DAR, Luisita farmworkers disagree on issue of compensation

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The farm workers of the Hacienda Luisita and officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) do not see eye-to-eye with regard the implementation of a recent Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court recently issued a decision ordering the distribution of 4,916 hectares of land to the original 4,296 original farmworker beneficiaries (FWBs). The high court also ordered the Hacienda Luisita Inc. to pay P1.3 billion ($30.2 million) to farm workers as their share in the proceeds of the the sale of some 580 hectares of land.

In a dialogue this morning, DAR Undersecretary Anthony Parungao said the agency is ready to abide by the SC decision within the framework of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The farm workers feared that the government’s agrarian reform program itself would be used to reverse their initial victory.

“There should be just compensation. That is clear in our policy. The beneficiaries also have to pay amortization for 30 years,” Parungao told the leaders of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala).

Lito Bais, chairman of the United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu) and Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma), said compensation for the Cojuangco-Aquinos defies logic. “With five decades of our lives stolen by the Cojuangcos, we have paid more than enough. The Cojuangcos should instead be made to pay for the time, sweat and lives we had offered,” Bais said in Filipino, reading from their position paper.

Ambala, Ulwu and Uma said the Cojuangco-Aquinos, since 1957, “used all tactics possible to maintain control of the land which should have been distributed to the farm workers as early as 1967.” They said the Cojuangco family purchased the vast tract of land through a government loan with the condition that after ten years, the land would be distributed to the farmers.

Parungao said, “As a matter of policy, we do not distribute land for free. The beneficiaries have the obligation to pay.”

“Let us review the history how the Cojuangcos gained control of the land. They did not shell out a single centavo. Where is social justice here? Now the DAR tells us the Cojuangcos must be paid? What about the 50 years of deception? If they did not deprive us of the land, we could have sent our children to school. We could have produced lawyers, engineers, professionals like you,” Rodel Mesa, Ambala spokesman and secretary general told the DAR officials.

Parungao insisted they will follow what is stated in CARP. “Until there are amendments or revisions, we have to follow the law.” Parungao said the SC decision states that landowners are entitled to just compensation.

“Historically, the land belongs to us, not to the Cojuangco-Aquinos,” Bais said.
“Let us not make fools out of ourselves here. The Cojuangcos have deceived the government for so long. Now the government wants to give compensation to the Cojuangcos?” Joseph Canlas, chairman of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL), said.

In 1967, the Cojuangcos refused to distribute the land, saying there were no tenants on the hacienda. The same argument was used by the Cojuangcos when the Manila Regional Trial Court ordered the Tarlac development Corporation (Tadeco) to surrender Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. When Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino became president, the stock distribution option (SDO) was implemented in the hacienda, with the Cojuangcos again evading actual land distribution. In 2005, when the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) issued a resolution revoking the SDO, the Cojuangco-Aquinos went to the Supreme Court and filed a petition for temporary restraining order. The TRO lasted for six years until the SC decision last week.

Cezar Arellano, paralegal officer of the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra) said the high court, in its recent ruling, recognized that under the SDO, the farm workers’ contribution to the HLI, accounting for 33 percent of shares, represents the 4,916 hectares of land.

“All the farmworker beneficiaries have shares [to the corporation]. You’re telling us to return the stocks and then we must pay for the land that is ours in the first place,” Bais said.

Parungao said the same ruling of the high court revoked the stock distribution option (SDO) scheme in Hacienda Luisita. “The SDO has been revoked. They [farm workers] are no longer the owners. CARP should be implemented. There should be compensation and amortization.”

“You tell us we should follow the law. The law states the Cojuangcos are not the landowners,” Arellano said.

“To our understanding, the HLI is entitled to just compensation,” Parungao said.
“Are they the landowners?” asked Arellano. Parungao replied, “Yes,” adding that the HLI is a separate legal entity from the Cojuangco-Aquinos.

“We are the ones who should receive compensation because we are the landowners,” Bais said. Under the SDO, Bais said the HLI management’s 67 percent share accounts for the capital, equipment and factories, among others while their 33 percent share accounts for the land. When the HLI management sold portions of the land, Bais said they, as stockholders, were not given their due share, citing the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway case as an example.

Parungao conceded, saying that such are indeed violations of the memorandum of agreement between the farm workers and HLI and of the SDO. “That is why the Supreme Court revoked the SDO,” he said.

“If you admit that the Cojuangco-Aquinos violated the SDO, then we have basis to assert that the land should be given to us for free,” Bais told Parungao.

Mesa said their group have been demanding for the repeal of the CARP. “It is being used by the landlords against us,” he said.

In a statement, they said, placing Hacienda Luisita under CARPER coverage is “synonymous to giving back the land to the Cojuangco-Aquinos.”

Parungao defended CARPER, saying that the law upholds the principle of affordability. “The farm workers can afford the amount of amortization,” he said.

With regard the compensation to be paid to the Cojuangco-Aquinos, Parungao said, they have yet to begin computing the amount based on the CARP’s formula. He admitted though that the Cojuangco-Aquinos may question the amount up to the Supreme Court.

Lita Mariano, spokeswoman of Amihan, an organization of peasant women, said, their experience proves that the amortization being set by the DAR is not affordable to farmers. “Many CLOAs [certificate of land ownership awards], EPs [emancipation patents] have been cancelled because farmers could not pay. This is the reason why we are saying that CARP is a failure.”

Arellano said another problem with the CARPER is that landowners have the upper hand in the identification of qualified farm worker beneficiaries. “Will the Cojuangco-Aquinos recognize the genuine farmworker beneficiaries?” Arellano asked. He added that the HLI management, through its lawyer Antonio Ligon, said they will question the exclusion of some 4,000 farm workers as beneficiaries.

Parungao said they will honor the list of farmworker-beneficiaries cited by the SC decision.

The farm workers said they will continue to assert zero compensation to the Cojuangco-Aquinos. ()

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