Friday, March 18, 2011

A History of Deception in Hacienda Luisita (owned by the Aquino-Cojuango clan)

 
"Those who profess to favor freedom
and yet deprecate agitation

are men who want crops without 
plowing up the ground;
they want rain without thunder and
lightning.
They want the ocean without the
awful roar of its waters.
This struggle may be a moral one
or it may be a physical one

or it may be both moral and physical
but it must be a struggle.
Power concedes nothing without a
demand
It never did, and never will." – Frederick Douglass
,
 AmericanAbolitionistLecturerAuthor and Slave1817-1895)


 
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A History of Deception in Hacienda Luisita

August 7, 2010


MANILA – Jobert Ilarde Pahilga, the lawyer for the farm workers in Hacienda Luisita, said HLI’s compromise agreement is “the third time that the Cojuangcos-Aquinos betrayed agrarian reform and the HLI farm workers.”
The first betrayal, Pahilga said, was in 1986, when the Cory Aquino administration, through Solicitor General Frank Chavez, withdrew the case filed by the government against the Cojuangco-Aquinos for the distribution of the land to the farm workers.
The Marcos government had filed a case to compel the Cojuangco-Aquinos to give back the land to the farm workers, as stated in the conditions of the loan the Cojuangcos obtained from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Central Bank. The loan was used to purchase the sugar mill and the Hacienda Luisita.
The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila then ordered the Cojuangco-Aquinos to fulfill the condition of the loan and to distribute the land to the farm workers. They appealed the decision, however, to the Court of Appeals. While pending appeal and when Cory became president, her administration ordered the withdrawal of the case from the Court of Appeals, according to Pahilga.
“The second act of betrayal was in 1989 when they chose to implement stock distribution option (SDO) in HLI instead of having the lands actually distributed to the farmers. This SDO is the root of all the misery and predicament of the farm workers. This SDO led to the Hacienda Luisita massacre and the farm workers already rejected this scheme,” said Pahilga.
During the so-called referendum for the SDO, the Cojuangco-Aquinos used their private army and the military to harass and intimidate the farmers into agreeing to the SDO, farm workers and residents in the hacienda had earlier told Bulatlat.
Since the 2004 massacre of striking workers and supporters at the Gate 1 of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the hacienda’s sugar mill, several leaders, members and supporters of the unions and groups that are backing the strikers have been murdered.
In the referendum to ratify the new compromise agreement, Pahilga and other progressive groups following the case that the same thing could happen again. Pahilga said there has been increasingly militarization in Hacienda Luisita ever since President Aquino came to power in July. (Ronalyn V. Olea/bulatlat.com)
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Statement of the Religious Discernment Group Convenors (6th year Anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre)

PUBLISHED ON NOVEMBER 16, 2010
What rights have you to crush my people by grinding the faces of the poor into the dust!”(Is 3:14 – 15)


The 16th November 2010 marks 6 years since 7 farm workers were massacred by the military and PNP as they held a peaceful picket at Gate 1 of Hacienda Luisita. Their poverty had become too much, often receiving only 9 pesos per day for their work at Hacienda Luisita. Slave wages and the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) had done nothing to relieve their suffering. If anything, the years have taught them that there would be no freedom, no justice and no escape from poverty unless they became the owners of the Hacienda, as was the condition of the original government loan to the Cojuangco’s. The farm workers decided to hold a picket in order to bring their plight to the attention of the public and the government, and hopefully, move the conscience of the Cojuangco family. The response was the massacre of 16 November 2004.
For this we cry out with Isaiah – “What rights have you to crush my people?” The faces of the farmers of Hacienda Luisita continue to be ground in the dust. The Department of Agrarian Reform awarded the land to the farmers. However, a Temporary Restraining Order has been in effect for 4 years. The Supreme Court to date has been ineffective in defending their rights. The Cojuangco family continues to convert the land of the farmers to industrial uses and now even plan to sell the land to a Hong Kong corporation. Until now no one has been punished for the massacre, or the victims’ families compensated.
We, as Christians, join our voices with the farmers in their cry for justice. They have suffered enough. We demand justice for the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre. Let the land be awarded immediately to the farmers. We will continue to raise our voices like Isaiah until justice is done for our brothers and sisters of Hacienda Luisita.
Signed:
Religious Discernment Group Convenors
Fr. Wilfredo Dulay,MJ Sr. Angelita Navarro,ICM
Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, Jr., OP Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS
Fr. Tito Maratas, MSC Sr. Ailyn Binco, RGS
Fr. Gregorio Obejas, OSM Sr. Rebecca Pacete, MMS
Fr. Joselito Sarabia, CM

