Kicked out of farmers’ groups and the workers’ union in Hacienda Luisita, the two key signatories in the compromise agreement supposedly representing the farmer beneficiaries have a history of betrayal against the farm workers and collaboration with the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The Hacienda Luisita Inc. management has bought off the supposed leaders of farm workers who signed the controversial compromise agreement, longtime leaders of farm workers’ groups have revealed.
“They have been manipulated and bought off by the HLI management,” said Lito Bais, acting chairman of the United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu), referring to Noel Mallari, Ildelfonso Pingol and two others who negotiated with the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
Mallari signed the so-called breakthrough agreement as president of the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala), an organization of farm workers in the hacienda owned by President Benigno S. Aquino III and his family. The compromise agreement supposedly provides option for the farm workers to choose land or shares of stocks.
In a joint webcast of Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly and Kodao Productions on Aug. 11, Felix Nacpil, chairman of Ambala, said Mallari was vice chairman of Ambala in 2003 but was never elevated as chairman of the group.
Mallari had been one of the signatories in a petition filed by Ambala before the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2003 seeking the revocation of the stock distribution option (SDO) that the Cojuangco-Aquinos had chosen over actual land distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
“When we went through the struggle for land, Mallari quit in the middle of the fight and involved himself in a group called the Peace Foundation,” Nacpil related, relating to the group that later put up the Farmworkers Agrarian Reform Movement (FARM), which Mallari also helped establish “when his income started to dwindle.”
Mallari was also later booted out of FARM, which opposes the SDO and the compromise agreement. In a statement on Aug. 10, members of FARM said they had also ousted Mallari from their group since 2007 when they found out that Mallari was secretly negotiating with the Cojuangcos.
“We wonder why he represents Ambala because he had long left Ambala,” the statement said. A reliable source told Bulatlat that Mallari could no longer go back to his home in barangay Mabilog, Concepcion, Tarlac, for fear of reprisal for his alleged betrayals.
When the farm workers went on strike on Nov. 6, 2004, Nacpil said Mallari had told them that he wanted to rejoin Ambala again but Rene Galang, then chairman of Ambala, refused to accept him.
“When we saw him next, he was already with the Cojuangcos and had been employed at the Luisita Estate Management (LEM),” Nacpil said, one of the entities formed by the Cojuangco-Aquinos to run the estate. (Related story: A History of Deception in Hacienda Luisita)
In a statement, Ambala legal counsel Jobert Ilarde Pahilga said Mallari represented FARM in the petition for intervention he filed before the Supreme Court on the Hacienda Luisita case. Records show that Mallari was with FARM and not with Ambala, according to Pahilga.
As early as 2008, Pahilga said Mallari, as well as Julio Suniga and Windsor Andaya, representatives of the Supervisory Group of HLI, had been negotiating with the HLI management. “They were trying to get P200 million plus 2,000 hectares of land. They also asked for 30 percent of the sale of 500 hectares of land in 1995, amounting to almost P600 million. The farm workers did not approve of it,” Pahilga said.
Pingol, on the other hand, was not authorized to represent Ulwu, Bais said.
Pingol, Bais said, has been collaborating with the HLI management since 2005. “He was given 70 hectares of land to plant sugarcane,” Bais said.
Bais said before Galang left Ulwu due to security reasons, he appointed Bais, not Pingol, as chairman. The rest of the leaders approved the decision. Pingol never came to the meeting, Bais said. “Had he replaced Boyet [Galang], he would have sold our struggle,” Bais said.
Bais added that while both Mallari and Pingol were with them before the strike, the HLI management found out their weaknesses and eventually bought them off. “That’s how money works,” Bais said. “Even now, the Cojuangcos use money to deceive the people and exploit their poverty,” he added in Filipino. Related story: Cojuangco-Aquinos Used ‘Impostors’ Who Misrepresented Luisita Workers in ‘Sham’ Deal
Pahilga said these “impostors” are now rich, with newly built houses and vehicles. (Bulatlat.com)