by Kremlin Montenegro and Viva Regala-Alonzo
Manila, Philippines-Leftwing militants supporting the fight of striking farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita on Saturday asked Malacanang Palace to explain its role on the alleged overpricing of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) project.
In a joint statement, the fisherfolk alliance Pamalakaya and staunch ally Anakpawis party list said the sweetheart deal on SCTEx was done at the time President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former President Corazon Aquino were the best of friends in national politics.
Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente in a joint statement said at the time SCTEx project was conceived and approved, the Cojuangco-Aquino clan was still supportive of the Arroyo administration, and in fact endorsed Mrs. Arroyo over closest rival- the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. in May 2004 presidential elections.
“President Arroyo owes the public an honest-to-goodness explanation. Malacanang and the ruling patriarchs and matriarchs of Hacienda Luisita should tell the truth and nothing but the truth on this mother of road to perdition scandal in recent memory,” both leaders said.
Pamalakaya’s Hicap believed that the SCTEx project was a grand plan for money making. “Imagine the original price of SCTEx project was P 15.7 billion and shot up to P 32.8 billion. If this was not money making at its best, then what was it? Multiple insertion for multi-platinum crimes of corruption?”, said Hicap.
Hicap said the controversy involving the government purchase of the road right of way in Hacienda Luisita, involving 600-hectare sugar plantation owned by the Aquino-Cojuangco family should be investigated by both chambers of Congress, and should not be dismissed as mere political stunts in connection with the May 2010 polls were Senators Manuel Villar and Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III were leading presidential candidates.
“National interest and public trust are involved here,” said Pamalakaya.
Reports said SCTEx project was first conceived in 1999 at the cost of P15.7 billion. By 2007, the cost of the project more than doubled to P32.8 billion, with an additional supplemental loan of P6.7 billion made to cover price escalation, contingency and interest that further bloated the price.
The cost of the project ballooned to almost P39 billion [or] P419 million per kilometer of road. The government paid P83 million for the purchase of the road right of way and poured in another P170 million for the construction of a road interchange in the middle of the hacienda.
The government had agreed to buy 83 hectares of Luisita land at P100 per square meter, which he claimed was more than 10 times the zonal value of P6 to P8 per sq m for similar raw sugar lands in Concepcion and San Miguel, Tarlac.
Yesterday, some 10, 000 farmers and Manila-based activists who joined the 10-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan (National Journey of Toiling Masses for Land and Justice) today posed this question to presidential candidates, except Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III: “How do you solve a problem like Hacienda Luisita.”
Leading the 10-kilometer march from Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Mendiola to commemorate the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre, Lakbayan organizers Danilo Ramos, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis party list Reps. Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod in a joint statement said presidential candidates Sen. Manuel Villar (Nacionalista Party), Sen. Dick Gordon, Lakas-Kampi merger party bet Gilbert Teodoro, independent candidates JC de los Reyes and Nicanor Perlas and Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas are lawfully, politically and morally obliged to state their position on Hacienda Luisita.
“Senator Aquino believes Hacienda Luisita is God’s gift to Cojuangco-Aquino clan, and therefore only God can take it back from them. Does the rest of the pack of the presidential wannabes subscribe to this whimsical assertion of the Cojuangcos? ”, the Lakbayan leaders said in a joint statement.
Several farmers groups led by the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) said the Cojuangco-Aquino clan is relying on the strength of Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme to prevent the free land distribution of the 6,453 hectare sugar estate to some 8,000 farmer beneficiaries. ULWU acting president Lito Bais said the SDO which transformed farmworkers into nominal stockholders, also compelled Luisita workers to accept the P9.50 net pay daily.
KMP’s Ramos said the problems in Hacienda Luisita will not find a long lasting and just settlement under a Noynoy Aquino presidency, asserting that the 6,453-hectare sugar estate is the bread and butter and the source of economic and political power of the Cojuangco-Aquino for near century and the landed clan have been treating generations of farm workers as children of a lesser God.
“So the 64-dollar question mark remains—how these presidentiables except Noynoy solve a problem like Hacienda Luisita?” the KMP leader reiterated.#