Luisita workers asked Supreme Court to cite Cojuangcos, RCBC for contempt

By Jayjay Jaiho, contributor

Tarlac City, Tarlac- Striking farmworkers in the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita sugar estate owned by the family of the late President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino today asked the Supreme Court to cite in contempt the Cojuangcos and management officials of Luisita Estate Management (LEM) and Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) for violating the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the high tribunal.

In the TRO issued by the high court on June 14, 2006, the SC called for a status quo between the Luisita management and the farmers stating that no action should be taken regarding the used or selling of the disputed sugar lands in Hacienda Luisita as long as the legal issues are not been resolved like the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) which the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) had recommended to be revoked to pave way for the immediate distribution of the Cojuangco sugar estate to farm workers and other qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries.

But Luisita workers leader Lito Bais, spokesperson of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and acting chair of United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) asserted that the Cojuangcos and RCBC blatantly violated the status quo and should be cited in contempt of court when LEM allowed the foreclosure of the 170 hectares of Luisita land by the commercial bank, which he said was a covert ops or a syndicated move by the Cojuangcos to regain hold of the disputed land.

The acting ULWU chair added that “Luisita Estate Management had no legal and moral rights to dip into the issue because they are not one of the party involved. LEM should stay away from our issue, we think that this shadow management created by no other less by the Cojuangco family to brought confusion among Luisita farmers and to sabotage our legitimate fight which is the distribution of land to bonafide farm worker”.

September last year, RCBC started putting up fences on the 170 hectares located in Barangay Balete. The RCBC representative said that this farm lot had been foreclosed as payment for the Cojuangco’s debt. At first they hired the farmers to put fences not saying its real purpose, and then we learned later that RCBC has already owned the land we planned to cultivate”.

“We think this move of RCBC is in cahoots with the LEM’s attempt of persuading Luisita farmers to engage in an non antagonistic tactic creating a convincing environment that the Cojuangco’s will not going reclaim the land to them. But this is the same LEM that issued a memo dating December 2008 which is threatening Luisita farm workers to vacate the lands that they cultivated after the infamous Hacienda Luisita massacre,” added Bais.

“It seems that they changed tactics knowing that the Luisita farmers will not be cowed over their memo… In fact right after RCBC put up the fence, LEM release a statement through “Balitaan sa Luisita”, the management publication bannering series of dialogues between them and the farm beneficiaries in different barangays whereas the farmers are agreeing on land use program’ Bais stressed.

He also said that ‘If we traced back the statements of presidential wannabe Noynoy Aquino, their family are having a hard time coping on Luisita’s expenses that is why they’re considering the selling of the former sugar land state. On our part, as “co-owner” we think on what Noynoy, the LEM creation and RCBC move is part of a grand dubious scheme design to reclaim the lands that we painstakingly fought with our sweat and blood.

ULWU and UMA also received a report that Hacienda Luisita Incorporated will be dissolved in lieu to the creation of LEM. According to Atty. Jobert Pahilga, the lead counsel of Luisita workers, in order to legalize LEM, the Cojuangco’s will also seek the approval of the Department of Agrarian Reform.

“And if HLI will be dissolved, Stock Distribution Option will be implemented no more. Thus automatic distribution of the what is left to be distributed in accordance with Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s provision,” said Pahilga.

While asking the high tribunal to immediately cite the Cojuangcos and RCBC in direct contempt of court, UMA and ULWU said it would be better if the SC will lift the TRO, affirmed the decision of PARC to revoke the SDO and allow the immediate, unconditional and free distribution of Hacienda Luisita to some 8,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“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.

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. #

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