Tag Archives: SCTEX

Aquino told: Submit own corruption case to “truth body”

Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bombshell Moran and Trinity Biglang Awa

MANILA, Philippines- Staunch critics of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III on Saturday challenged the 50-year old bachelor president to allow the newly established Truth Commission to investigate not only corruption cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies, but also his own turf in connection with the controversial Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTex) road scandal.

In a press statement, the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the national goverment paid P 170 million for the construction of the interchange in Hacienda Luisita, and there was no closure about the previous expose on this highly irregular deal between the Arroyo government and the Cojuangco-Aquino who agreed on the deal.

“Why not include the SCTex road scandal in the list of high crimes of corruption that happened during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration? If this truth body is after truth, justice and accountability, then it should include the SCTex right of way scandal in the investigation. If President Aquino and former President Arroyo are accountable for flagship cases of corruption that happened from 2001 to 2009, then by all means, subject the two to the Truth Commission and have their grand day for condemnation before the Filipino public,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Truth Commission created through Aquino’s Executive Order No.1 was established to investigate ex-President Arroyo and her allies accountable for irregularities under her watch, including the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal.

President Aquino signed yesterday Executive Order No. 1 will “investigate reports of graft and corruption of such scale and magnitude that shock and offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of the people.”

The “independent collegial body” chaired by retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. will have four more commissioners. It has until Dec. 31, 2012, to complete its work, with formal hearings most likely to begin next year, according Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

De Lima said the hearings would be open to the public but that closed-door sessions would be conducted for “matters of national security or public safety,” including the safety of witnesses.

Justice secretary De Lima said EO No. 1 was crafted in such a way that it would be “broad enough” to include cases such as Arroyo’s purported manipulation of the 2004 presidential election.

In seeking closure to controversies that occurred from 2001 to 2009, President Aquino armed the truth commission with the power to subpoena respondents and documents.

The commission is empowered to “collect, receive, review and evaluate evidence related to or regarding the cases of large-scale corruption which it has chosen to investigate, and to this end, require any agency, official or employee of the executive branch, including government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), to produce documents, books, records, and other papers.”

The EO empowers the commission to “obtain information and documents from the Senate and the House of Representatives’ records of investigations conducted by committees,” as well as those from the “courts, including the Sandiganbayan and the Office of the Court Administrator,” in connection with corruption cases filed before them.

The commission can also “call upon any government investigative or prosecutorial agency such as the DOJ or any of the agencies under it, and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, for such assistance and cooperation as it may require in the discharge of its functions and duties.”

“If that is the case of this EO, then it can also summon the President or any members of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan to explain and bare all about the P 170 million SCTex scandal and how the family continues to control Luisita despite legal, political and moral basis for them to surrender their unlawful and immoral claim of the 6,453 hectare sugar estate,” said Pamalakaya’s Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader the Cojuangco-Aquino family received P 170 million but regular government procedure mandates the landowner should give the property to the government at zero cost.

Hicap said the government does not ordinarily pay private landowners for right-of-way properties in government projects because the private landowner presumably benefits from the construction of a national road.

The Pamalakaya official also noted that the Toll Regulatory Board, which processes applications for interchanges in major road projects, does not normally pay for the construction of interchanges in private lands.

“Because of the SCTex hocus pocus, the value of Hacienda Luisita per square meter increased from P 8 to P 1,000 per square meter. The SCTex scandal deserves another round of scrutiny and the Truth Commission can look into this issue, aside from those high crimes of corruption perpetrated by the ruling Arroyo clique in Malacanang from 2001 to 2009,” Pamalakaya said.

The cost of the interchange built inside the Hacienda Luisita complex was shouldered by the government and funded through a loan from the Japan Bank and International Corp. It is a flagship project of President Gloria Arroyo.

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA)-SCTEx project engineering chief retired general Eduardo Lena had explained that the government paid for the construction of the interchange because it was part of the original plan for SCTEx.

The hearing failed to directly link Senator Aquino to the allegedly irregular transaction. The BCDA had negotiated with Senator Aquino’s uncle, Pedro Cojuangco.#

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Palace asked: “Explain alleged conspiracy with Cojuangco-Aquino on SCTEx deal

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.#

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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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