Luisita Magsasaka


Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will

Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will

By STEPHANIE DYCHIU

01/22/2010 | 02:31 PM

//

This week the country commemorates the tragic shooting of protesting farmers on January 22, 1987, an incident better known as the Mendiola massacre. Along with the Hacienda Luisita massacre of November 16, 2004, these two incidents represent the darker side of the Aquino legacy.

The struggle between farmers and landowners of Hacienda Luisita is now being seen as the first real test of character of presidential candidate Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino, whose family has owned the land since 1958. Our research shows that the problem began when government lenders obliged the Cojuangcos to distribute the land to small farmers by1967, a deadline that came and went. Pressure for land reform on Luisita since then reached a bloody head in 2004 when seven protesters were killed near the gate of the sugar mill in what is now known as the Luisita massacre. This is the story of the hacienda and its farmers, an issue that is likely to haunt Aquino as he travels the campaign trail for the May 2010 elections. Part one is here,part three is here and part four is here.

Second of a series

“Hindi ka nag-iisa (You are not alone),” sing the ghosts of Luisita to Senator Noynoy Aquino. They won’t even leave his music video alone.

Noynoy Aquino’s Campaign Music Video (2009)

A little-known fact about the Hacienda Luisita controversy is the haunting resemblance of Senator Aquino’s “Hindi Ka Nag-Iisa” music video to a real-life, torch-lit march of Luisita’s workers amid the sugarcane fields at night days before the November 16, 2004 massacre.

Sa Ngalan ng Tubo documentary about Hacienda Luisita (video recorded November 2004) (Torch scenes from 1:17 – 1:29)




A better known fact, but in danger of being forgotten, is the series of salvagings that took place after the massacre to eliminate those who supported the workers’ cause, or had evidence supporting their case. Among those killed were one Senate witness, two Aglipayan priests, a union president, a city councilor, and two peasant group leaders.

What could be worth all the blood that has been spilled? And why is everyone looking at Senator Aquino?

The answer lies in another little-known fact—a contentious 30-year stock distribution scheme that was implemented in lieu of land distribution on his family’s plantation that seriously complicates the campaign theme “good vs. evil.”

The dark side of the Aquino legacy

Part Two of this series on Hacienda Luisita begins in 1989, the year the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) was introduced at the hacienda after the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) took effect in 1988.


Senator Noynoy Aquino’s mother, President Cory Cojuangco Aquino, was accused of including the SDO in her outline for CARP (Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order No. 229, July 22, 1987) so her family could once again avoid distributing Hacienda Luisita to farmers.


Part 1: Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future
See Part One for the history of the farmers’ claim in Hacienda Luisita.


(The SDO was a clause in CARP that allowed landowners to give farmers shares of stock in a corporation instead of land. It was abolished in the updated land reform law CARPER, or CARP with Extensions and Revisions, that was passed in August 2009.)

LAND ASSETS UNDERVALUED



The excluded areas caused the undervaluation of the farm workers’ share in HLI, explained Eduardo Tadem, member of the technical working group of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), in an October 20, 1989 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

(In the same report, Tadem said the PARC, which was chaired by President Cory Aquino, had ignored a study of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) showing Luisita’s farm workers could earn more with 0.78 hectares of land instead of stocks.)

The remaining 4,915.75 hectares that were submitted to CARP were “independently appraised by Asian Appraisal and the Securities and Exchange Commission” at P40,000 per hectare, according to an August 30, 1989 article in the Manila Bulletin written by the Aquino administration’s Solicitor General, Frank Chavez, to defend Luisita’s SDO.

The valuation of P40,000 per hectare represents an enormous difference from the valuation of about P500,000 per hectare and P219,000 per hectare respectively for the excluded 120.9 hectares of residential land and 265.7 hectares of land improvements that were retained by the Cojuangcos.

The SDO gravely damaged the potential of land reform to deliver social justice to scores of rural poor, whose votes had ironically been courted by President Aquino in 1986 by promising land reform.

Aquino’s abrogation left such a deep scar that even the New York Times, in its announcement of her passing on August 1, 2009, did not let it slip: “Born into one of the country’s wealthy land-owning families, the Cojuangcos of Tarlac, Mrs. Aquino did not lead the social revolution that some had hoped for. She failed to institute effective land reform or to address the country’s fundamental structural ailment, the oligarchic control of power and politics.”

Cojuangcos give stocks instead of land

In 1989, the Cojuangcos justified Luisita’s SDO by saying it was impractical to divide the hacienda’s 4,915.75 hectares of land among 6,296 farm workers, as this would result in less than one hectare each (0.78). A study by the private group Center for Research & Communication (now University of Asia & the Pacific) was cited to support this claim.

The claim was contradicted by a study of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), which stated that the farm workers could still earn more with 0.78 hectares of land each than stocks. But the NEDA study was ignored by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), according to Eduardo Tadem, a member of the technical working group of PARC who spoke out in an October 20, 1989 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The PARC was chaired by President Cory Aquino.

In 2005, after its investigation into the Luisita massacre, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) also debunked the claim that economies of scale justified Luisita’s SDO. The DAR said the issue of economies of scale could have been addressed under Section 29 of CARP, which states that workers’ cooperatives should be created in cases where dividing land was not feasible.

In the column of Domini Torrevillas in the Philippine Star last Jan. 19, however, Noynoy declared: “Neither I nor the farmers are satisfied with the government’s land reform program. We have seen in Hacienda Luisita that this does not work. Luisita, which was then called Tabacalera Land, used to be 12,000 hectares. The company voluntarily gave half or 6,000 hectares for the Land Tenure Act. That is why Luisita today is only an approximate 5,500 hectares. However, the people who were provided land ended up losing or selling their property. Most of them returned to their lives as Luisita workers.

“This shows that mere land distribution is not beneficial to farmers. We cannot just transfer land to a farmer and say, ‘I am done with you.’ We need to teach him until he becomes a manager, becomes the agriculture business planner, the cooperative member. We must help him find means to buy biological pest control, natural fertilizers, pesticides and farm implements.”


Farmers asked to vote on SDO

On May 9, 1989, Luisita’s farm workers were asked to choose between stocks or land in a referendum. The SDO won 92.9% of the vote. A second referendum and information campaign were held on October 14, 1989, and again the SDO won, this time by a 96.75% vote.

In his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, American development studies expert James Putzel expressed doubt that the farmers understood the choice that was presented to them. “The outcome of the vote was entirely predictable,” he wrote. “The balance of power in the country favored families like the Cojuangcos. The problem was not really that the farm workers were denied the right to choose . . . it was rather that [they] were denied an environment that would allow them to identify what their choices were.”

(Dr. James Putzel did extensive research on agrarian reform in the Philippines between the late 1980s to the early 1990s. He is currently a Professor of Development Studies at the London School of Economics.)


Even before the second referendum was held, Father Joaquin Bernas, the President of the Ateneo de Manila University and a member of the commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, pointed out the inconsistency of Luisita’s SDO with the Constitution in his June 27, 1989 column in the Manila Chronicle. “The [SDO] is a loophole because it does not support the Constitution’s desire that the right of farmers to become owners of the land they till should be promoted by government,” Bernas said.

UP Center of Law calls Luisita SDO illegal

A year after Father Bernas spoke out, the University of the Philippines Law Center also called Luisita’s SDO illegal in a paper it submitted to the Senate Committee on Agrarian Reform in June 1990. The paper questioned the morality, propriety, and constitutionality of a plan that allowed the landlord to retain controlling interest at the expense of farmer beneficiaries.

President Cory Aquino replied that the paper was just the opinion of one professor. But she said she would look into it.

The Department of Justice then issued a legal opinion affirming the constitutionality of the SDO, saying an act of the legislature, approved by the executive, was presumed valid within the limits of the Constitution unless nullified in court.

The legislature back then was dominated by landlords, including President Aquino’s brother, Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., the top decision-maker in Hacienda Luisita.

Cojuangco was “at the head of the landlord juggernaut” in Congress, according to a June 13, 1993 report of writer Antonio Ma. Nieva in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Justice who issued the legal opinion saying Luisita’s SDO was constitutional was Aquino stalwart Franklin Drilon.

