HACIENDA LUISITA REMAINS THORNY & THREAT-FILLED
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
The thorny Hacienda Luisita, among the grand estates of the Cojuangco family, remains as threat-filled as ever. It is a showcase of a land reform executive decision that has gone haywire. The Supreme Court’s lackadaisical behavior shown with respect to this case has made the issue more murky.
The PH Supreme Court has earned the monicker of ‘hoodlums in robes’ in the 1990s. Have the noblesse Justices of the highest court remained as just as expected with regards to issues affecting the marginal sectors in particular? Hasn’t PH dropped off that ‘hoodlums’ image yet for the Justices of its highest court?
Below is a statement from the Hacienda Luisita Peasant Supporters Network Tarlac. It sums up the update on the thorny estate.
[Philippines, 06 July 2011]
Hacienda Luista Peasant Supporters Network Tarlac
SC Decision on Luisita Land Dispute: Legalizing the Theft of Farmworkers’ Lands
We, members of the Hacienda Luisita Peasant Supporters Network – a group of individuals and organizations supporting the farmers and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita – express our utmost outrage over decision of the Supreme Court to bring the case of the Hacienda Luista back to square one by ordering the Department of Agrarian Reform to conduct another referendum among farm worker-beneficiaries to choose between shares of stocks or land.
The Network believes that the High Court’s decision today is a setback for the Hacienda Luisita farmers’ struggle for land and justice. It subjects the longest-running land dispute in the country to a mere “popularity” vote instead of advancing what is right and just – that is, to install the legitimate farm worker beneficiaries to their land by freely distributing the Luisita lands to its rightful owners. This decision sets a bad precedent for all land disputes in the country – especially those involving the anti-farmer Stock Distribution Scheme currently in place in Hacienda Luisita.
The High Court’s decision is a bitter pill sugar-coated with nice-sounding phrases revoking the Stock Distribution Option to make it acceptable to the farmers workers but, in reality, retaining the corporate scheme which prevents the actual distribution of land to the farm workers.
For more than two decades, HLI has tried to manipulate the farm workers for years. They have already raked in multi-billion profits by selling and converting sizable portions of the land and by exploiting the labor of the farm workers. But the great strike of more than 5,000 farm workers in 2004 is testament that farm workers have already rejected this kind of arrangement. Furthermore, the success of the Bungkalan campaign where Hacienda Luisita farmers and their families collectively till the land for their benefit only shows that the farmers are capable of uplifting their condition without the onerous partnership with the Cojuangcos.
Also, we believe that the referendum is a tool for machinations and maneuverings of the Cojuangcos to retain their ownership and control over the sprawling hacienda. The compromise deal cooked up last August 2010 witnessed the excessive release of money, with the HLI dangling a P150-million financial assistance package to the farmers so that the latter would give up their claims to the land.
Finally, we call all peasant advocates, truth- and justice-loving Filipinos to join the mobilizations of the Hacienda Luisita farmers in the coming days expressing their disappointment and anger over the Supreme Court’s anti-farmer ruling.