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On the Sixth Anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre

PUBLISHED ON NOVEMBER 16, 2010 


Press Statement
November 16, 2010
Bayan join’s the struggling Filipino people in commemorating the sixth anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. Six years after the November 16 massacre, not one police, mlitary or civilian official has been made accountable or has been convicted. The Office of the Ombudsman has sat on the case and no significant results have been made in achieving justice for the seven who died at the picket lines.
The Luisita massacre is a continuing reminder of the failures of the Philippine justice system and the climate of impunity that has prevailed from the Arroyo regime up to the Aquino administration.
The anniversary of the massacre once again highlights not just the human rights violations but also the fundamental problem of land monopoly which was the root cause of the agrarian unrest in the hacienda. Six years after the massacre, the land issue remains unresolved. The question of whether to distribute land or mere shares of stock remains pending with the Supreme Court. The Luisita management has maneuvered to dupe the farmers into signing a sham compromise agreement in order to retain control over the 4,000 hectare estate. The Aquino government has not moved to stop this maneuver. The administration’s silence on the compromise deal objectively aids the maneuvers of management.
Aquino’s attitude on Luisita seems to reflect his general attitude towards land reform. There has been no clear policy pronouncement on land reform in any of the major speeches done by the president form the time he assumed power. Instead, the Aquino government has focused its energies on the much-criticized Conditional Cash Transfer program which it mistakenly believes is a ‘better’ anti-poverty measure than land reform.
Land reform is a question of social justice. It is at the heart of the conflict in Luisita. That thousands of hectares of land can be controled by just one family is a throwback to feudal times. It is situation that should be rejected and immediately rectified. The SC is in a position to correct this grave injustice to the farmers, if only it ceases with insisting on a mediation process and resolve the case on its merits.
The farmers of Luisita demand land and justice. They deserve nothing less.
Reference:
Renato Reyes, Jr.
BAYAN secretary-general

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Cojuangco-Aquinos Used ‘Impostors’ Who Misrepresented Luisita Workers in ‘Sham’ Deal

PUBLISHED ON AUGUST 7, 2010 
By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com
MANILA — The so-called compromise agreement entered into by the Hacienda Luisita Incorporated (HLI) and the farm workers of the sugar plantation owned by the family of President Aquino is a sham, with the management having allegedly used as signatories individuals who misrepresented themselves as leaders of the hacienda’s farmers and workers.
Jobert Ilarde Pahilga, the lawyer of the group of farm workers who had earlier filed a petition for the revocation of the stock distribution option (SDO) in Hacienda Luisita, said he would file a petition citing HLI and these individuals in contempt of court.

