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Manila’s agrarian reform chief asked to act on land disputes involving top 2010 bets

By Sugar Hicap, Bb. Joyce Cabral, Cherry de Belen and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines-Striking farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita and affected farmers of the ambitious MRT-7 railway project in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan had coalesced to pressure Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Nasser Pangandaman to stop the families of Liberal Party presidential and vice-presidential candidates Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Senator Manuel Roxas from denying their rights to land and compel them to surrender their unlawful and immoral control over the disputed lands.

In a joint press statement, the Hacienda Luisita based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and farmers groups affiliated with the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) urged secretary Pangandaman to act on their demands against the “Team Hacienderos” of Aquino and Roxas not later than the May 10, 2010 elections.

ULWU acting president Lito Bais said the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita are strongly suggesting to DAR to immediately cite the Cojuangco-Aquino family and the Luisita Estate Management (LEM) in contempt of court for violating the status quo order involving the 6,453 hectare sugar estate.

Bais, also the spokesperson of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said the Cojuangco-Aquino clan through LEM has been allowing different interest groups like the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) to put fences on 200 hectares of sugar lands, allegedly representing debts of the Cojuangco-Aquino family to the banking group.

“Noynoy recently announced that Hacienda Luisita will be distributed to farm workers in the next five years. But based on what his family is doing right now, the Cojuangco-Aquino clan is doing everything to keep control of the hacienda and later sell it to entities that would give them billions of pesos in profits,” the Hacienda Luisita leader added.

Status quo

The status quo order stemmed from the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in 2005 after the management of Hacienda Luisita Inc. questioned the revocation of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and the decision of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) to take over Luisita and have distributed to some 10,000 farmer worker beneficiaries.

The TRO which was applied by HLI management, however, effectively stopped the Cojuangco-Aquino family from pursuing other activities and corporate decisions pertaining to the sugar estate. Reports from ULWU revealed otherwise.

The farmworkers’ group said the Cojuangco-Aquino family has tolerated the terroristic activities of the military and the Army led Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) under the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Nolcom) whom they said are engaged in covert and overt operations like day-to-day surveillance and harassment of leaders and active members of sugar worker groups inside Hacienda Luisita.

Troops loyal to Arroyo

“Troops loyal to President Arroyo are in Hacienda Luisita to protect the illegitimate claim of Noynoy and his family, and that alone confirms the ongoing unholy alliance between the Arroyos and the Cojuangco-Aquino feudal aristocracy,” Bais added.

Joining the Luisita workers in the camp out at DAR are 120 farmers from Bgy. Tungkong Mangga, San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan are the KMP affiliates— the Tungkong Mangga Upland Farmers Association, Inc. (TMUFAI), San Isidro Sandigang Samahan ng Magsasaka (SASAMAG) and Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Sitio Dalandanan (SAMAGDA).

“We are urging Mar Roxas to convince his relatives to stop landgrabbing and harassment of farmers in Tungkong Mangga. He wants to be vice-president, he should start put aside the interests of his relatives and put the interests of poor farmers in front,” said Wilfredo Marbella, KMP Deputy Secretary-General.

Tungkong Mangga

“The lands in Tungkong Mangga are being claimed by Araneta Properties, Inc. (now led by Gregorio `Greggy’ Araneta, from the Salvador and Gregorio Araneta lineage), though farmers cultivated the lands for decades. Now, Mr. Palengke Mar Roxas, please help farmers against the harassment imposed by your relatives. The farms at Tungkong Mangga are the source of fruits, vegetables at nearby `palengkes,'” he said.

Tungkong Mangga, particularly Sitio San Isidro, Dalandanan and Ricafort is the site of the 200-hectare intermodal station of the MRT 7. Its main proponent is the Universal LRT Corp. led by Hongkong-based EL Holdings, also composing is the SM Development Corp. of mall-tycoon Henry Sy.