Drilon is currently chairman of the Liberal Party, whose standard-bearer is Senator Noynoy Aquino.

Corporation formed before vote

In his book A Captive Land, Putzel also noted that Hacienda Luisita, Inc (HLI), the company formed by the Cojuangcos to operationalize Luisita’s SDO, was incorporated in August 1988—nine months before the farm workers were first asked to choose between stocks or land in May 1989.


This bred suspicion that the SDO was considered a done deal early on, and the two rounds of voting with the farmers were only organized to give an appearance of transparency.

Aquino appointees in charge of DAR

Adding to the cloud of doubt was President Aquino’s perceived influence over the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) because she had the power to appoint the department’s head.
The Agrarian Reform Secretary who oversaw the farmers’ vote in Luisita in May 1989 was Philip Juico, the husband of Margie Juico, a close friend of President Aquino who also served as her Appointments Secretary.

In July 1989, Aquino replaced Phillip Juico with “graft buster” Miriam Defensor-Santiago after Juico’s name was dragged into the Garchitorena land scam.


The Garchitorena land scam
The implementation of CARP during the term of President Cory Aquino was rocked by a number of scandals, one of them the Garchitorena land scam. See how the land scam was linked to President Aquino.


Very early into her role, Santiago, a former judge, told the media that there were “serious flaws in the law against which I am powerless” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 21, 1989). Santiago ended up giving Luisita’s SDO the go-signal in November 1989.

Two months later, Aquino replaced Santiago. Many years later, Santiago said Aquino removed her because of something she said about Luisita.


In Santiago’s place, Aquino appointed Florencio “Butch” Abad. Abad lasted only three months because the Commission on Appointments repeatedly refused to confirm his appointment.
Abad is currently the campaign manager of Senator Noynoy Aquino.

Cojuangcos assume majority control

In 1989, the farm workers’ ownership of Hacienda Luisita was pegged at 33%, while 67% was retained by the Cojuangcos.


How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita
When the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was implemented in Luisita in 1989, the farm workers’ ownership of the hacienda was pegged at 33%, while 67% was retained by the Cojuangcos. See how the Cojuangcos were able to gain control of the corporation.


Luisita’s SDO agreement spelled out a 30-year schedule for transferring stock to the farm workers:

“At the end of each fiscal year, for a period of 30 years, the SECOND PARTY (HLI) shall arrange with the FIRST PARTY (TADECO) the acquisition and distribution to the THIRD PARTY (farm workers) on the basis of number of days worked and at no cost to them of one-thirtieth (1/30) of 118,391,976.85 shares of the capital stock of the SECOND PARTY (HLI) that are presently owned and held by the FIRST PARTY (TADECO), until such time as the entire block of 118,391,976.85 shares shall have been completely acquired and distributed to the THIRD PARTY (farm workers).”

The impact of this provision was far-reaching.


Stocks not transferred to farmers

The stocks representing the farm workers’ full 33% share were not transferred to them in 1989, but were spread over “a period of 30 years” with only “one-thirtieth (1/30)” released every year. At this rate, it would take until 2019 for the farm-worker beneficiaries to receive their complete set of stocks. While their shares remained undistributed, these were “owned and held” by the Cojuangco company TADECO (Tarlac Development Corporation).

Thus, the common belief that 33% of Hacienda Luisita has been owned by farm workers since CARP was implemented in 1989 is not entirely accurate, because the full transfer of stocks did not happen in 1989.

Farmers asked to work for “free” stocks

The farm workers also had to continuously render labor to receive shares, because distribution was based “on the number of days worked”. If a worker quit or if management fired him, he no longer got the undistributed portion of his shares. If management cut work days, distribution of shares was also affected.

Complicating things further was a separate provision that set the annual payroll as the basis for deciding who could get shares at the end of each year. As names on the payroll changed every year when workers left or joined the company, the list of shareholders grew longer and longer, diluting the entitlement of the original beneficiaries. In 1989, there were 6,296 farm-worker beneficiaries in Luisita. By 2005, there were 11,955 names on the HLI stockholder list. Not all of the 11,955 remained employed with HLI, or were part of the original 6,296 beneficiaries.

NOYNOY DEFENDS COJUANGCOS




“The hacienda tenants voluntarily agreed to give up land distribution for shares of stock of the corporation”, and have enjoyed the fruits of their “wise decision”.
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 25, 2007)

“The only reason we got [into Luisita] to begin with was the people asked for us, or we were acceptable to them. There was a labor problem sometime in the 1950s, when I wasn’t still around.”
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 13, 2009)

On the farmers’ plea to have Luisita’s SDO contract revoked so land can be distributed: “The Constitution talks of inviolability of contracts.”
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 10, 2009)

“We want to leave only when we have formulated the plan on how they could pay the debts of the corporate farm. When that has been cleared, then we could bid goodbye [to Luisita management].”
(Manila Times, November 13, 2009)

“The problems descending a sunset industry like the sugar industry were exploited by quarters outside the hacienda. The net result is that the people who had jobs from 1958-2004 have lost their jobs.”
(Statement emailed to GMANews.TV on December 7, 2009)

“We are working for the restoration of jobs. Those who are forcing us to speak on this matter are not after the welfare of my former constituents, but to advance their propaganda aims.”
(Statement emailed to GMANews.TV on December 7, 2009)

Stock distribution suddenly accelerated

After the November 2004 massacre and subsequent investigation by the DAR, HLI announced on June 9, 2005 that it had given out all undistributed stocks “in one supreme act of good faith,” about 15 years ahead of the 30-year schedule.

It is believed this was done because the 30-year distribution period was a loophole. Way back in 1995, Dr. Jeffrey M. Riedinger, currently Dean of International Studies at Michigan State University, already said the 30-year distribution period seemed “without basis in the law” in his book Agrarian Reform in the Philippines: Democratic Transitions and Redistributive Reform.

(Section 11 of DAR Administrative Order No. 10, Series of 1988 states that stocks should be transferred to beneficiaries within 60 days after the SDO is implemented. HLI had not yet been issued a Certificate of Compliance by the DAR since 1989 because the full transfer of stocks had not happened.)

Like Father Bernas in 1989 and the UP Center of Law in 1990, Riedinger also said the SDO “appears to violate the constitutional mandate that ownership of agricultural lands be redistributed to the regular farm workers cultivating them.”

3% production share and home lots

Under the SDO, Luisita’s farm workers were entitled to two new perks: they were allotted a 3% share in the gross production output of the hacienda, and some were given home lots inside the plantation. The farm workers make clear, however, that these were mandated by law under Section 30 and Section 32 of CARP, not voluntary acts of generosity of the Cojuangcos.

The 3% production share never went beyond P1,120 per farm worker per year. The titles of the home lots also have problems, which this report will not get into now.

About 5 years after the SDO was implemented, management began to claim that HLI was losing money. The farm workers’ wages plateaued and their work days were cut.

Meanwhile, a mall and industrial park were sprouting on the portion of the hacienda closest to McArthur Highway. Losing money but building a mall? the farmers brooded. Something was up.

Conversion—the real plan

On September 1, 1995, the Sangguniang Bayan of Tarlac passed a resolution reclassifying 3,290 out of Luisita’s 4,915 hectares from agricultural to commercial, industrial, and residential. The governor of Tarlac province at that time was Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, wife of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr. Out of the 3,290 reclassified hectares, 500 were approved for conversion by the DAR.

As land was being converted, the area left for farming grew smaller and smaller. More work days were cut, and wages were practically frozen. Mechanization also reduced the need for manual labor.


Then, a master plan commissioned in 1998 by the Luisita Realty Corporation, a subsidiary of Jose Cojuangco and Sons, was unearthed. It showed the company’s long-term intention to convert the hacienda into a business and residential hub, with no areas left for agriculture. (That land use plan from 1998 already contained the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway or SCTEx, which was completed in 2007, and is now the subject of allegations in Congress against Senator Noynoy Aquino and his family, instigated by his electoral rivals.)

The farm workers began to fear for their jobs, without any assurances of receiving their 33% equity share in the sale of the converted land.

Mass retrenchment

By 2003, the farm workers’ daily wage was down to P194.50 (P9.50 after deductions for salary loans and other items), and work days were down to 1 per week.

