Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, aunt of President Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III, is running for the Senate under United Nationalist Alliance. Tingting is the wife of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., the brother of the late president Corazon Aquino.
Tingting is not new to politics. She served as governor of Tarlac from 1992 to 1998.She was also Presidential Assistant to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from 2001 to 2004 and undersecretary for special concerns at the Department of Interior and Local Government in 2004. Tingting was the president of the Philippine Public Safety College for eight years.
According to University of the Philippines (UP) Halalan, Tingting is running on the following platforms:
-Economic and marketing programs that will promote farmers’ welfare
-Economic growth and food security through programs and privileges for farmers
-Peaceful arrangement in ARMM government and Mindanao
These platforms, especially those pertaining to the farmers, are empty rhetoric for the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita.
“We did not feel any development when Tingting was governor,”Lito Bais, chairman of the United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu), said in an interview with Bulatlat.com. “She had no programs for farmers and farm workers. We could not even approach her.”
What he could remember, Bais said, was Tingting’s “overkill security.” “Two buses full of armed body guards would always tail her,” Bais recalled.
Bais said Tingting’s candidacy “will serve the political agenda of the Cojuangco-Aquinos” just as she did when she was governor of Tarlac. It was during Tingting’s term as governor of Tarlac when the the Provincial Board of Tarlac passed a resolution that reclassified 3,290 out of Luisita’s 4,915 hectares from agricultural to commercial, industrial, and residential.
“Imagine if that pushed through, how many hectares of land would have been left for us, the farm workers?” Bais said.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) approved on August 14, 1996 the conversion of 500 hectares of Luisita land. Bais said the 500 hectares of land, including the 200 hectares paid by the Cojuangco-Aquinos to the Rizal Commercial and Banking Corporation (RCBC) have remained idle.
The Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita, in fact, filed a petition seeking to revoke the conversion order issued by DAR. In their petition, the farm workers said the HLI did not comply with its obligations mandated under the conversion order. Specifically, it did not pursue the proposed development plan that was contained in the application for conversion and instead disposed of the 500 hectares to other Cojuango-owned companies, Luisita Industrial Corporation and Luisita Realty Corporation, and to RCBC.
“The Cojuangco-Aquinos have used their positions in government to maintain control of the Hacienda Luisita,” Bais said.
The peasant leader said this is true for Tingting, for the late president Corazon Aquino, former Tarlac Representative Peping Cojuango and President Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III.
“Tingting’s candidacy is part of their efforts to strengthen the Cojuangco-Aquino dynasty,” Bais said.
“Even with the Supreme Court decision, they won’t give up Hacienda Luisita,” he added.
In its April 24, 2012 ruling, the high court ordered the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farm workers. After more than a year, the farm workers are still landless.
Members of the clan are running for local positions. Running for reelection as Representative of Tarlac’s first district is Enrique Cojuangco. His son, Enrique “Kit” Cojuangco Jr., is running for vice governor. Hermie Aquino, the president’s uncle, is also running as representative of Tarlac’s third district. Dr. Isa Cojuangco Suntay, second cousin of the president, is gubernatorial candidate.