“The lands at Tungkong Mangga are not owned by the Aranetas as they have been foreclosed by Manila Banking Corp. during the Marcos’ dictatorship, who then, used it as collateral to acquire loans from the Central Bank. During the Aquino government, MBC was sequestered as it was owned by Marcos cronies and used ill-gotten wealth on its business. Generally, the lands were paid for the Aranetas by public funds, thus, should be subjected by land reform,” said Marbella.

In 1998, DAR has been preparing for the issuance of Cert. of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) to the farmers when the Aranetas have filed petition for exemption. Until now, it has not been processed and currently on the discretion of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC). The Gregorio Araneta Inc. and Araneta Properties, Inc. are now represented by Gregorio “Greggy” Araneta III as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the son-in-law of the late dictator Ferdinand MarcosFerdinand Marcos being married to Irene Marcos. They are also relatives of vice-presidential candidate Mar Roxas of the J. Amado Araneta lineage. Moreover, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo is of the clan of Jesus Araneta Lacson de Arroyo of Negros.

“The Araneta Properties, Inc. is chaired by Benito Araneta, a former representative of the PCGG to PhilComSat but was fired by former pres. Estrada due to malversation of funds. He was investigated for plunder in the Senate and sen. Enrile presented proofs of his plunder in the gov’t corporation,” said Marbella.

“Mar Roxas’ relatives are cashing in the lands as SM Dev’t Corp and Universal LRT Corp. are planning another Araneta Center in Tungkong Mangga, composed of a train station, commercial and residential establishments and bus terminal. This is the first stop of our series of protest,” Marbella said. #

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THE CONTINUING SAGA OF THE FARMWORKERS OF HACIENDA LUISITA

Legal Briefing Paper on Hacienda Luisita prepared by Atty. Jobert Ilarde-Pahilga, executive trustee Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra), and campaign officer of National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)

THE ACQUISITION OF THE HACIENDA BY THE COJUANCOS
In 1957, Jose Cojuanco Sr., bought majority shares of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), including the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita from the Spanish company Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera) thrug a loan from the Central Bank. The CAT and hacienda are transferred to Cojuangco’s Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), an agricultural corporation.

MARCOS FILED A CASE

On May 7, 1980, the Marcos government filed a case against TADECO before the RTC of Manila for specific performance to compel defendants TADECO, and the heirs of the late Jose Cojuangco, Sr. to turn over “Hacienda Luisita” to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform for the purpose of subdivision and sale at cost to “small farmers” or “tenants”.

On December 2, 1985, the Manila RTC rendered a decision that orders the Cojuangcos to transfer control of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, which will distribute the land to small farmers after compensating the landowners P3.988 million.

The Cojuangcos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals which was docketed as CA G.R. 08634. March 17, 1988, the Solicitor General, CB governor and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) filed a motion to dismiss the civil case against the Cojuangcos pending before the Court of Appeals on the ground that Hacienda Luisita would be covered by agrarian reform. Thus, on May 18, 1988, the Court dismissed the case against the Cojuangcos.

THE STOCK DISTRIBUTION PLAN and MOA

On May 9, 1989, the landowners, along with then DAR Secretary Philip Juico, Tarlac governor and the mayors of Tarlac City, Concepcion, and La Paz, the three municipalities covering the hacienda, held referendum among Luisita farm workers to present the SDO. Thereafter, Juico, Tadeco and HLI signed Memorandum of Agreement on the SDO.

In the MOA of May 11, 1989, HLI was designated as the SECOND PARTY to which the TADECO has transferred and conveyed the agricultural portions of Hacienda Luisita and other farm-related properties in exchange for shares of stock of the farm workers. The agricultural lands in Hacienda Luisita which was covered by the MOA consisted of 4,915.75 hectares with an appraised value of P196,630 million or approximately P40,000 per hectare.