“We will definitely question in all forums available to us the standing of these individuals with whom HLI management negotiated and hold them accountable for their acts,” Pahilga said.
In negotiating with what Pahilga described as “impostors,” HLI has attempted a repeat of “the 1989 deception” in which HLI management allegedly manipulated the referendums that paved the way for the implementation of the SDO, a scheme that was implemented in lieu of actual land distribution.
“This time, they are trying to manufacture consent by negotiating with individuals who do not have authority to represent the farm workers,” Pahilga said.
“What the HLI is doing is a repeat of the manufactured referendum in 1989, which mothered the protracted strife that now bedevils the farm workers in Hacienda Luisita,” said Pahilga, who is also an executive trustee of Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra) and lawyer for the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), the farm workers group that is supposedly a signatory to the agreement the Cojuangco-Aquinos disclosed this week.
According to Pahilga, the HLI implemented the SDO scheme through a bogus referendum to evade land distribution. Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, who had followed the case closely ever since, said Saturday that the farm workers “voted under duress when the referendum on the SDO was done in 1989.”
Under the compromise agreement, the farm workers will be given the option to retain shares of stock in the corporation or receive parcels of land from 1,400 hectares or a third of the 6,500-hectare plantation.
Read the compromise agreement <-- click to open
“Impostor”
The agreement, a copy of which was sent to Bulatlat by Sentra, was signed by Noel Mallari, who signed as president of Ambala; Eldifonso Pingol, who signed as vice president of the United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu); and Julio Suniga and Windsor Andaya, representatives of the Supervisory Group of HLI and the HLI management.
“This Mallari is an impostor,” Pahilga said. “He is biting on an HLI proposal that was already vehemently rejected by the farm workers.”
Pahilga said Mallari has never been president of Ambala and he had long been ousted from the organization “for acts inimical to the farm workers.” He added that the records of the case pending before the Supreme Court would reveal that he claimed to represent FARM Luisita, not Ambala.
Pahilga said Mallari, then vice president of Ambala, was kicked out of the group after he was caught negotiating with the Luisita management without authority from the farm workers in 2004, the year the group filed the petition to revoke the SDO before the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
After the massacre in 2004, Pahilga said Mallari reappeared and represented himself as president of FARM Luisita.
“Mallari misrepresented himself as the president of Ambala even when he did not hold such position and is not even a member of Ambala,” Pahilga said.
He also said the Luisita management is “equally guilty of contempt for negotiating the deal with Mallari when they also know that Mallari has no personality to represent Ambala.”
Pahilga said that in the case before the Supreme Court, Mallari represented FARM Luisita, a group that, based on its statements to the press, also denounced the compromise agreement. Records at the Supreme Court would also show that as late as January 2010, Felix Nakpil, as the president of Ambala, filed a motion to cite HLI management in contempt as they were issuing statements through the Luisita Estate Management to confuse the farmers and muddle the issue, according to Pahilga.
While Pahilga confirmed that Zuniga and Andaya, representatives of the Supervisory Group in the deal, were also his clients in the case before the Supreme Court, he said that the two stopped communicating with Sentra after the high court issued the TRO.
“Sentra learned that they (Zuniga and Andaya) were given vast tracts of land by Luisita management to cultivate and plant with sugar cane. Thus, while the farm workers were struggling daily to make a living, they lived affluent lives courtesy of the Luisita management,” Pahilga said.
“Even then, Sentra already learned that they were co-opted by the Luisita management. Thus, we do not anymore wonder why they signed the deal. However, we do not know whether in signing the agreement, they were given the green light by the rest of the members of the Supervisory Group,” Pahilga said.
Pingol, Pahilga said, could not represent Ulwu as he was not given the authority to represent the farm workers’ union. Ulwu is not a party to the Supreme Court case.
SDO Revoked
On Dec. 22, 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) revoked the SDO in Hacienda Luisita and ordered instead the distribution of the land to the farm workers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). The PARC acted on the recommendation of the Department of Agrarian Reform, which investigated the SDO’s implementation and found that it had not improved the lives of the beneficiaries and that HLI management committed lapses in its implementation.
The HLI management contested the PARC’s ruling before the Supreme Court, which, in June 2006, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in favor of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan. The case is pending before the Supreme Court and an oral argument has been set on Aug. 18.
Lito Bais, acting president of Ulwu, told Bulatlat on Friday that the timing of the disclosure of the agreement was suspect and that it was meant to sway the decision of the high court.
Christian Monsod, an Aquino family friend and who had been involved in the negotiations between HLI and farmers in the past, criticized the agreement. “This is déjà vu,” he was quoted in today’s Philippine Daily Inquirer (<-- click to open) as saying. “They’re trying this so-called compromise to render the Supreme Court case moot and academic,” he added.
According to Monsod, the Cojuangco-Aquino clan came up with the SDO scheme to evade a court decision in 1985 ordering the clan to distribute the land to the farmers.
The family went to the Court of Appeals but the case got overtaken by the Edsa People Power uprising in 1986. Later, Frank Chavez, the solicitor-general of President Cory Aquino, himself withdrew the government’s opposition to the family’s CA petition, thus invalidating the court ruling and subsequently allowing the SDO, Pahilga told Bulatlat in an earlier interview.
“So, who are they fooling? But they got away with it then,” Monsod told the Inquirer.
Sidebar: A History of Deception in Hacienda Luisita  <---click to open