They finally saw the futility of having four board seats against management’s seven (the SDO agreement allotted 4 board seats to the farm workers ahead of the 30-year waiting period for their stocks). They were always going to be outvoted. They also feared that their board representatives could easily be manipulated because they were not as well-versed as management in corporate matters.

The SDO had to go, they concluded.

The union leaders scrabbled together a petition to revoke the SDO and stop land conversion in Luisita. It was signed by 5,339 farm workers and filed at the Department of Agrarian Reform on December 4, 2003. In July 2004, the union tried to negotiate a wage increase to P225 per day. They also asked for an increase in work days to 2-3 days per week. Management said no, saying the company was losing money.

Management then issued notices retrenching 327 farm workers effective October 1, 2004. A month later came the workers’ strike, then the massacre.

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART THREE



Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future

Source:

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/181877/hacienda-luisitas-past-haunts-noynoys-future

Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future

By STEPHANIE DYCHIU

01/18/2010 | 06:20 PM

//

This week the country commemorates the tragic shooting of protesting farmers on January 22, 1987, an incident better known as the Mendiola massacre. Along with the Hacienda Luisita massacre of November 16, 2004, these two incidents represent the darker side of the Aquino legacy.

The struggle between farmers and landowners of Hacienda Luisita is now being seen as the first real test of character of presidential candidate Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino, whose family has owned the land since 1958. Our research shows that the problem began when government lenders obliged the Cojuangcos to distribute the land to small farmers by1967, a deadline that came and went. Pressure for land reform on Luisita since then reached a bloody head in 2004 when seven protesters were killed near the gate of the sugar mill in what is now known as the Luisita massacre. This is the story of the hacienda and its farmers, an issue that is likely to haunt Aquino as he travels the campaign trail for the May 2010 elections. Below is part one. Part two is here, part three here and part four here.

First of a series

Senator Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino has said he only owns 1% of Hacienda Luisita. Why is he being dragged into the hacienda’s issues?

This is one of the most common questions asked in the 2010 elections.

To find the answer, GMANews.TV traveled to Tarlac and spoke to Luisita’s farm workers and union leaders. A separate interview and review of court documents was then conducted with the lawyers representing the workers’ union in court. GMANews.TV also examined the Cojuangcos’ court defense and past media and legislative records on the Luisita issue.

The investigation yielded illuminating insights into Senator Noynoy Aquino’s involvement in Hacienda Luisita that have not been openly discussed since his presidential bid. Details are gradually explored in this series of special reports.

A background on the troubled history of Hacienda Luisita is essential to understanding why the issue is forever haunting Senator Noynoy Aquino and his family.

Remnant of colonialism

Before the Cojuangco family acquired Hacienda Luisita in the 1950s, it belonged to the Spanish-owned Compaña General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera). Tabacalera acquired the land in 1882 from the Spanish crown, which had a self-appointed claim on the lands as the Philippines’ colonial master. Luisita was named after Luisa, the wife of the top official of Tabacalera.

Tobacco used to be the main crop planted in Luisita, but in the 1920s, the Spaniards shifted to sugar. Sugar production had become more profitable because demand was guaranteed by the US quota. In 1927, the Spaniards built the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac to accompany their sugarcane plantation.

Around the same year, the wealthy Cojuangco brothers Jose, Juan, Antonio, and Eduardo also put up a small sugar mill in Paniqui, Tarlac. The eldest brother, Jose “Pepe” Cojuangco, Sr., was the father of former President Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco Aquino, and the grandfather of Senator Noynoy Aquino.

Ninoy brokers purchase of Luisita

In 1954, Corazon Cojuangco married Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. with President Ramon Magsaysay as one of the ninongs (sponsor) at the wedding. In 1957, Magsaysay talked to Ninoy Aquino about the possibility of Ninoy’s father-in-law, Jose Cojuangco, Sr. acquiring Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Hacienda Luisita from the Spaniards. The Spaniards wanted to sell because of the Huk rebellion and chronic labor problems.

Ninoy Aquino wanted the azucarera and hacienda to stay only within the immediate family of his father-in-law, not to be shared with the other Cojuangcos, wrote American development studies expert James Putzel in his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines.

(Dr. James Putzel did extensive research on agrarian reform in the Philippines between the late 1980s to the early 1990s. He is currently a Professor of Development Studies at the London School of Economics.)

The exclusion of Jose Cojuangco, Sr.’s brothers and their heirs from Luisita caused the first major rift in the Cojuangco family, Putzel wrote. This played out years later in the political rivalry of Jose’s son Peping and Eduardo’s son Danding. Today, this divide is seen between Noynoy Aquino (grandson of Jose Sr., nephew of Peping) and Gibo Teodoro (grandson of Eduardo Sr., nephew of Danding), who are both running in the 2010 presidential elections.


(Click here to view the the Cojuangco family tree)
Government loans given to Cojuangco

Jose Cojuangco, Sr. received significant preferential treatment and assistance from the government to facilitate his takeover of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac in 1957.

To acquire a controlling interest in Central Azucarera de Tarlac, Cojuangco had to pay the Spaniards in dollars. He turned to the Manufacturer’s Trust Company in New York for a 10-year, $2.1 million loan. Dollars were tightly regulated in those times. To ease the flow of foreign exchange for Cojuangco’s loan, the Central Bank of the Philippines deposited part of the country’s international reserves with the Manufacturer’s Trust Company in New York.

LAND REFORM AND SOCIAL JUSTICE



When Spain colonized the Philippines by force beginning 1521, its lands were claimed by the conquistadors in the name of Spain. The natives who were already there tilling the land were put under Spanish landlords, who were given royal grants to “own” the land and exact forced labor and taxes from the natives. After the Spaniards left, the Americans took over. When the Philippines became independent in 1946, history had to be set right by giving the lands back to the people whose ancestors have been tilling them for centuries. However, a new feudal system developed among the Filipinos themselves, and once again drove a wedge between the tillers and their land.

The Central Bank did this on the condition that Cojuangco would simultaneously purchase the 6,443-hectare Hacienda Luisita, “with a view to distributing this hacienda to small farmers in line with the Administration’s social justice program.” (Central Bank Monetary Board Resolution No. 1240, August 27, 1957).

To finance the purchase of Hacienda Luisita, Cojuangco turned to the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System). His application for a P7 million loan said that 4,000 hectares of the hacienda would be made available to bonafide sugar planters, while the balance 2,453 hectares would be distributed to barrio residents who will pay for them on installment.

The GSIS approved a P5.9 million loan, on the condition that Hacienda Luisita would be “subdivided among the tenants who shall pay the cost thereof under reasonable terms and conditions”. (GSIS Resolution No. 1085, May 7, 1957; GSIS Resolution No. 3202, November 25, 1957)

Later, Jose Cojuangco, Sr. requested that the phrase be amended to “. . . shall be sold at cost to tenants, should there be any” (GSIS Resolution No. 356, February 5, 1958). This phrase would be cited later on as justification not to distribute the hacienda’s land.

On April 8, 1958, Jose Cojuangco, Sr.’s company, the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), became the new owner of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac. Ninoy Aquino was appointed the hacienda’s first administrator.

In his book, Putzel noted that the Central Bank Monetary Board resolution from 1957 required distribution of Hacienda Luisita’s land to small farmers within 10 years. The controversies that would hound the hacienda for decades can be traced to the Cojuangcos’ efforts to retain control of the land long after the deadline for land distribution passed in 1967.

Land not distributed to farmers

“Ang pagkakaintindi ng mga ninuno naming manggagawang-bukid ng Hacienda Luisita noon, within 10 years, babayaran na [ng mga Cojuangco] ang utang nila sa gubyerno. Pagdating ng 1967, ang lupa ay sa magsasaka na (The way our elders, the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita, understood things at that time, within 10 years, the Cojuangcos were going to pay back the money they borrowed from the government. By 1967, the land would belong to the farmers),” says Lito Bais, one of the present-day leaders of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU). Bais was born on the hacienda in 1957, the year before the Cojuangco family took over. His mother was also born on the hacienda.