Based on the MOA the farmworkers supposedly owned 33.296% of the outstanding capital stock of the HLI, which was P355,531,462 or 355,531,462 shares at 1 peso per share before May 10, 1989. In the stock distribution plan 33.296% of capital stock or P118,391,976.85 or 118,391,976.85 shares will be distributed to farmworker beneficiaries within 30 years. Thus, the P118 million worth of shares of stocks would be distributed to the farm workers not as a “one-shot deal” but for a period of thirty years at 1/30 per year

As likewise provided on the MOA, the qualified beneficiaries of the stock distribution plan shall be the farmworkers who appear in the annual payroll, inclusive of the permanent and seasonal employees, who are regularly or periodically employed by the TADECO

Thus, the distribution of the farmworkers’ shares of stock is actually based on the number of hours of work or mandays in the hacienda. The mandays in turn, are based on the system of guaranteed mandays, wherein the management of the HLI allocates the number of mandays available for manual work. Moreover, if a farmworker will be dismissed from employment for any cause and therefore his name will not appear in the annual payroll, he will not receive any shares of stock for the year he was dismissed onwards. On the otherhand, a newly employed worker, although he is not a resident of the hacienda and should therefore not be beneficiary of the SDO, as his name appeared on the annual payroll, will receive such shares of stock on the basis of his mandays.

DISMISSAL OF FARMWORKERS AND LOW WAGES

In the year 2003, the daily wage for seasonal workers is P199.17 and for casuals, P194.50 which translates to a maximum of P1,327.80 and P1,296, respectively, per month based on 80 guaranteed mandays. After deductions for the loans and advance pays, the average take home pay is P18 for the seasonal, or P9 for the casual for a 2-manday week.

Aside from the diminishing mandays and horrendous and intolerable take home pay, the area of the land originally placed under SDO likewise diminished by Land Use Conversion (LUC).

As guaranteed mandays dwindle, massive lay-off of farm workers in sugar-coated forms like early retirement (replete with quit claim/waiver documents) or the more direct retrenchment become widespread.

THE LAND USE CONVERSION IN HACIENDA LUISITA

On August 15, 1995, HLI applied for conversion a 500 hectares land of the hacienda.

On September 1, 1995, the Sangguniang Bayan ng Tarlac reclassified 3,290 hectares of hacienda Luisita from agricultural to commercial, industrial and residential purposes.

On August 14, 1996, DAR approved the conversion of 500 hectares of the 3,290 hectares of reclassified Luisita land and has already been converted into the Luisita Industrial Park.

The 500 hectares were sold for over two billion pesos (P2,000,000,000.00) yet, the farmworkers were only given P37.5 million by treating the same as 3% of gross sale from the production. In this year of 2006, sixty six (66) hectares is converted to make way for infrastructure projects like the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

THE PETITIONS FOR THE REVOCATION OF THE SDO

On September 28, 2003 elections for farm workers’ and supervisors’ representatives to the HLI Board of Directors only 15.26% of the shares voted thereof. Around 95% of the farm workers boycotted the elections as a protest to the SDO and because the four board seats were useless against seven management seats.

On October 14, 2003, the Supervisory Group of Hacienda Luisita, Inc. filed petition before the DAR to revoke SDO, saying the HLI was not giving them dividends, their one percent (1%) share in gross sales and thirty percent (33%) share in the proceeds from the conversion of 500 hectares of land. They likewise cited other violations by the HLI of the MOA and that their lives have not improved contrary to the promise and the rationale for the adoption of the SDO.

On October 7, 2003, during the opening of the milling season, more than a thousand farmworkers gathered to protest the SDO, land-use conversion, joblessness at the hacienda.

On December 4, 2003, around 80% of the 5,339 farmworkers at the hacienda through their organization, AMBALA, filed a petition to DAR to nullify and rescind the SDO and to stop land-use conversion at the hacienda.

THE TASK FORCE LUISITA AND PRESIDENTIAL AGRARIAN REFORM COUNCIL (PARC).

On November 6, 2004, members of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) and members of the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) simultaneously staged a strike and blocked the mill’s Gate 1 and Gate 2. The strike arose from the deadlock in the negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between CATLU and HLI (HLI) and the illegal dismissal of 327 farm workers belonging to ULWU on October 1, 2004.

On November 16, 2004 a violent dispersal of striking workers leave seven (7) dead, scores were injured. This has been known as the infamous Hacienda Luisita Massacre.

On November 22, 2004, the DAR issued Special Order No. 789 which called for the strengthening of the Task Force Stock Distribution Option through the PARC Secretariat.

