“The promissory note will make it easier for DAR and the Cojuangco-Aquinos to evict the farm worker-beneficiaries from their land. If the farm workers are unable to pay, their land would be confiscated.” – Jobert Pahilga, lawyer of Ambala
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – The farm worker beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita are enraged with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for requiring them to sign a written commitment to pay for the land and make it productive.
In a report, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes said farm workers will not get any land if they will not sign a promissory note.
De los Reyes said DAR personnel will make farm workers sign an “application to purchase” and “farmers’ undertaking” of responsibility to develop the land they will receive. The DAR chief added that the farmers would have to state what crops they intend to plant and on which part of the hacienda.
Florida Sibayan, vice chairwoman of Ambala, said, “the promissory note is just one of the schemes of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, in collusion with DAR to maintain control of Hacienda Luisita.”
In its final decision, the Supreme Court ordered DAR to implement the distribution of 4,916 hectares of land controlled by President Benigno Aquino III’s family for more than five decades. On February 27, DAR released the list of 6,212 beneficiaries.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com, lawyer Jobert Pahilga, counsel for Ambala, said the promissory note is undue imposition to the farm workers.
“It is a form of pressure,” Pahilga said. “The promissory note will make it easier for DAR and the Cojuangco-Aquinos to evict the farm worker-beneficiaries from their land. If the farm workers are unable to pay, their land would be confiscated.”
Pahilga said such “farmer’s undertaking” is cited in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPer). “This one of the reforms in favor of the landlords under the CARPer,” he said.
In a report, Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) lawyer Antonio Ligon supported Delos Reyes’s pronouncement. Ligon said they agree with the DAR that the requirement is “reasonable and legally sanctioned.”
Pahilga, also executive director of Sentro para sa Tunay na Reporma sa Lupa (Sentra), said DAR is making sure that the Cojuangco-Aquinos would be paid even before amortization has yet to be set.
Under CARP, the amortization shall be paid in 30 years in 30 equal amortizations. Failure to pay the amortization for an aggregate of three years shall mean foreclosure.
The amortization depends on the valuation of the land, which the DAR has yet to determine, too.
By requiring the farm workers to sign a promissory note, Pahilga said DAR wants to make sure that the Cojuangco-Aquinos will be paid for ‘just compensation.’
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said: “This clearly demonstrates that CARPER is not an agrarian reform and social justice program but a real estate transaction between landlords and so-called farmer beneficiaries without assurance that the latter would own the land.”
As to Delos Reyes’s statement that farm workers need to state what crops to plant, Pahilga said nothing in the law obliges farm workers to state what to do with the land.
Ambala’s Sibayan said: “We have repeatedly declared that Hacienda Luisita belongs to us. Historically and morally, it is ours. Why make us pay for something that is ours from the beginning?”
Pahilga said the DAR must first ensure that the Cojuangco-Aquinos comply with the high court’s order to pay P1.3 billion ($31.7 million) to the farm workers.
In its decision, the high court ordered Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to pay P1.3 billion ($31.7 million) to the farm workers for the sale of 200 hectares of land. In 1989, the stock distribution option (SDO) was implemented in the hacienda and the farm workers, as stockholders, are supposedly entitled to get their share from the sale of land, among others. Over the years, parcels of land have been converted and sold, including the 80.51-hectare lot for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) road network but farm workers did not receive a single centavo.
Pahilga said they will file a formal petition before DAR to compel the HLI management to present the inventory of their 66 percent share to the corporation.
In a statement, Joseph Canlas, chairman of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) criticized the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
“They are the ones who owe billions of pesos and who profited from the toil and sacrifices of farm workers and now they have the gall to demand payment from the farm workers,” Canlas said.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the Cojuangcos did not pay for the Central Bank-guaranteed loan for the acquisition of Hacienda Luisita in 1957 from Tabacalera. Under the loan agreement, the Cojuangcos would distribute the land to the farmers after ten years. The Cojuangcos never gave up the land after a decade.
During the administration of President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, the civil case filed against the President’s family was dismissed.
“Delos Reyes’ so-called promissory note together with the sham CARPER’s stringent and pro-landlord requirements, a landlord-dictated high valuation of the lands, and the inclusion of Cojuangco loyalists in the DAR’s so-called list of beneficiaries makes it very, very hard for legitimate farm workers to own the lands,” Antonio Flores, KMP spokesman, said.
The KMP reiterated calls for the free distribution of Hacienda Luisita, insisting that “the farmworkers have long paid for the lands and the Cojuangco-Aquinos have enriched themselves for more than 55 years of illegal control and monopoly of the hacienda.”
3 leaders still in detention
In a related development, Ambala called for the immediate release of three of their leaders arrested on February 28.
The farm workers were charged with direct assault and robbery.
Pahilga said they are raising funds for the bail of the three, amounting to P103,000 ($2,500) each.