As expected, the case at the CA did not move and out of frustration, Santos resigned on the same year from MAR, which had been renamed as Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
In 1988, the appellate court issued a dismissal resolution mainly due to the fact that President Cojuangco-Aquino had guaranteed that sugar farms would be included in her agrarian reform program known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Francisco Chavez, who replaced Ordoñez as solicitor general, asked through the CA whether the CBP, DAR and the GSIS, as parties to the case, were still interested in following up the appeal, Santos said. The three parties, based on court records, answered in the negative but pointed out that Hacienda Luisita should be part of the CARP with the land distributed to small farmers. On May 18, 1988, the CA dismissed the appeal.
Santos clarifies, however, that in dismissing the appeal the CA did not actually say that it was nullifying the RTC Manila decision of 1985 which orders that Hacienda Luisita should be subdivided, distributed and resold to the hacienda’s small farmers at cost.
In fact, the CA dismissal-resolution emphasized “it is not only conditional but also without prejudice to the reopening/revival of the case if the conditions of the DAR are not met,” Santos says.
Saying that agrarian reform was the centerpiece of her administration, Mrs. Aquino instituted the CARP stating that land reform can be achieved by either actual land distribution or through a stock distribution scheme through the Stock Distribution Option (SDO). Subsequently, the Cojuangcos turned Hacienda Luisita into a corporation and is now known as Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI), with the sugar farm workers classified from farm laborers to “stockholders” or “co-owners” of the said hacienda.
Ed Tadem, associate professor of Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, in a statement emailed to Bulatlat said that the SDO was implemented by the former president, who is part of a landlord clan, to “evade land reform.”
This scheme was inserted into the so-called CARP (R.A. 6657) by pro-landlord legislators during the term of President Aquino, he said, to allow landowners who run their farms as corporations to distribute shares of stocks to farm workers in lieu of outright land transfer.
Tadem added that serious observers and scholars of agrarian reform contend that stock distribution can never be a substitute for land transfer which is the heart and soul of any genuine land reform.
Santos, on the other hand, said that the SDO deprives the farmers’ right to the land they till which, first and foremost, is a legitimate issue.
In a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed by Tadeco, the HLI, DAR and a handful of farm beneficiaries stated that they have entered into this agreement “in the spirit of the CARP with the end view of improving the lot of farm beneficiaries of the stock distribution plan and obtaining for them greater benefits.’
“The question is: Is the purpose of the SDO achieved? Has it become successful?” Santos asks.
This question also rings in the mind of the sugar farm workers who have staged a work stoppage since Nov. 6 to, among their demands, force the DAR to review the implementation and effects of the SDO on their daily lives.
Sugar farm workers say that since the incorporation of the hacienda, they have experienced greater hardships due to, among others, diminishing mandays caused by mechanization of sugar cane production and the land use conversion.
In Tadem’s statement, the Luisita stock option plan had been denounced as “unconstitutional” by the University of the Philippines Law Center in a position paper submitted in June 1990 to the Senate Agrarian Reform Committee. The memorandum stated that the “scheme is violative not only of the social justice provisions but even more so of the specific provisions of the Constitution on agrarian reform” since it “allows the original owners to remain the controlling interest at the expense of the supposedly farmer beneficiaries.”
If the SDO does not actually benefit the sugar farm workers of the HLI, Santos, said it is imperative for the DAR to nullify the implementation of the SDO at HLI and pursue the lower court decision against the Cojuangcos.
Under these circumstance, the former DAR official said, that makes the Cojuangcos legally bound to distribute the hacienda to small farmers.
Santos also scored the DAR and the administrations after President Aquino for having no political will to settle the agrarian unrest in the hacienda. It is sad that it had to take the lives of the fighting farm beneficiaries to put this issue into the government’s attention once more, he said. (Bulatlat.com)