When 1967 came and went with no land distribution taking place, the farm workers began to organize themselves to uphold their cause. That year, Ninoy Aquino also became the Philippines’ youngest senator. His entry into national politics marked the start of his bitter rivalry with President Ferdinand Marcos.

After Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, his most voluble critic Aquino, who was planning to run for President, was one of the first people arrested.

Government files case vs. Cojuangcos

The Cojuangcos’ disputed hold over Hacienda Luisita had been tolerated by Marcos even at the height of his dictatorship. However, as Ninoy Aquino and his family were leaving for exile in the US, a case was filed on May 7, 1980 by the Marcos government against the Cojuangco company TADECO for the surrender of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, so land could be distributed to the farmers at cost, in accordance with the terms of the government loans given in 1957-1958 to the late Jose Cojuangco, Sr., who died in 1976. (Republic of the Philippines vs. TADECO, Civil Case No. 131654, Manila Regional Trial Court, Branch XLIII)

The Marcos government filed this case after written follow-ups sent to the Cojuangcos over a period of eleven years did not result in land distribution. (The Cojuangcos always replied that the loan terms were unenforceable because there were no tenants on the hacienda.) The government’s first follow-up letter was written by Conrado Estrella of the Land Authority on March 2, 1967. Another letter was written by Central Bank Governor Gregorio Licaros on May 5, 1977. Another letter was written by Agrarian Reform Deputy Minister Ernesto Valdez on May 23, 1978.

The government’s lawsuit was portrayed by the anti-Marcos bloc as an act of harassment against Ninoy Aquino’s family. Inside Hacienda Luisita, however, the farmers thought the wheels of justice were finally turning and land distribution was coming.

Cojuangcos claim hacienda has no tenants

In their January 10, 1981 response to the government’s complaint, the Cojuangcos again said that the Central Bank and GSIS resolutions were unenforceable because there were no tenants on Hacienda Luisita.

“Inilaban ni Doña Metring, yung nanay nila Cory, na wala raw silang inabutan na tao [sa hacienda], kaya wala raw benipesyaryo, kaya ang lupang ito ay sa kanila (Doña Metring, the mother of Cory, said there were no tenants in the hacienda when they took over, therefore there were no beneficiaries, therefore the land belonged to them),” recalls Bais. “E, tignan mo naman ang lupang ito. Paano mapapatag ang lupang ito? Paano makapag-tanim kung walang taong inabutan? (But look at this land. How else could this land have been tamed? How could it have been cultivated if there were no people here when they took over?)”

(The distinction between a tenant farmer and seasonal farmers hired from outside was key to the Cojuangcos’ defense. A tenant farmer is one who is in possession of the land being tilled. In his book A Captive Land, James Putzel noted that the Central Bank resolution mentioned distribution not to tenants but to “small farmers.” Raising the issue of tenancy thus seemed ineffective in the defense.)

The Cojuangcos also said in their January 10, 1981 response that there was no agrarian unrest in Luisita, and existing Marcos land reform legislation exempted sugar lands. Further, they asserted that the government’s claim on Luisita had already expired since no litigation was undertaken since 1967.

Court orders Cojuangcos to surrender Luisita

In the meantime, vague rumors of a planned conversion of the hacienda into a residential subdivision or airport, or both, cropped up among the farm workers, causing anxiety that they would be left with no land to till. (This was likely due to the decline of the sugar industry in the Philippines after the US quota ended in the 1970s. Conversion became a buzzword among big landowners all over the country. The Cojuangcos formed Luisita Realty Corporation in 1977 as a first step to turning the hacienda into a residential and industrial complex.)

The government pursued its case against the Cojuangcos, and by December 2, 1985, the Manila Regional Trial Court ordered TADECO to surrender Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. According to Putzel, this decision was rendered with unusual speed and was decried by the Cojuangcos as another act of harassment, because Cory Aquino, now a widow after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, was set to run for President against Marcos in the February 7, 1986 snap elections. The Cojuangcos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals (Court of Appeals G.R. 08634).

Cory promises to give “land to the tiller”

Cory Aquino officially announced her candidacy on December 3, 1985. Land reform was one of the pillars of her campaign.

A farmer GMANews.TV spoke to said they were told by Cojuangco family members managing the hacienda during this time that if Cory became president, Hacienda Luisita would once and for all be distributed to the farmers through her land reform program. He said this promise was made to motivate them to vote for Cory and join the jeepney-loads of people being sent to Manila from Tarlac to attend her rallies.

On January 6, 1986, Aquino delivered the first policy speech of her campaign in Makati and said, “We are determined to implement a genuine land reform program . . . to enable [beneficiaries] to become self-reliant and prosperous farmers.”

Ten days later, on January 16, 1986, Aquino delivered her second major speech in Davao and said, “Land-to-the-tiller must become a reality, instead of an empty slogan.”

In the same speech, Aquino also said, “You will probably ask me: Will I also apply it to my family’s Hacienda Luisita? My answer is yes.”

This campaign promise would haunt her for many years to come. To this day, it haunts her son.

Marcos flees, Aquino dissolves Constitution

The snap elections took place on February 7, 1986. Marcos was declared winner, but was ousted by the People Power revolution. Cory Aquino was sworn in as President on February 25, 1986. She named her running mate Salvador “Doy” Laurel Prime Minister through Presidential Proclamation No. 1.

A month later, Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation No. 3 declaring a revolutionary government and dissolving the 1973 Constitution. This nullified Laurel’s position as Prime Minister, and abolished the Batasang Pambansa (Parliament). Aquino announced that a new Constitution was going to be formed. Legislative powers were to reside with the President until elections were held.

To critics, Aquino’s abandonment of Laurel and her taking of legislative power were early signs that a web of advisers was influencing her decisions. The sway of these advisers would be felt later in the choices Aquino would make regarding Hacienda Luisita.

Juan Ponce Enrile’s link to Hacienda Luisita

On September 16, 1987, Laurel formally broke ties with Aquino. The New York Times reported that Laurel had confronted Aquino about her promise in 1985 to let him run the government as Prime Minister after Marcos was ousted, because she had no experience. This was the reason Laurel agreed to shelve his own plan to run for President and put his party’s resources behind Aquino during the snap elections. “I believed you,” the New York Times quoted Laurel saying he told Mrs. Aquino. Aquino just listened without response, Laurel said.

Laurel found an ally in Juan Ponce Enrile, another disenchanted EDSA veteran who now opposed Aquino.

Enrile also happened to be the lawyer of Tabacalera when Hacienda Luisita was taken over by the Cojuangcos in 1957. He was retained by the Cojuangcos after the sale. Enrile’s inside knowledge of the controversial transaction would be a big thorn in the side of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.

Mendiola, a portent of the Luisita massacre

On January 22, 1987, eleven months into the Aquino administration, the Mendiola massacre happened. Thousands of frustrated farmers marched to Malacañang demanding fulfillment of the promises made regarding land reform during the Aquino campaign, and distribution of lands at no cost to beneficiaries. At least a dozen protesters were killed in the violent dispersal. More were seriously injured.


In a protest march for land reform in January 1987, 13 protesters were killed near Malacañang in what has gone down in history as the Mendiola Massacre, a low point in the administration of former President Corazon C. Aquino. Photo by Mon Acasio

Under pressure after the bloodshed in Mendiola, Aquino fast-tracked the passage of the land reform law. The new 1987 Constitution took effect on February 11, 1987, and on July 22, 1987, Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order No. 229 outlining her land reform program. She expanded its coverage to include sugar and coconut lands.

Her outline also included a provision for the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a mode of complying with the land reform law that did not require actual transfer of land to the tiller.

(Aquino’s July 22, 1987 “midnight decree”, as Juan Ponce Enrile called it back then, raised eyebrows because it was issued just days before the legislative powers Aquino took in 1986 were going to revert back to Congress on July 28, 1987, the first regular session of the new Congress after the May 1987 elections. The timing insured the passage of the SDO.)

LAND REFORM AND SDO



Why is land reform a big issue in the Philippines?

