[Statement] On the Supreme Court Decision on Hacienda Luisita – Alyansa Kanayunan

July 8, 2011

Saan ba sa wakas ang dulo ng lumbay?
May bagong pampiring ang mga bathala,
Gumagapang muli sa bukid ang simoy,
Hipan ang tambuling hahawi sa dilim…

–          Rio Alma

(Where, ultimately, is grief’s end?
The gods have new blindfolds,
The breeze is again crawling the fields,
Blow the horn that will dispel the darkness


Once again,  heavy darkness fell on our  fellow farmers and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita last July 5.  After  sitting on the case for five (5) years, the Supreme Court came up with a decision that sets up another stumbling block to the 43-year old fight to redistribute Hacienda Luisita.   While upholding the December 2005  resolution of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) revoking the Hacienda’s stock distribution plan of 1989, the Court calls for another referendum to make the hacienda farmers and farm workers choose between the stock option or land redistribution.  This decision fits almost perfectly into the latest of the Cojuangco family’s scheme to retain control of Luisita.

Twenty two ( 22 ) years after a Stock Distribution Plan ( 1989 ) was applied to Hacienda Luisita in lieu of redistribution to farmers,  both the Court and the Cojuangco family can no longer deny that the stock option did not work for the benefit of the farmers.  Instead of allowing the agrarian reform law – CARP then, CARPER now, to take its course, which is to redistribute the hacienda,  the monkey wrench of a referendum is thrown to the just and legitimate struggle of the peasants and farm workers.

A referendum is a democratic instrument.  But if employed in a context where the contending parties—in this case, between the Cojuangcos and the farmers, are so unequal in power, money and access to information,  the result is a done deal for the superior party.  The State could be the leveller, but again, in this particular case as in most cases between big landlords and farmers,  the Cojuangcos  have incomparably and exceedingly far larger access to and clout over State decision-making than the farmers.  The 1989 referendum on SDO showed this in bold relief.

The Cojuangco family  acquired and retained the 6,443 hectare Hacienda Luisita  through a classic example of  how Philippine oligarchs apply their clout over the Philippine State and make use of its decision-making power and violence to retain and enlarge their class privilege.  The  Central Bank Monetary Board Resolution of 1957  committed  Philippine international reserves to Jose Cojuangco’s 10 year US$ 2.1 million loan from the Manufacturer’s Trust Company in New York to enable him to  buy the controlling share in the Central Azucarera de Tarlac) and the GSIS Resolution of 1958  extended a P 5.9 million loan also to Cojuangco to purchase Hacienda Luisita on condition that the hacienda would  be distributed to the tillers after ten (10) years.

The 10-year period expired in 1967-68  but it was only twelve (12)  years after, in May 1980,  when the Philippine Government  filed a case  to recover Luisita for redistribution to the farmers.  The Cojuangcos argued that the Resolutions could not be valid because there were no tenants in Luisita, only hired laborers.  Marcos tolerated the Cojuangco’s disputed ownership of the hacienda until the Manila Regional Trial Court in December 1985 ordered the Cojuangcos to surrender the hacienda to the government.

The EDSA Revolt of 1986 overtook the case.  Before Congress could convene in July 28, 1987, ending Cory Aquino’s legislative powers,  Ms. Aquino signed a midnight decree in July 22, 1987, allowing a stock distribution option ( SDO )as an option in lieu of redistribution under her comprehensive agrarian reform decree. Congress  included SDO in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 as one among a number of modalities for agrarian reform.  Hacienda Luisita was placed under SDO in 1989 after a one-sided referendum in favor of the Cojuangcos.

Presidential power was used by Marcos to play the Luisita card against the Cojuangcos and Ninoy Aquino.  The same presidential power was used by Cory Aquino to protect her family’s hacienda against the government’s commitment to recover it for land reform.

Six years after, in 1995,  nearly 65% of the hacienda’s land area was reclassified from agricultural to commercial, industrial and residential.  Some 500 hectares of the 3, 290 reclassified hectares were approved by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for conversion.  Peping Cojuangco’s wife, Tingting, was Tarlac governor at that time.

The land conversion of Luisita steadily reduced the area left for farming. Work days were cut and the wages were frozen.   Mechanization  started to downsize the work force.

When the  hacienda management decided to retrench in October 2004, farm workers staged a strike in November 2004  which government military forces brutally dispersed. A massacre took place with 14 farmers killed and around 200 seriously injured.  Until now,  the victims of the Luisita massacre have yet to receive justice.

The  plight of the Luisita farmers and farm workers is highly symbolic of  the  state of  land reform in our country today.  Big landholdings remain untouched after twenty three (23) years.  Vast areas escaped the law via conversions to commercial uses.  The limited scope where CARP was applied has been going through difficult times as result of liberalization.  Land reconcentration is proceeding apace as big agribusiness capitalists and merchant capitalists together with kindred and allied bureaucrats push more and more small farms into bankruptcy.  Peasant ruin imposes more burden on the rural women who often shoulder more the impact of economic difficulties , and denies the future to millions of our young people in  the countrysides.

The July 5 1011 Supreme Court decision  could be a fatal blow to agrarian reform which is already comatose under CARPER , the extended CARP, by declaring that  “the old pastoral model of land ownership where nonhuman juridical persons, such as corporations were prohibited from owning agricultural lands are no longer realistic under existing conditions.”   The decision sets the stage for large agribusiness takeover of the lands still to be covered by the agrarian reform law and for reconcentration in the hands of big landlord-corporate interests of those already distributed.

We must not allow Hacienda Luisita to bleed more with injustice.  We must fight in solidarity with them.  The fight in Hacienda Luisita like all other land struggles throughout the country is the fight of all peasants and farm workers.  It is the fight of our people for social justice and redress of historical wrongs.

We must press the Government,  in particular,  the President and the Department of Agrarian Reform to immediately move towards redistributing Hacienda Luisita,  make the Cojuangcos and their realty corporation pay the farmers and farm workers their  due and challenge the Court to junk the referendum which is unjust and a legal anomaly.

We must close ranks, bring in new forces, and steadily build our strength at the base.  It is our own strength that will deliver in the main victory in our struggles.

Together in solidarity, we must blow the horn that will dispel the darkness of landlord and corporate greed that has long descended on our lives.

Ang Laban sa Luisita ay Laban ng Lahat !

Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura  ( AMA )
Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid ng Pilipinas  ( PKMP )
July 8, 2011


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