“It would be easy for the President to put a subservient CJ and put the case of Hacienda Luisita to a standoff through the issue of just compensation.” – Rodel Mesa, UMA
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Farmers, including those from Hacienda Luisita, trooped to the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday, saying that the next Chief Justice should not be closely linked to the president.
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) identified four of the nominees—Acting CJ Antonio Carpio, Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chief Kim Henares – as known to be biased for President Benigno Cojuangco-Aquino III.
Under the Constitution, the President has until August 26, 2012 – or 90 days from the removal of then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona on May 29 – to appoint a Chief Justice from the official list of nominees from the Judicial and Bar Council. The JBC is mandated to do the screening, interviews and deliberations for its official list of nominees for submission to the Office of the President on or before July 30. Forty have been nominated to the post.
Uma said any of the four “might lead the SC in reversing the 14-0 decision on Hacienda Luisita as payback to Aquino.”
In its November 22, 2011 ruling, the high tribunal unanimously ordered the distribution of 4,916 hectares of Hacienda Luisita lands to the original 4,296 original farmworker beneficiaries (FWBs). The hacienda has been controlled and managed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos for more than 50 years.
“The danger of the SC decision being reversed or manipulated in favor of the president and the Cojuangco-Aquino family is always there,” Uma secretary general Rodel Mesa said.
Mesa said “it would be easy for the President to put a subservient CJ and put the case of Hacienda Luisita to a standoff through the issue of just compensation.”
He said that a provision in Republic Act 9700 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) mandates the government to pay compensation to the landlord before distributing the land.
“We don’t think the Cojuangco-Aquinos are going to submit to the DAR [Department of Agrarian Reform] without settling first their immoral claim for a P10-billion compensation package” Mesa added. DAR is the government agency tasked to implement land reform.
In a separate statement, Fernando Hicap, Anakpawis vice chairman, said: “Farmers will not allow the Supreme Court to be transformed into the ‘high court of injustice’ with a Chief Justice under Aquino’s beck and call.”
Also nominated are Frank Chavez and Teodoro Locsin Jr. who were both officials during the administration of the late president Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.
“The Kamag-anak Inc. is desperate to take control of the judiciary and use the high court to decide on controversial farmers’ cases like the Hacienda Luisita and coco levy funds,” Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said.
The multi-billion coco levy fund involves the uncle of the current president, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) chairman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. In its decision, the high court declared the coco levy funds as public funds and acknowledged that the money was used to buy shares in SMC.
Mesa said the JBC should not allow the process be bastardized by pro-Aquino elements. “What is the sense of transparency when the motive is obviously for political and economic survival?” Mesa asked.
“The next CJ should not submit to the dictatorial tendency of the current administration, even if he or she is handpicked by the president, the interest of the people must come first,” Mesa said. “Otherwise the Arroyo-Corona tandem would have a repeat on Aquino and whoever he will be appointed to do his biddings,” Mesa said.
Joseph Canlas, chairman of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL), called on the Filipino people to stop Aquino’s “attempt to control the judiciary.”