Land reform is linked to social justice. When Spain colonized the Philippines by force beginning 1521, its lands were claimed by the conquistadors in the name of Spain. The natives who were already there tilling the land were put under Spanish landlords, who were given royal grants to “own” the land and exact forced labor and taxes from the natives. After the Spaniards left, the Americans took over. When the Philippines became independent in 1946, history had to be set right by giving the lands back to the people whose ancestors have been tilling them for centuries. However, a new feudal system developed among the Filipinos themselves, and once again drove a wedge between the tillers and their land.

What is the SDO (Stock Distribution Option)?

The Stock Distribution Option (SDO) was a clause in the 1988 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that allowed landowners to give farmers shares of stock in a corporation instead of land. The landlords then arranged to own majority share in the corporations, to stay in control. This went against the spirit of land reform, which is to give “land to the tiller”. The SDO was abolished in the updated land reform law CARPER (CARP with Extensions and Revisions) that was passed in August 2009.

Cory withdraws case vs. Cojuangcos

On May 18, 1988, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case filed in 1980 by the Philippine government—under Marcos—against the Cojuangco company TADECO to compel the handover of Hacienda Luisita. It was the Philippine government itself—under Aquino—that filed the motion to dismiss its own case against TADECO, saying the lands of Hacienda Luisita were going to be distributed anyway through the new agrarian reform law.

The Department of Agrarian Reform and the GSIS, now headed by Aquino appointees Philip Juico and Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte respectively, posed no objection to the motion to dismiss the case. The motion to dismiss was filed by Solicitor General Frank Chavez, also an Aquino appointee. The Central Bank, headed by Marcos appointee Jose B. Fernandez, said it would have no objection if, as determined by the Department of Agrarian Reform, the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to small farmers would be achieved under the comprehensive agrarian reform program.

Stage is set for “SDO”

A month after the case was dismissed, on June 10, 1988, Aquino signed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Soon after, Hacienda Luisita was put under the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) that Aquino included in the law. Through the SDO, landlords could comply with the land reform law without giving land to farmers.

On June 8, 1989, Juan Ponce Enrile, now Minority Floor Leader at the Senate, delivered a privilege speech questioning Aquino’s insertion of the SDO in her outline for the land reform law, and the power she gave herself through Executive Order No. 229 to preside over the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), the body that would approve stock distribution programs, including the one for Hacienda Luisita.

Enrile also questioned the Aquino administration’s withdrawal of the government’s case compelling land distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmers. All these, Enrile said, were indications that the Cojuangcos had taken advantage of the powers of the presidency to circumvent land reform and stay in control of Hacienda Luisita.

Aquino’s sidestepping of land reform would stoke the embers of conflict in Luisita, climaxing in the November 16, 2004 massacre of workers fifteen years later.



After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest

After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest

By STEPHANIE DYCHIU

02/11/2010 | 02:51 PM

//

Fourth of a series

(Part 4 of this special report on Hacienda Luisita begins in December 2004, the month after the Luisita massacre. Recognizing that Luisita will be a major campaign issue this year and has divided even presidential candidate Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s own allies, GMANews.TV has been researching the issues surrounding the Cojuangco-owned hacienda for the past three months. Editor-in-chief Howie Severino has been working closely with the author in producing this report.)

The massacre did not put an end to the workers’ protest. Nor did it put an end to the violence.

After the wake for the victims, the picket lines were reestablished at various points around the hacienda. Soon after, however, eight people who supported the farmers’ cause or had evidence supporting their case were murdered one by one.

The killings began on the night of December 8, 2004, when Marcelino Beltran, a retired army officer turned peasant leader who was about to testify on bullet trajectories at the Senate and Congress on December 13 and 14, 2004, was assassinated in his house. Beltran’s 18-year-old son Mark said in a December 10, 2004 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer that his father stepped out of the house to see why the dog was barking. Mark said he heard his father call out “Who’s there?” but there was no answer. Seconds later, he heard gunshots.

Beltran was rushed to the hospital by family members in a tricycle, but he bled to death along the way. Beltran was home on the day he was killed spending his birthday in advance with his family, because he was set to join a march on December 10, Human Rights Day, the actual date of his birthday.

Noynoy escorts tagged in shooting

Less than a month later, on January 5, 2005, picketers George Loveland and Ernesto Ramos were shot at the west gate of Las Haciendas subdivision inside Hacienda Luisita, where they were manning a checkpoint. Both survived, but suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and stomach.

In his sworn testimony on January 12, 2005 at the Senate hearing on the shooting, Loveland said he recognized his assailants as plainclothes security men who were with then-Congressman Noynoy Aquino’s convoy when Aquino entered Las Haciendas subdivision three days before (January 2, 2005).

Something else Loveland said in his testimony seemed immaterial at that time, but is worth noting now in light of the SCTEx (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway) issue hounding Senator Aquino.

Noynoy ‘s “superhighway”

Before entering Las Haciendas on January 2, 2005, Loveland said, Aquino alighted from his vehicle and addressed the picketers about a “superhighway”.

Loveland’s account of what Aquino said is in the transcript of the Senate hearing.


LOVELAND: Sinasabi niya po yung hinihingi daw po niyang pabor yung sa superhighway na hinihingi niya . . . (He was talking about a favor for the superhighway that he was asking for . . .)

SENATOR OSMEÑA: Ano tungkol sa superhighway (What about the superhighway)?

LOVELAND: Project niya daw po, sir . . . (He said it was his project . . . )

OSMEÑA: Ano ang hiningi ni Congressman Aquino (What did Congressman Aquino ask for)?

LOVELAND: Yung ipatupad, sir, yung kuwan expressway, sir (To let it happen, sir, the expressway, sir).

OSMEÑA: Yung galing sa Subic at Clark (The one from Subic and Clark)?

Long before the rest of the country had even heard of SCTex, the farm workers back then were protesting the construction of the Luisita interchange of the highway, and had even tried blocking it with their bodies. The construction led to the loss of a large tract of the hacienda’s land, which the farm workers were claiming, to non-agricultural use.

In his testimony, Loveland said one of the men who were with Aquino went up to him and said the picketers should agree to a settlement. He warned them to be careful, then entered the subdivision.

Three days later, Loveland said, the man and some companions figured in an altercation with the picketers and opened fire on them at the gate.


The January 5, 2005 Shooting at the West Gate of Las Haciendas Subdivision

On January 5, 2005 (or nearly two months after the Luisita massacre), some 20 picketers were manning the picket point at the west gate of Las Haciendas subdivision inside Hacienda Luisita.

According to Police Chief Superintendent Angelo Sunglao of the Tarlac City PNP, at about 10:40 pm, a Nissan Patrol drove up to the gate from inside the subdivision, and an altercation ensued between the picketers and the men on board the vehicle. Continue reading

Sen. Aquino declined through his staff to be interviewed. Questions sent to him about the above incident went unanswered. But GMANews.TV combed the web and newspaper archives for any statements he made about the incidents in this series of reports. His staff also emailed to GMANews.TV several statements of Sen. Aquino on other Luisita-related issues. These statements were included below and other parts of the series.

Noynoy denies link to SCTEx project

In November 2009, an investigation into the SCTEx project was launched in Congress by Aquino’s political rivals. Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla, an ally of Senator Manny Villar, accused Aquino of lobbying for the Luisita interchange of the SCTEx, saying the government paid Hacienda Luisita, Inc (HLI) an inflated amount of P83 million for the road right of way, and assumed the cost of building a P170-million interchange to connect the Central Techno Park inside his family’s hacienda to the SCTEx.


The SCTEX Issue

The 94-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) is presently the longest highway in the Philippines. It connects the Subic Bay Freeport, the Clark Freeport, and Tarlac City.

The Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) was the government arm that oversaw the implementation of the project. According to the BCDA, 85% of the P27 billion cost to build the SCTEx was financed through funds borrowed by the government from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). Continue reading

In a November 12, 2009 report of GMANews.TV, Aquino denied he had anything to do with the project. He attributed the reports linking him to the SCTEx issue to character assassination because he was leading surveys for the presidential elections.

Loveland’s statements about Aquino and the superhighway, however, were recorded five years ago, before anyone had an inkling Aquino would run for president.

City councilor murdered

On March 3, 2005, Councilor Abel Ladera, the man who led the mourners’ procession during the wake for the massacre victims, was killed in broad daylight by a sniper bullet to the chest while buying spare parts at an auto shop.