SC Approval Needed

Antonio Ligon, the HLI’s spokesman, told reporters this week that the Supreme Court needs to approve the compromise agreement because of the pending TRO against the PARC’s revocation of the SDO. The Department of Agrarian Reform will also weigh in on the matter.

“The farmers are free to decide. If they want to sign, then that’s okay. If not, then that’s also okay,” Ligon said, according to the Inquirer.
But Pahilga asserted that the deal is contrary to law. Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano went so far as to say that President Aquino can be held liable for what he called a “grand deception.”
According to the deal, in the event that the farm workers opt for actual land distribution, they will be given the equivalent percentage of the size of the land from the remaining HLI land actually devoted to agriculture, with a total area of 4,102 hectares, approximately. This means that the farm workers will only be given 33 percent of the 4,102 hectares, which in effect, will total only to 1,400 hectares. This 1,400 will be divided among the farm workers who will opt for land distribution while the rest of the land will remain with HLI.
“This is worse than the original SDO agreement of 1989,” Pahilga said.
“HLI has no right to retain the rest of the land because they should be covered by the existing agrarian reform program. Under the existing law, agricultural land in excess of five hectares shall be distributed to the farmers. Clearly, HLI is subverting the law to maintain their control and ownership of Hacienda Luisita,” Pahilga pointed out.
He added that the recent “referendum” conducted by the HLI management, purportedly to make the farm workers choose whether they would continue under the SDO scheme or get a piece of HLI land, is also illegal. The PARC decision to cover the HLI land for agrarian reform still stands. “Unless this decision is reversed, the lands are effectively under the jurisdiction of DAR,” he said.
He explained that while the TRO issued by the high court restrained the implementation of the PARC decision, the decision is valid as things stand. He asserted that only DAR has the authority to decide what to do with the HLI land as the sugar plantation has been placed under the agrarian reform program.
Pahilga pointed out that the “referendum” was not supervised by DAR. He said the conduct of the “referendum” was meant to “maliciously defy” the department.
Teofilo Inocencio, the director of the DAR for Central Luzon, said that the new agreement did not go through his office and that the DAR did not send representatives to the signing ceremonies last Friday, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported. (Bulatlat.com)

Pages: 1 2
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A Look Back: Hacienda Luisita, the SDO, and the Farmers’ Struggle for Land  <--click to open


In 2004, Bulatlat.com published a two-part investigative report on Hacienda Luisita, its troubled history, and the struggle of the farmers and workers for land and justice. The first part, For Land and Wages: Half a Century of Peasant Struggle in Hacienda Luisita, (<-- click to open) talks about the lives of the farmers and the events that led to the strike and massacre that same year. The second part,Poorly Paid Workers Lose Jobs — and Homes, Too, (<-- click to open) exposes the toll the conflict had on the peasants.
Trivia: Ildefonso Pingol, the vice-president of the United Luisita Workers’ Union who this week signed the agreement with Hacienda Luisita management, claims to have been a member of the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ “yellow army” and, according to him, a bodyguard of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco each time President Aquino’s uncle visited the hacienda.
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March 14, 2010

For Philippine Family in Politics, Land Issue Hits Home

For the last few years, he has illegally occupied 3.7 acres on which he cultivates rice and vegetables. He spends most days watching his fields from a makeshift shack whose thatched roof is patched with flattened cardboard boxes. Small profits from tomato sales have allowed him to buy 50 ducks that now swim in a nearby creek.