On Nov. 25, 2004, the DAR task force stock distribution, later renamed Task Force Luisita, convened for the first time to discuss the petitions by Luisita supervisors and farmworkers. Prior thereto, HLI filed with the DAR its answer to the petition/protest filed by the supervisory group of respondent Zuniga and Andaya.

On March 15, 2005, DAR deployed 10 teams to 10 barangays within the hacienda to conduct focus group discussions with 453 farmers concerning their understanding of SDO, the supposed benefits thereof, the home lots and other provisions of the agreement, their recommendations on the SDO, and to determine whether there is truth to the allegations of the farmworkers that they have been pushed deeper into the quagmire of poverty by the SDO and MOA.

THE DAR TERMINAL REPORT AND RESOLUTIONS OF PARC.

In July 2005, Task Force Luisita submitted its report on findings and recommendations to DAR Secretary Nasser C. Pangandaman especially as regards the investigation conducted on March 15, 2005.

In August 2005, Pangandaman created a special legal team to review the legal issues in the task force’s report.

On September 23, 2005, DAR special legal team submitted its terminal report on the two petitions, recommending the revocation of the 16-year-old SDO agreement in Hacienda Luisita.

On 23 December 2005, PARC issued Resolution No. 2005-32-01 which recalled/revoked the SDO plan of TADECO/HLI and placed the lands subject SDO plan under the compulsory coverage scheme of the CARP.

On January 3, 2006, HLI filed its motion for reconsideration of the said resolution.

PETITION FOR CERTIORARI AND TRO ISSUED BY SC

In February 2006, despite the pendency of the Motion for Reconsideration it has filed, HLI filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition against the PARC et al., before the Supreme Court.

Meantime, on May 3, 2006 PARC denied the motion for reconsideration of HLI.

In June 2006, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) which enjoins PARC and DAR to implement/execute the resolution revoking the SDO.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

In June of this year, HLI issued demand letters to the farmwokers to stop the cultivation of the hacienda. The farmworkers were give deadline until October 30, 2009. However, the farmworkers defied the demand and the deadline.

In October of this year, HLI again issued another letter to the farmworkers requiring the farmworkers to register with HLI. They were given until November 15, 2009. But, the farmworkers will again defy the order.

PROPOSED COURSE OF ACTION:

1. Filing of petition for indirect contempt against the members of the Board of HLI before the Supreme Court;

2. Filing of a motion with the Supreme Court for speedy resolution of the case and to recall the TRO.

3. Filing of a motion with the Office of the Ombudsman to resolve the multiple murders, multiple frustrated murders and multiple attempted murders filed against the military and civilian involved in the infamous Hacienda Luisita Massacre.

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Hacienda Luisita farmers defy Oct.30 deadline

By Roy Morilla, Jay Calaguing and Ms Gigi Babon

Manila, Philippines- The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines ) and farmworkers inside the 6,453 hectare sugar estate of Hacienda Luisita announced on Thursday that they will defy the October 30 deadline imposed by the management stopping farm workers from cultivating the lands.

The KMP and the Hacienda wide groups United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu) and Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said they beefing up their forces as they anticipate displacement measures of the Hacienda Luisita, Inc.

On call

“We are on-call starting today as October 30 nears. It is the deadline set by the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) on their letter to the agri-workers dated December 18, 2008 for them to leave the lands inside the hacienda. We believe that this letter is immoral, unjust and illegal as the case of Hacienda Luisita is at the Supreme Court, which means, they have no right to implement such order,” said KMP Secretary-General Danilo Ramos in a press conference today in Quezon City .

The letter signed by a certain Hernan M. Gregorio, Jr., claiming to be Assistant Estate Manager of HLI said that by the said deadline, farmers could have recover the costs they invested in cultivating the lands.

On the contrary, Ulwu and Ambala members have affirmed of no plans of discontinuing cultivation and said that the Cojuangcos’ only cling to the lands is a desperate Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court against the order of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) and Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) revocating the Stock Distribution Option (SDO).

