“Hacienda Luisita farm workers cannot be fooled by the SC’s legal semantics. The SC order pretends to be democratic when, in fact, it is anti-democratic.” – Danilo Ramos, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Reacting to a recent statement by a Supreme Court official, farmers said the high court decision issued in July provided the conditions for a rehash of “the same monstrous scheme” conducted in 1989 and in August last year.
In a report, Supreme Court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the high court’s July 5 ruling did not require a referendum among farm workers in the 6,453 hectare-disputed Hacienda Luisita owned by President Benigno S. Aquino III and family.
Marquez said the order allows each farm worker-beneficiary (FWB) to choose whether they wanted to own their share of the land or remain as a stockholder in Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI). “A majority vote is not required since the choice of an FWB would not affect the choice of other FWBs,” he said., adding that FWB can remain stockholders if they want to and those who want land can still get portions of land subject to the agrarian reform program of the government.
For Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Marquez’s “clarification” does not mean anything. “Although the term referendum was not used in the SC order, it is the same monstrous scheme used in the 1989 referendum on the stock distribution option and the August 2010 referendum on the compromise agreement cooked up by the Cojuangco-Aquinos. The SC order is designed to divide, deceive, and perpetuate social injustice against the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers, and subscribes to the President’s relatives’ maneuver to evade land distribution,” KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said.
“The Cojuangco-Aquinos are notorious for employing guns, goons, and gold inside the Hacienda just like what happened in two sham referendums in the past,” Ramos said.
In 1989, Cojuangco-Aquinos allegedly used their private army and the military to harass and intimidate the farmers into agreeing to the stock distribution option (SDO). In August 2010, the Cojuangco-Aquinos offered a deal with a section of farmers in an attempt to maintain the SDO scheme.
“Hacienda Luisita farm workers cannot be fooled by the SC’s legal semantics. The SC order pretends to be democratic when, in fact, it is anti-democratic,” Ramos said.
In its 92-page order, the court directed the DAR to “immediately schedule meetings with the farm workers and explain to them the effects, consequences and legal or practical implications of their choices.” It said the farm workers “will be asked to manifest, in secret voting, their choices in the ballot.”
“Whether through a referendum or secret voting, we still see the SC ruling as a manipulative scheme by the Cojuangcos-Aquinos to prevent genuine land distribution in Hacienda Luisita,” Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said.
Mariano reiterated the call of farmers to revoke the SDO which, he said, was conveniently used by the President’s family to evade land distribution.
Last month, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawanag Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) has filed their motion for reconsideration asking the high court to reverse its decision on the SDO.
The high court declared that the SDO agreement was not revoked and that it was only the Stock Distribution Plan (SDP) and Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) resolution approving it that was cancelled.
“The very reason why the farmworkers petitioned to revoke the SDO of Hacienda Luisita was the fact that instead of the envisioned better lives under the said scheme, their living conditions worsened. The farm workers were not given any dividends. They remained the minority stockholders. They have no control over the use and disposition of the assets of the corporation including the land. They have no say in the corporate business ventures. Their hours of work were dictated by the corporation. In short, they were at the mercy of HLI,” Ambala stated in their petition.
“SC Spokesperson Midas Marquez cannot make an excuse out of the fact that the SC decision perpetuated social injustice in Hacienda Luisita,” Mariano said.
Mariano, who authored a bill seeking for genuine agrarian reform, said the distribution of lands to the tillers, and not so-called stocks, is “the only acceptable resolution to the Luisita dispute.”
Mariano also assailed Aquino’s hands-off stance on the Luisita issue. “If the Aquino government is really sincere and determined to distribute Hacienda Luisita, it will not make farmworker beneficiaries choose between lands or stocks. In fact, the Luisita land dispute has been dragging on for more than five decades because the Cojuangcos-Aquinos reneged on their commitment to distribute the lands to the tillers,” he said.