggle for the HLI farmworkers to pursue their legitimate claim of ownership on the hacienda.
Buena Timbol, secretary of HLI vice-president for administration Ernesto Teopaco said that President Aquino’s uncle Jose “Peping” Cojuangco has summoned the heads of the 10 barangays of Hacienda Luisita.
Cojuangco has previously made the charge that “outsiders and leftists” are stirring controversy over the High Court’s decision. Cojuangco said that he was dismayed by the declaration of farmers groups that the sprawling sugar plantation in Tarlac should be distributed to them via agrarian reform despite the high court’s ruling.
“Who are these people but outsiders and leftists. They’re the ones who want to bring President Aquino down and destabilize our country,” he was quoted by the media.
KMP’s Ramos said that Cojuangco should be reminded that his family was only able to get control over Hacienda Luisita by manipulating public funds. Ramos said that the Cojuangcos acquired HLI in 1957 through a loan from the Government Service Insurance System and the Central Bank of the Philippines.
“Cojuangco should stop bragging and acting like Hacienda Luisita is a separate kingdom from the Philippines,” Ramos said. “As long as the Cojuangco-Aquino’s feudal exploitation and oppression exists in Hacienda Luisita, the farm workers will continue to have support from the Filipino people,” he said.
The SDO scheme was used by the Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino administration in 1989 to evade land distribution in Hacienda Luisita. Instead of including the 6,453 hectares Hacienda Luisita in the coverage of land reform, the Cojuangcos-Aquinos used it to give shares of stocks instead of land to farmers-beneficiaries.
Other landlords to benefit from anti-farmer decision on HLI
The secretary general of UMA Rodel Mesa in adamant in pointing out that only landlords are happy over the SC’s decision favoring the Cojuangcos.
“Landlords throughout the country rejoiced and see it as a positive sign that under the Aquino government, they’ll be able to maintain control over the land and thwart the righteous demand of land reform beneficiaries for ownership,” he said.
(Photos by Ina Alleco R. Silverio / bulatlat.com)
“It’s shameless how the Supreme Court abused its authority by ordering a referendum. This was above and beyond their responsibilities, but they went ahead because the decision favored the president’s family. It is any wonder then farmers do not trust the Supreme Court to dispense justice for the poor? All that we have suffered under this so-called justice system is injustice. Now a chain of anti-farmer decisions are certain to follow; the decision on HLI sets a treacherous precedence when it comes to the other pending land disputes filed in other judicial bodies all over the country,” he said.
Mesa said that other landlords are now expecting that the courts will decide also in their favor .
He said among the 14 haciendas placed under the SDO scheme, half of them are in Negros including Hacienda Bacan of the Arroyos while 11 are owned by another presidential uncle, tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco who controls a total of 4, 863 hectares. The other haciendas under legal disputes are the Hacienda Clauden and Hacienda San Jose in Cadiz City; Hacienda Filomena, owned by the Ocdinario family and Hacienda Kalumanggan of Bago City where farmworkers have long been demanding that they be included in the land reform program.
In 2009, farm workers under the National Federation of Sugar Workers [NFSW] and KMP Negros launched their “bungkalan” to assert their right to the land, similar to what the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers own “bungkalan” or collective farming campaign to assert land ownership.
Mesa said that other landholdings such as Hacienda Sta. Isabel and San Antonio in Isabela province will probably suffer the same fate as HLI if the DAR implements the Supreme Court decision on the former.
“Landlords protect their unjust and immoral claim to the lands they control by providing supposed ‘alternatives’ to land distribution. They can use joint ventures or leaseback agreements as is widely practiced in the Visayas and Mindanao region and the plantation and haciendas there,” he said.
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael V. Mariano said that thousands of farmers and toiling masses will “display the biggest protest against the SC decision and Aquino’s landlord administration” on the president’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25.