“The only obvious measure that has come out of the Hacienda Luisita struggle is the immediate and free distribution of lands to the agri-workers, ” added Ramos.

Stock distribution option

Hacienda Luisita has been under SDO since the implementation of CARP in 1991 during President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino’ s regime which superficially classified the farmer-beneficiarie s as “stock-holders. ” History has shown that the Cojuangcos’ have no plans of distributing the lands to agri-workers instead they have commenced with the massive land use conversion (LUCs) that left only about 3,200 hectares of agricultural lands from the original 7,500 hectares in 1958.

The Cojuangcos have implemented LUCs without consultation to “co-owners” farmer-beneficiarie s, which led to the construction of Luisita Golf and Country Club, Las Haciendas Industrial Subdivision, Luisita Industrial Farm, Family Park Homes Subdivision, Don Pepe Cojuangco Subdivision, St. Luis Subdivision, a 500-hectare Central Techno Park and 66 hectare for Subic-Clark- Tarlac Expressway (Sctex).

“Stock Distribution Option (SDO) has been proven clearly to be useless for the agri-workers of Hacienda Luisita. It has caused poverty and misery, such as the daily take-home pay of P9.50. Thus, SDO and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) has been futile against the Cojuangcos’ landlord control of the lands,” said Ramos.

As massive LUCs reduced lands to be worked on by agri-workers, workload or man-days have been reduced and massive retrenchment and forced retirements have been implemented by HLI. As the economic well-being of the agri-workers are threatened by Cojuangcos’ management, they were compelled to launch a full-size strike on November 6, 2004 and followed the Hacienda Luisita massacre on November 16 which killed 7 striking agri-workers.

“There is no question the CARP which is now CARP Extension with `Reforms’ (Carper) has betrayed the agri-workers and veered away from genuine land reform. Thus, Hacienda Luisita agri-workers are calling for the immediate and free distribution of lands and the junking of Carper which we believe would be used by the Cojuangcos’ to displace agri-workers, ” said Ramos.

“The HLI letter was dated December 18 last year, which we believe prepared in anticipation of the passage of Carper, instead Congress passed the Joint Resolution No. 1. While Carper was signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on August 7, we believe that the Cojuangcos’ would revive coverage of the Hacienda Luisita lands to escape distribution, ” Ramos said.

Challenge to Noynoy

The group is also demanding Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to act decisively in favor of the agri-workers. Sen. Aquino has claimed that he has only 1/32 control of the HLI and hinted that his family would “leave” the hacienda.

“As of now, we are still waiting for Sen. Aquino to do the right thing, which is to convince his family to distribute the lands to the legitimate owners, the agri-workers who developed it. As he is running for president, being indecisive and favoring his family’s vested interest are not of the qualities the Filipino people would want for a president, actually the people would hate that,” said Ramos.

KMP also reminded that there is still no justice for the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre. To date, the Cojuangcos were involved in two historical massacres killing Filipino peasants calling for genuine land reform, the first was the Mendiola Massacre on January 22, 1987 during President Aquino’s term.

“Sen. Aquino is facing a heavy roadblock on the issue of Hacienda Luisita, his inaction on the issue of land and justice would totally lead to his loss on the presidential elections. The issue of Hacienda Luisita would not wither away, he should act determined and for the interest of the poor peasants, actually the whole country even the world is on watch on the issue,” said Ramos.

Classic model

KMP with Ulwu, Ambala and Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) would be commemorating the anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre on November 16. They would be launching a series of action, set off by a protest action at the Jose Cojuangco and Sons Building in Makati on October 30, to oppose the issued deadline for the agri-workers.

This would be followed by another protest action in Mendiola on November 6, to call for the junking of Carper and condemn the Arroyo administration for inaction on the issue. On November 16, the group would join to the thousand-strong caravan headed for Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

“Hacienda Luisita is a classic model of landlessness in the country, also of the determined struggle of peasants for genuine land reform, thus, we are calling on all sectors to support the struggle of agri-workers. Social justice and fundamental reform in Hacienda Luisita would precede reforms in the country,” called Ramos.#

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