Ladera was a former sugar mill worker who grew up in one of the barangays of Hacienda Luisita. He became an engineer, then a city councilor. Ladera was at the forefront of the fight against land conversion.

He was also scheduled to make a presentation on March 8, 2005 to an assembly of barangay captains to disprove the claim of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that the violent dispersal on November 16, 2004 occurred because shots were fired from the ranks of the strikers.

The day before he was killed, March 2, 2005, Ladera accessed critical documents regarding Luisita’s Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and Land Use Conversion Plan from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The documents were sealed from the public, but Ladera was able to access them because he was a government official.

In its March 4, 2005 report on the shooting of Ladera, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said Ladera told the paper in an interview a few days before he was killed that resolving the conflict in Hacienda Luisita was going to take time because management did not want to settle matters. The Inquirer reported that Ladera, who was supporting the hacienda’s two labor unions, had earlier sponsored resolutions in the Tarlac city council calling for a congressional review of Luisita’s SDO and other issues.

Rep. Noynoy Aquino denounced Ladera’s murder in the report, saying, “Although he was a leftist, he was willing to talk. He shouldn’t have been killed. Even though we had differences, he believed in dialogue rather than in taking up arms to achieve their goals.”


The murder of Abel Ladera

Tarlac City Councilor Abel Ladera, who was murdered on March 3, 2005, was a former sugar mill worker who grew up in one of the barangays of Hacienda Luisita. He became an engineer, then a city councilor.

Because of his background, Ladera was very active in issues involving human rights and labor and employment. He played a key role in negotiations between the management of Hacienda Luisita and the two unions, ULWU (United Luisita Workers’ Union) and CATLU (Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union). Ladera was also at the forefront of the fight against land conversion. Continue reading

Priest and peasant leaders shot dead

On March 13, 2005, Father William Tadena, an Aglipayan priest who had mobilized his parish to regularly donate rice and groceries to the workers at the picket line before saying a weekly mass for them, was shot dead in his owner-type jeep on the provincial highway in La Paz, Tarlac while on his way to his next mass.

On March 17, 2005, “Tatang” Ben Concepcion, a 67-year-old peasant leader of party-list group Anakpawis in Pampanga, who supported the strikers in Luisita despite his old age and lung and heart ailments, was shot dead in his daughter’s house in Angeles City (40 minutes from Tarlac City). He had just been released from the hospital and was recuperating in his daughter’s house.

On October 15, 2005, Flor Collantes, the secretary general of party-list group Bayan Muna in Tarlac, was killed while cleaning fish in his carinderia.

Union president killed

On October 25, 2005, Ric Ramos, the president of the union of the sugar mill workers (Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union or CATLU), was killed by an M-14 sniper bullet in his hut where he was celebrating with some companions.

Hours before he was killed, Ramos finished distributing cash benefits to the sugar mill workers after he successfully got the sheriff to confiscate sugar from management a few days before, says Lito Bais, current acting president of the union of the farm workers (United Luisita Workers Union or ULWU). According to Bais, management had been claiming it had no money to pay wages and benefits due to the workers.

“Pumunta si Ric Ramos sa DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), pina-sheriff niya ang bodega ng mga Cojuangco kung may mga asukal pa. Nakita puno ng asukal. Nagkasundo na ibebenta ng DOLE ang asukal, pagkatpos ibibigay ang pera sa mga manggagawa (Ric Ramos went to the Department of Labor. He asked the sheriff to inspect the warehouse of the Cojuangcos. It was full of sugar. An agreement was made for the Department of Labor to sell the sugar, with the proceeds to be given to the workers).”

After the sugar was sold, management tried to take charge of the distribution of the proceeds, says Bais. “Ang sabi ng mga Cojuangco, ‘andito ang payroll, dito na natin ipapamahagi ang pera ng mga manggagawa. Yung mga may utang sa amin, ipe-payroll deduction namin’ (The Cojuangcos said, ‘The payroll is here. We should give out the workers’ money here. We have to make payroll deductions for workers who have loans’).

But, Bais says, Ramos refused. “Sabi ng DOLE, ’Bigay niyo sa amin ang payroll, kami ang bahala. Kami ang gumawa ng paraan, kami ang gumawa ng pera, kami ang kailangan mangasiwa’ (The Department of Labor said, ‘Give us the payroll, we’ll take care of it. We were the ones who found a way, we made the money, so we should be the ones to administer’).”

It was agreed that the distribution of wages and benefits would be done at the barangay hall of Mapalacsiao, one of the villages inside Hacienda Luisita where Ramos was the barangay captain. “October 25 yun, masaya ang mga manggagawa ng sentral dahil natanggap nila ang benepisyo nila (That was October 25. The workers of the sugar central were happy because they got their benefits),” says Bais.

Ramos then held a small thanksgiving celebration. “Meron siyang kubo na ganito kataas. May lamesa sa gitna, nag-iinuman sila (He had a small hut that was about this high. There was a table in the middle, they were drinking),” says Bais. “October 25, mga 8 pm o 9 pm, binaril si Ramos ng sniper doon sa kubo nila. Makikita mo ang pinagdaanan ng M-14. Tamang-tama sa ulo niya. Kaya sumabog ang utak niya sa bubong niya (October 25, between 8 pm and 9 pm, Ramos was shot by a sniper in his hut. You could see the path of the M-14 bullet. It was aimed squarely at his head. That’s why his brain splattered all over his roof).”

Another version of the story

Another version of the story came out in the news. Ramos was said to be on the side of management, for which he was killed by leftists.

On October 27, 2005, two days after the murder of Ramos, Rep. Noynoy Aquino’s statement was reported in the Philippine Star: “I am shocked. My mother even more so. Ricardo Ramos has always treated me fairly, even at the height of the Luisita problem. The timing was also shocking, at a time when an agreement had been reached with two unions of the hacienda. In fact, Ramos was at a celebration when he was killed. It had been close to two years since the strike, and he was celebrating the end of a problem.” In the same report, the PNP said leftists were suspected of killing Ramos because he was cooperating with management.

A few days later, these statements were debunked by Nestor Arquiza, an officer of CATLU, the union headed by Ramos. In an October 31, 2005 report of the Philippine Star, Arquiza said three soldiers were seen running away from the scene of the crime immediately after Ramos was shot and were suspected of killing him.

Arquiza also belied the claim that Ramos had crossed over to the side of management, or that a final agreement had been concluded between Luisita management and the two labor unions. He said Ramos had negotiated with Ernesto Teopaco (uncle of Senator Noynoy Aquino) on October 20, 2005 to have some CATLU officers reinstated, but Ramos maintained that management should sign a simultaneous settlement with the other union ULWU before the strike could be declared resolved.

(The loyalty between the two unions, CATLU and ULWU, was key to the strength of their bargaining position. The strike that began in November 2004 and climaxed in the deadly dispersal was launched jointly by the two unions, and CATLU head Ric Ramos had also sent contingents to support the ULWU members in their protests against the construction of the SCTEx interchange, even though the sugar mill workers under CATLU had no claim on Hacienda Luisita’s land unlike the farm workers under ULWU.)

“(The Department of Labor and Employment) levied 8,000 bags of sugar from the sugar mill last October 22 because the company refused to pay the workers’ earned wages,” Arquiza reiterated in the Star report. “Proceeds from the sale of the sugar were used to pay the workers.” He said that the distribution of earned wages just before Ramos was killed was based on a DOLE order, not a directive of the hacienda’s management.

Meanwhile, in a November 2, 2005 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Ramos’s widow Lily said that before her husband was killed, he frequently warned her that he would be the next target for elimination after Councilor Abel Ladera’s muder in March 2005.

Luisita killings in impeachment complaint

The murders of Marcelino Beltran, Abel Ladera, Father William Tadena, Ben Concepcion, Flor Collantes, and Ric Ramos, as well as the shooting of George Loveland and Ernesto Ramos “by unidentified bodyguards of Rep. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino”, were part of the list of human rights violations described in the impeachment complaint filed against President Gloria Arroyo in Congress in October 2008. In the complaint, Arroyo was accused of turning a blind eye to the Hacienda Luisita killings “in collusion with the hacienda owners”. (Arroyo and the Cojuangco-Aquinos were close allies until the latter half of 2005.)

