Hacienda Luisita workers asked SC to lift TRO
Groups identified with Hacienda Luisita farmworkers on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) it issued on June 14, 2006 preventing the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) from distributing the 6,453 hectares of sugar lands own by the family of former President Corazon Aquino to farmworkers.
In a press statement, the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers represented by the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Luisita (Ambala) and their supporters belonging to Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said the TRO is prolonging the agony of agrarian reform beneficiaries inside Hacienda Luisita.
“The Supreme Court is legally, morally and politically mandated to carry out the cause for agrarian justice and social emancipation. However, the TRO it issued last June 14, 2006 counters this mandate at the expense of landless farmworkers,” the groups said in their joint statement.
The high court issued a TRO instructing PARC and Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman to refrain from distributing Hacienda Luisita lands to farmworker beneficiaries. The SC Third Division also ordered the Hacienda Luisita Incorporated to post a cash bond of P 5 million for the TRO.
The TRO came from the petition filed by HLI questioning PARC resolution No.2005-32-10 dated Dec.22, 2005 upholding the decision of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to revoke the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) plan of the Hacienda Luisita management.
The PARC also ruled to place the entire Hacienda Luisita estate under compulsory acquisition, earmarking some P 15-billion for the acquisition of the sugar estate own by the family for ex-President Aquino.
“In the name of truth and social justice, we demand the Supreme Court to immediately lift the TRO and instruct PARC and DAR to effectively carry out the free distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands to farmworkers,” AMGL chairperson Joseph Canlas said.
Canlas and 33 other sugar workers led a silent protest outside the gate of the Supreme Court in Padre Faura, in Manila to call for the immediate lifting of the TRO.
“It’s about time the SC makes a giant kill on the agrarian reform dispute in Hacienda Luisita and uphold interest of the landless tillers and exploited farmworkers,” the AMGL leader said.
For their part, ULWU President Rene Galang and Ambala chairperson Lito Bais warned the high tribunal on the current maneuver being undertaken by HLI to prevent the farmworkers from pursuing their land rights. According to Galang and Bais, the Cojuangco family had issued a memorandum last December 18, 2008 ordering all farmworkers who occupied about 2,000 hectares of the 6,453 hectares of Hacienda Luisita to destroy their crops and vacate the lands on or before October 2009.
The leaders of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers said the memorandum was issued a day after the Senate and the House of Representatives approved Joint Resolution No.1 extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) minus the provision on compulsory acquisition.
“First the Cojuangcos used the bankrupt CARP and its provision on stock distribution option to evade land distribution, now they used the Joint Resolution to effectively deny the rights of the farmworkers to land they have been tilling for nearly a century,” Galang and Bais stressed.
ULWU and Ambala said the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita was exempted from distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Instead, the sprawling sugar estate was placed under the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a non-land transfer scheme, which converted sugar workers into stock holders and daily workers receiving P 9.50 per day without any share in the gross sales.
Jay Calaguing, UMA information officer said Hacienda Luisita farmworkers continue to cultivate more 2,000 hectares of the hotly disputed sugar estate outside the framework of the 20-year old CARP, which he said was bogus, bankrupt, pro-landlord and anti-farmer.
Calaguing added that despite the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court refraining the Presidential Agrarian Reform Committee (PARC) from covering and distributing the Cojuangco sugar lands to sugar workers, the farmworkers managed to assert their land rights and pursue the “bungkalan” campaign.
UMA said the current “bungkalan” campaign has already benefited 838 families or roughly 1,676 individuals spread in the barangays of Malapacsiao (244.5 hectares), Asturias (209.93 hectares), Bantog (258 hectares), Cut-Cut (275.9 hectares), Balite (153.4 hectares), Mutrico (248 hectares), Pando (163 hectares), Texas (140 hectares), Pasajes (60 hectares) and Parang (51.5 hectares).
On the other hand, UMA is also supporting the passage of Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059 authored by the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran and co-authored by his successor Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño and Gabriela Party list Reps. Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.
Under GARB, Hacienda Luisita will be distributed for free to farmworkers and poor farmers and with guaranteed security of tenure and strong support mechanisms to make the 6,453 sugar estate productive and responsive to the need of farmworkers, poor farmers and the Filipino public in general. #