“I never want to go back to sugar cane,” Mr. Calaquian said as his wife, Maria, 46, used a single bucket to carry water from the creek over to several uneven rows of tomato vines. “This is better.”

Despite the government’s assertion that a two-decade-old land distribution program has been a success, most farmers in the Philippines have yet to benefit significantly. The uneven ownership of land, this country’s primordial problem, continues to concentrate economic and political power in the hands of large landowning families and to fuel armed insurgencies, including Asia’s longest-running Communist rebellion.

The land problem has drawn fresh attention since Mrs. Aquino’s son, Benigno Aquino III, declared his candidacy for the May 10 presidential election, running on his mother’s legacy of “people power.” Though Mrs. Aquino made land reform a top priority, she allowed landowning families to eviscerate her distribution program. Critics say there is no greater example of the failure of land reform than her own family’s estate.

For the past five years, the family has been fighting in the Supreme Court a government directive to distribute the 10,000-acre Hacienda Luisita — the second-biggest family-owned piece of land in the Philippines, about 80 miles north of Manila — to 10,000 farmers.

In 2004, the military and the police killed seven protesters during a strike by farmers fighting for land and higher wages. Since then, the family-controlled Hacienda Luisita Inc. has managed to plant only 40 percent of the estate with sugar cane; the rest has been seized by individual farmers or remains idle.

Criticized for his family’s position, Mr. Aquino, 50, the front-runner in the presidential election, announced recently that the family would transfer the land to the farmers after ensuring that debts were paid off.

“It will be theirs clear and free,” Mr. Aquino said in an interview in Manila.
But Mr. Aquino’s cousin, Fernando Cojuangco, the chief operating officer of the holding company that owns the plantation, said that the extended Cojuangco family, owners of this plantation since 1958, had no intention of giving up the land or the sugar business.

“No, we’re not going to,” Mr. Cojuangco, 47, said in an interview here. “I think it would be irresponsible because I feel that continuing what we have here is the way to go. Sugar farming has to be; it’s the kind of business that has to be done plantation-style.”
He dismissed the widely held view that Mrs. Aquino, his aunt, had made land reform a centerpiece of her government.

“Is there a document that it was a centerpiece? I always asked that question even to her ex-cabinet members. Was there a cabinet meeting where she said this is the centerpiece?”
In 1987, when Mrs. Aquino, born a Cojuangco, began carrying out land redistribution, the government estimated that 10 percent of the population controlled 90 percent of the country’s agricultural land.

The government says that under the program it has redistributed 10 million acres of privately owned land and 7.4 million acres of public land, allowing each farming family to acquire up to 7.4 acres with government-backed loans. The government says owners who relinquish land have received compensation; for sugar estates, the payment is $2,000 per acre.

Last year, the government extended the program to redistribute 2.5 million acres of “problematic lands” that the authorities have been unable to distribute “because of the resistance of some big landowners,” said Nasser C. Pangandaman, the secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Mr. Pangandaman described the program as a success. But most farmers’ groups, scholars and businessmen question the department’s figures.

“The department has never provided us with a clear and credible inventory of the lands that have been distributed,” said Rafael V. Mariano, a congressman who is a member of Anakpawis, a union-based political party.

What is more, lawmakers, most of whom come from large landowning families, included loopholes in the program, critics say.

“Because of the loopholes, landlords have been able to find all sorts of ways and means to recover their land,” said Roland G. Simbulan, a professor of development studies and public management at the University of the Philippines.

The biggest loophole, critics say, was a stock and profit-sharing program that Mrs. Aquino agreed to under pressure from large landlords. Instead of redistributing their land, about a dozen families, including her own, were allowed to turn farmers into shareholders.

