Luisita workers reap seeds of decades-old struggle

The vast hacienda used to be planted with tobacco under the Spanish-owned Compaña General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera). The Cojuangco family acquired control of the land in the 1950s through a government loan which stipulated that the land shall be distributed to the farmers after ten years. No land distribution took place in 1967 and in the decades that followed.

In a privilege speech on the seventh year of Hacienda Luisita massacre, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, said that for several decades, the Cojuangco-Aquinos managed to evade land distribution of Hacienda Luisita through various schemes. He cited the following:

• In 1967, the family of Don Jose Cojuangco Jr. failed to distribute Hacienda Luisita to farmers – the condition set by the Central Bank and GSIS in 1957 when it financed the Cojuangco’s purchase of the land estate.
• In July 1987, Aquino issued Executive Order 229 “Providing Mechanisms for the Implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that effectively laid the grounds for the exemption of vast landholdings from actual distribution through the Stock Distribution Option (SDO).
• In July 1988, the 8th Congress enacted Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that, according to Mariano, legalized massive land grabbing and land use conversion.
• In May 1989, the Cojuangco-Aquinos initiated a tri-party Memorandum of Agreement between the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco),Hacienda Luisita Inc and 93% of farmer-beneficiaries. Mariano said farmers were duped into accepting stocks under the SDO scheme instead of actual land distribution.
• In December 2005, the Cojuangco-Aquinos appealed the President Agrarian Reform Council’s (PARC) decision declaring the SDO as unconstitutional. The clan filed for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) before the Supreme Court. This resulted to further delay in the resolution of the land dispute.

Under Aquino

In August 2010, under Benigno S. Aquino III’s presidency, Mariano said the Cojuangco-Aquinos “again deceived the farmer-beneficiaries through a compromise agreement.” (See previous story: Cojuangco-Aquinos Denounced for Using Millions to Lure, Deceive Luisita Farm Workers)

In July this year, the Supreme Court issued a ruling recommending a referendum purportedly to allow farmer-beneficiaries to choose between stocks or land. (see previous story: Farmers denounce SC ruling calling for referendum in Hacienda Luisita )

“We have been there. Why would they want us to go through the same process all over again?” Halili said of the high court’s decision. “We should have won the case. What we want is land,” she said. (see previous story: A History of Deception in Hacienda Luisita)

Sibayan said when another Aquino was proclaimed president, she and her mother cried. “I said to myself that we would not live long,” she said.

Asked about Aquino’s campaign promise that he would distribute Hacienda Luisita, Sibayan said, “That was only for the elections, he had sugar-coated words. He, like his mother, is a liar.” Sibayan said former president Corazon Aquino also promised to distribute the land to them.

For future generations

“I no longer care if I’d die. Many will take up the struggle,” Sibayan said, adding that her children and her siblings would know what to do.

During the massacre, Sibayan sustained a gunshot wound on her back. Shortly before the massacre, her house was riddled with bullets. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Today, soldiers would roam the villages at night. One time, on October 28, they attempted to demolish the campout set up by farm workers in Balete subvillage.

“They tried to break it but the people went out to defend the campout,” Sibayan said.

Halili said she is visited by soldiers. “They would ask me who are the members of Ambala,” she said. Ambala stands for Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Hacienda Luisita. “They would accuse me of being a member of the NPA,” she said, referring to the New People’s Army. “I told them if I was an NPA fighter, I would have shot them long before they could reach my house. We are only fighting for our right to land.”

“Even if our enemy is strong because they have money, we will fight. Even if they are in power, we will not give up for the sake of our children and grandchildren.” and international human rights bodies. (

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