“The Cojuangco-Aquino family, in conspiracy with the military, the police, the paramilitary groups such as the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), and other hired agents/gunmen, has continued to harass, threaten and violate the rights of the hacienda people,” the impeachment complaint stated.

“Hello Garci” and Luisita

The year 2005 was a crucial turning point in the farm workers’ struggle in Luisita, and once again demonstrated the transcendental link between the hacienda and Malacañang that has been manifesting since the time of President Ramon Magsaysay.

Under pressure from public outrage over the November 2004 massacre, the Arroyo administration, through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), formed Task Force Stock Distribution on November 25, 2004 to study the causes of the workers’ strike. The Task Force was later renamed Task Force Luisita. In March 2005, teams were sent by the DAR to Luisita’s 10 barangays to investigate the SDO.

Three months later, while the investigation was ongoing, “Hello Garci” hit the country—and possibly turned the tide in Luisita.

Cory and Noynoy defend Gloria

In early June 2005, tapes of wiretapped phone conversations between President Gloria Arroyo and Comelec (Commission on Elections) official Virgilio Garcillano surfaced. This led to accusations that Arroyo cheated during the 2004 presidential elections, and a clamor rose up for her to resign.

The late former President Cory Aquino and son Noynoy initially defended Arroyo.

Even after Arroyo delivered her famous “I am sorry” speech on TV on June 27, 2005, which the public took as an admission of guilt, and which prompted Susan Roces, widow of Arroyo’s 2004 election opponent Fernando Poe, Jr., to deliver her own famous “not once, but twice” speech, Mrs. Aquino defended Arroyo, saying: “I am glad the President has broken her silence. Her admission of judgment lapses leading to improper conduct on her part is a truly welcome development. Tonight the President has made a strong beginning and I hope she will continue in the direction of better and more responsive governance. Let us pray for her and for all of us Filipinos.”

Rep. Noynoy Aquino, for his part, said in a June 29, 2005 report of the Philippine Star that President Arroyo should be commended for admitting her mistake. He said her televised apology was “a good start” for her administration.

Two days later, on July 1, 2005, the Philippine Star reported, “Cory went on TV yesterday and… warned against using extra-constitutional means to oust President Arroyo.” The article quoted Mrs. Aquino as saying she had gone to see Susan Roces to congratulate her on “the passion of her speech and the sincerity of her convictions”, but also to stress that she would always stand by the Constitution.

Noynoy votes against playing Garci tapes

At the fifth Congressional hearing on the Garci issue on June 30, 2005, three days after Arroyo’s televised “I am sorry” speech, Rep. Noynoy Aquino voted against playing the “Hello Garci” tapes.

“Tarlac Rep. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III disappointed his colleagues in the House when he voted on Thursday night against the playing of the audio tape, although an overwhelming majority had voted yes,” reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer on July 2, 2005.

“(Aquino’s actions) are no less than political payback” because President Arroyo was the “most powerful and influential patron” of the Cojuangco-Aquinos in the Hacienda Luisita dispute, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano said in the July 2, 2005 Inquirer report. Mariano said Arroyo knew what really happened during the Luisita massacre, and that was why Rep. Noynoy Aquino played “guardian angel” to Arroyo.

(Arroyo, whose candidacy in the 2004 presidential elections was supported by Noynoy and Kris Aquino, and who originally ascended to the presidency in 2001 after Cory Aquino and various groups led the campaign to oust President Joseph Estrada from office in EDSA 2, was suspected of aiding the Cojuangco-Aquinos during the November 2004 strike in Hacienda Luisita because of the involvement of the military in the dispersal and the Assumption of Jurisdiction that was declared by the Department of Labor.)

Unfazed by the criticism, both Noynoy and Cory Aquino continued to stand by Arroyo.

Cory and Noynoy drop Gloria

But on July 8, 2005, just a little over a week after Rep. Noynoy Aquino voted not to play the Garci tapes and Mrs. Aquino lauded Arroyo for her “I am sorry” speech before admonishing Susan Roces, the Aquinos dropped their support for Arroyo.

“I ask the President to spare our country and herself . . . and make the supreme sacrifice of resigning,” Mrs. Aquino said in statement issued to the press.

The day before she gave this statement, Mrs. Aquino met with President Arroyo in Malacañang. There were rumors of a shouting match, which Mrs. Aquino denied. “Yes, we met last Thursday, but there was no shouting,” she said in a July 12, 2005 report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “We just kissed each other goodbye.”

From then on, she and son Noynoy actively joined the calls for Arroyo to either resign or be impeached, and to this day the scorching rift between the Aquinos and Arroyos continues to rage.

Luisita—the reason behind Aquino-Arroyo rift?

Luisita farm workers that GMANews.TV spoke to believe the Aquinos’ abrupt withdrawal of support for Arroyo had something to do with the hacienda.

The Aquinos broke ties with Arroyo in July 2005, the same month the DAR’s Task Force Luisita submitted the findings and recommendations of its investigation. This formed the basis for the government’s decision a few months later to revoke Luisita’s Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and order the distribution of the hacienda’s land to the farmers.

The farm workers believe widespread condemnation of the involvement of the military in the massacre pressured the Arroyo government into taking action to absolve itself, causing the breakdown of its ties with the Cojuangco-Aquinos. The original petition the farm workers submitted (mentioned in Part 2 of this series) lay dormant at the DAR since it was filed in December 2003, but began to move after the November 2004 massacre.

By August 2005, a special legal team was formed by the DAR to review the report submitted by Task Force Luisita in July 2005. On September 23, 2005, the special legal team submitted its terminal report recommending the revocation of Luisita’s SDO agreement.

(It was reported in part one of this series that the Stock Distribution Option was included in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law enacted during the Aquino administration. That crucial provision enabled landowners like the Cojuangcos to give farmers shares of stock instead of land.)

On October 1, 2005, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Mrs. Aquino’s reaction to the allegations that she only wanted Arroyo to resign because of the hacienda. “To underscore the point that Cory Aquino should start behaving in a politically correct manner,” Mrs. Aquino told a gathering of teachers and students at Miriam College, “the Hacienda Luisita [issue] was resurrected, a familiar refrain from the years of the Marcos dictatorship.” She added, “If Luisita were the reason, then shouldn’t I have made sipsip or at the very least kept quiet?”

Cojuangcos suffering from “withdrawal syndrome”—Miriam

A few days later, Senator Miriam Santiago, Aquino’s former DAR Secretary in 1989, the year the SDO was implemented on Hacienda Luisita, reinforced the belief that the hacienda was a major motivating factor in the Aquinos’ moves to unseat President Arroyo .

“The Cojuangcos are suffering from acute withdrawal syndrome over the hacienda,” Santiago said in an October 3, 2005 report of the Philippine Star.

The report said “Santiago, for her part, recalled that in 1957, Jose Cojuangco, Sr. purchased Hacienda Luisita with money partially borrowed from the Central Bank of the Philippines Monetary Board and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) on the condition that the land would be distributed to small farmers.”

In 1985, Santiago said in the report, the Manila regional trial court (under President Marcos) ordered the Cojuangcos to sell the land to DAR for distribution to farmers. The Cojuangcos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals. Then Congress (under President Aquino) passed the agrarian reform law that allowed the SDO option in lieu of actual land distribution.

“For heaven’s sake, give it up and store up treasures in heaven,” was Santiago’s concluding advice.

DAR orders Luisita SDO revoked

On December 23, 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) formally ordered Luisita’s SDO revoked, and its lands put under compulsory acquisition.

Outside the hacienda, PARC’s order was seen as reprisal for the Aquinos’ call for President Arroyo to resign. Inside the hacienda, however, it was seen as justice served. Accustomed to political horse-trading deciding their fate, the farm workers rejoiced.

But the Cojuangco family would not give up the land without a fight. A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was obtained from the Supreme Court by June 2006 preventing PARC from revoking the SDO and distributing Hacienda Luisita’s land. This TRO has been in force for more than three years now.

More murders

Meanwhile, another union leader was killed on March 17, 2006. Tirso Cruz, one of the directors of ULWU, was walking home with his father and two brothers past midnight after attending a pasyon at a friend’s house when two men on motorcycles intercepted them and shot Cruz six times at close range.