The government eventually found that the Cojuangcos had violated the agreement by failing to share profits with the farmers and ordered that the land be distributed, said Mr. Pangandaman of the agrarian reform department.

Mr. Cojuangco said the ruling was a politically motivated attack against his family. The family company treated the workers well, providing health care, homes for some, interest-free loans and a guaranteed minimum wage, he said.

The farm workers at Hacienda Luisita voted in favor of the stock and profit-sharing program in 1989. But because of the decline of the sugar industry and mechanization, the amount of available work diminished steeply so that some farmers were working only one day a week by the late 1990s, said farmers and union officials.

Since the 2004 strike, many have been unable to return to work at the hacienda even as they lacked the funds to buy the seedlings and fertilizer necessary to plant crops on land they are occupying.

In a barrio called Paunawa, Esmeraldo Alcantara, 42, was one of several frustrated jobless men collecting brush to sell for about 30 cents a bundle.

“If I had land and capital, that would be ideal,” said Mr. Alcantara, who controlled a two-acre plot that he had given up trying to plant. “But since I don’t, going back to work at the hacienda would be better. But I can’t do that, either.”

A sign at the village entrance warns motorcyclists wearing helmets or bandanas to stay out — a reminder of the tumultuous strike, when union officials, farmers and supporters were assassinated, sometimes by hit men riding motorcycles. (The Philippine military, which accuses farm leaders of being tied to the Communist rebellion, is believed to be behind these kinds of killings.)

Mr. Cojuangco said he was not afraid of venturing into the hacienda that his family has controlled for three generations.

“I can go out there to the barrios,” he said.

Lito Bais, the head of the farm workers’ union, said, “If that’s true, then why isn’t he doing that?”

“I believe that as long as the Cojuangcos are here, they’ll never give up the land,” Mr. Bais said. “And as long as we’re here, we’ll never give up the struggle for this land.”



1 comment:

Bert M. Drona said...

Hi All,

In addition to H.L. issue, let us not forget the dwindling of our national patrimony due to alien/foreign encroachment, which our past and present, including Aquino III's, governments allow. Please note the below statement regarding a major and disastrous impact of Parity Rights on our national patrimony:

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS: (Extracted from " Alien Interests in the Land (1900- Present)" - Prof. Perfecto V. Fernandez, U.P. Claro M. Recto Professorial Chair on Constitutional Law, 1984-1986.)

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Under the Constitution of the Philippines (1935 as well as 1973), one of the broad objectives postulated for the Government is "to conserve and develop the patrimony of the Nation" which is set forth in the Preamble.

From the foregoing exposition, however, the National Patrimony (in the sense of public domain) has been steadily dwindling, and may reach the vanishing point before the century ends.

Stress must be given the fact that, to begin with, the National Patrimony had been greatly reduced by the beginning of this century. Much of the best lands had been taken over by the Church and its religious orders, and vast tracts had been deeded by the Spanish monarchs under royal grants.

All these became vested rights under the Treaty of Paris, and the episode of the Friar Lands only underscore the problem of getting back choice lands once they get into alien hands.

During the long period of Spanish rule, the lands taken by the colonizers were arable and residential lands.

During the much shorter period of American colonial rule, the choice of the colonizers shifted to mineral and timber lands.

Some of the richest deposits of valuable ore were taken over by Americans and their companies, and most of what was taken have remained in their hands.

Such alien acquisitions continued during the Commonwealth period, and also during most of the life of the Republic up to this time, by force of the Parity Amendment.

Under the present Constitution, the alienation of the remaining National Patrimony has taken other forms. Large tracts have been given away under management or service contracts with the Government, and even larger areas could be placed under alien hands through international
agreements.

The situation is aggravated by alien take-over of private landholdings under management contracts, and to a lesser degree, under increasing resort to growers' agreements.

There is bitter irony in the situation that has emerged, that the sovereign power of the Filipino people expressed through their fundamental law, is used to maintain alien control and enjoyment of the lands taken from the Nation.


(Source: U.P Philippine Law Journal, Volume 59-1984)