“The Cojuangcos have long benefited from their illegal and immoral stranglehold of Hacienda Luisita and the farmworkers’ have long paid for the land.”– Randall Echanis, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – After the Supreme Court issued its decision on the nearly half-a-century land dispute at Hacienda Luisita, President Benigno S. Aquino III said there should be just compensation for land owners.
The high court unanimously ordered, Nov. 23, the distribution of 4,916 hectares of Hacienda Luisita land, owned by Aquino and the Cojuangco clan, to the original 4,296 original farmworker beneficiaries (FWBs).
Asked to react on the high court’s decision, Aquino said, “In agrarian reform, there are two objectives: number one, empower the farmers so that they could have their own land to till. Second, don’t exhaust the capital. There should be just compensation for the land owner. The capital that will be returned to the landowner could be used to invest in other endeavors.”
“It is the height of callousness that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III now has the gall to demand for land compensation for his extended family,” Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said.
Mariano, also chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said that since 1957, the Cojuangco-Aquino clan “has made a milking cow out of Hacienda Luisita sugar estate and amassed wealth by exploiting farmers and farmworkers.”
In 1957, the Cojuangcos acquired the Hacienda Luisita land through a government loan with a condition that the land shall be distributed to the farmers after ten years. Land distribution never took place until now.
“The nerve,” KMP deputy secretary general Randall Echanis said, “They have used government money to acquire the hacienda in the late 1950’s and have made a fortune for more than half a century now. And now, they want the government to pay for the land.”
Echanis said, “the Cojuangcos do not deserve compensation. The Cojuangcos have long benefited from their illegal and immoral stranglehold of Hacienda Luisita and the farmworkers’ have long paid for the land.”
Echanis said the “Cojuangcos still owe billions of pesos to the government and to farmworkers aside from blood debts,” referring to the massacre that claimed the lives of seven farm workers on November 16, 2004.
“Hacienda Luisita must be distributed to farmworkers for free.” Echanis said.
In an earlier interview with Bulatlat.com, Rodel Mesa, spokesman of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), said, “We will not agree to pay [amortization] or for the HLI to receive compensation from the government. The compensation to be paid to the Cojuangco-Aquinos will come from taxpayers, including us. The Cojuangco-Aquinos have no right to receive any compensation. The Aquino administration has no right to pay his family because morally, historically, the land is ours.”
Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), landlords are given “just compensation” to be advanced by the government, while farmer beneficiaries will have to pay amortization to the Landbank of the Philippines.
“The President speaks as if his family was shortchanged or disadvantaged by the Supreme Court decision ordering total land distribution for Luisita farmers. In case he has forgotten, the Cojuangco-Aquinos repeatedly evaded actual land distribution for the past five decades through anti-farmer, state-sponsored agrarian reform programs,” Mariano said.
The KMP leaders pointed out that the provision on just compensation in Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms have given the landowners the upper hand in agrarian disputes and land ownership.
The KMP said because of the compensation paid to landowners, who jack up the price of their lands, farmer-beneficiaries have to pay amortization that they could barely afford. When farmers default on the amortization due to their inability to pay or the destruction of their produce due to disasters, they are forced to sell their rights to the land resulting in the re-concentration of lands to landlords.
Echanis said “agrarian reform is all about social justice and the redistribution of wealth.”“Giving ‘just compensation’ to the Cojuangcos will only change the form of wealth.”
Mariano further reminded the President of his family’s repeated unfulfilled promises to distribute Luisita.
In February 2010, during the first day of his presidential campaign, Aquino vowed to distribute the 4,500 hectare land to farmer beneficiaries saying that he is committed to ensure the distribution of Hacienda Luisita land even if he loses in the elections. “Aquino even said the distribution of Luisita is not just a campaign promise, but a matter of principle for him. Back then he didn’t speak about ‘just compensation’ or any precondition for distribution,” Mariano recalled.
Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino also promised to implement agrarian reform . In her speech on January 16, 1986, Mrs. Aquino said, “You will probably ask me: Will I also apply it to my family’s Hacienda Luisita? My answer is yes.”
“The President’s position on land reform and Hacienda Luisita will always be biased toward his family. He is not rightful of the title ‘President of the Republic of the Philippines because his loyalty and service remain with his landlord family, Cojuangco-Aquinos,” Mariano said.