In a report carried by the Philippine Star the next day, March 18, 2006, Cruz’s brother Ernesto said the gunmen, whose faces were covered with bandanas, made sure his brother was dead by shooting him one additional time after he already lay lifeless on the ground. In the same report, the Central Luzon chairman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which Cruz was a member of, said that Cruz had been leading protest actions against the construction of the Luisita tollway of the SCTEx and the withdrawal of the military from the hacienda’s 10 barangays.

On October 3, 2006, Father Alberto Ramento, the Supreme Bishop of the Aglipayan church who took up the cause of the slain Father Tadena by tending to Luisita’s farm workers, was stabbed to death while asleep in the rectory of his church. The killing looked like a robbery, but persons close to Ramento believe it was related to Luisita.

By the end of 2007, the construction of the SCTEx was complete. The Subic-Clark segment was formally opened to the public in April 2008, cutting travel time from Subic to Clark to just 40 minutes. The Clark-Tarlac segment was opened in July 2008, enabling travel from Clark to Luisita in just 25 minutes.
– With additional reporting by Howie Severino, GMANews.TV

TO BE CONTINUED



Who were the 7 who died in the Luisita massacre?

Until when the victims of hacienda luisita massacre will wait for Justice?

How many decades and how many lives has to suffer from this Madness?

If  Senator Benigno “noynoy” Aquino will run this country with biggest massacre background together with the Mendiola Massacre…

What will happen to our country? People are so blinded with his godly image which is perfectly a product of media– that people should be questioning what he has really done for our countrymen? Come to think of this.. Senator Benigno “noynoy” Aquino became the Deputy Speaker of the House Since November 8 2004- February 21 2006… when was the masscre happened? November 16, 2004.

What did he do: NOTHING.

——————————————————————————————————————————————-x

Special reports from GMA news.tv

Jhaivie was the youngest of the victims who died. He worked part-time at Central Azucarera de Tarlac, cleaning sugarcane every Monday, to earn money after he stopped going to college when his father died six months before the massacre. His mother said Jhaivie was a homebody, but he went to support the strike because almost all the children in his barangay were children of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita, and he understood what they were fighting for.

Jhavie was shot when he tried to climb up one of the fire trucks after the military tank broke through the gate of the sugar mill. He was hit on the thigh. As he tried to crawl away, soldiers went to him and hit his face with a rifle butt. A soldier tied barbed wire around his neck, hung his body on a fence, then shot him in the chest. His body was found at 3:00 am the next day along with two other victims. A photo of Jhaivie holding a gun was released. He and the two others were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Jhune David, 27

Jhune came from a family of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita. His late father and 3 of his 9 siblings were farm workers. He started working in the sugarcane fields at age 18. Jhune worked at the sugar mill for 9 years and was a member of the workers’ union until his death. He was shot on the right shoulder, and was taken to the hospital in the sugar mill compound. His body was later found outside the compound. During the wake at the sugar mill, an unidentified couple went to his coffin, lifted his shirt, and took photos. He was later shown in the news as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

(On November 24, 2004, a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the statements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) about the massacre said that “The NPA angle surfaced after one of the fatalities, Jun David, was found to be a member of the group which is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”)
Jhune left behind a wife and one child.

Jesus Laza, 34

Jesus was a farm worker in Hacienda Luisita from 1984 to 1990. Unable to make ends meet, he tried working in Manila. He returned to the hacienda in 1991 to work as a sugarcane cutter and sell dried fish during milling season. For more than a decade, Jesus sold food in buses plying the San Fernando-Tarlac route, until he decided to return to the hacienda, his true home, with his family of farm workers. Instead of selling food in buses, he sold food at the picket line near the gate of the sugar mill. This was where he died when he was shot on the back of the leg and on the right chest while running away from the shooting.
Jessie Valdez, 30

Jessie tried working in Sanyo, UFC, and Kawasaki at the Luisita industrial park, but went back to his true calling as a farm worker. He was shot by snipers positioned on the sugar mill’s water tower. Jessie was taken to Camp Aquino before being transferred to a funeral home. His family was able to retrieve his body only on the day after the massacre. The autopsy showed marks on his fingers and hips that indicated torture. The report showed he bled to death. His wife was pregnant with their fourth child when he died.

Juancho Sanchez, 20

Juancho was a college student at the State University of Tarlac who temporarily stopped schooling and worked as a jeepney driver to help with the tuition of his two younger sisters. His father was a former farm worker who became a pastor. Juancho himself was an active member of a Christian youth fellowship. He went to the picket line to sympathize with the hardship of the workers. On the day he died, Juancho still drove his jeepney in the morning and had lunch at home in Barangay Balete inside Hacienda Luisita. He then said goodbye to his father to go to the picket line. That was the last time his father saw him alive. The autopsy report showed Sanchez died from a gunshot that exited from his lower back, but his family said his face and feet had indications that he was first taken alive and beaten.

Adriano Caballero, Jr., 23

Adriano was born and raised in Hacienda Luisita. He and his father were caddies at the golf course owned by the Cojuangcos. One of his siblings worked at the sugar mill and was a member of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU). Adriano had gone to the picket line to support a friend. Adriano’s wife was five months pregnant when he died.
Jaime Pastidio, 46

Jaime became a farm worker in Hacienda Luisita in 1974. His father and 3 of his 7 siblings were also farm workers. Jaime was shot while running for cover when gunfire broke out after the tank broke through the gate of the sugar mill. Some protesters tried to run back and help him, but soldiers fired at their feet before they could reach Jaime. They saw the military take him inside the hacienda’s hospital, which was then shut down by soldiers. The next day, his family was told that he was dead. Jaime had been working in the hacienda for 30 years.

(From a report by Lisa Ito, and interviews with the victims’ relatives by members of the International Solidarity Mission. The International Solidarity Mission was a group of 80 foreign human rights advocates that visited various areas in the Philippines, including Hacienda Luisita, in August 2005 to look into human rights violations.)


source of article: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182537/who-were-the-7-who-died-in-the-luisita-massacre



Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will

By STEPHANIE DYCHIU
source: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/182195/corys-land-reform-legacy-to-test-noynoys-political-will

This week the country commemorates the tragic shooting of protesting farmers on January 22, 1987, an incident better known as the Mendiola massacre. Along with the Hacienda Luisita massacre of November 16, 2004, these two incidents represent the darker side of the Aquino legacy.

The struggle between farmers and landowners of Hacienda Luisita is now being seen as the first real test of character of presidential candidate Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino, whose family has owned the land since 1958. Our research shows that the problem began when government lenders obliged the Cojuangcos to distribute the land to small farmers by1967, a deadline that came and went. Pressure for land reform on Luisita since then reached a bloody head in 2004 when seven protesters were killed near the gate of the sugar mill in what is now known as the Luisita massacre. This is the story of the hacienda and its farmers, an issue that is likely to haunt Aquino as he travels the campaign trail for the May 2010 elections. Part one is here.

Second of a series

“Hindi ka nag-iisa (You are not alone),” sing the ghosts of Luisita to Senator Noynoy Aquino. They won’t even leave his music video alone.

Noynoy Aquino’s Campaign Music Video

A little-known fact about the Hacienda Luisita controversy is the haunting resemblance of Senator Aquino’s “Hindi Ka Nag-Iisa” music video to a real-life, torch-lit march of Luisita’s workers amid the sugarcane fields at night days before the November 16, 2004 massacre.

Sa Ngalan ng Tubo documentary about Hacienda Luisita (Torch scenes from 1:17 – 1:29)




A better known fact, but in danger of being forgotten, is the series of salvagings that took place after the massacre to eliminate those who supported the workers’ cause, or had evidence supporting their case. Among those killed were one Senate witness, two Aglipayan priests, a union president, a city councilor, and two peasant group leaders.

What could be worth all the blood that has been spilled? And why is everyone looking at Senator Aquino?

The answer lies in another little-known fact—a contentious 30-year stock distribution scheme that was implemented in lieu of land distribution on his family’s plantation that seriously complicates the campaign theme “good vs. evil.”

The dark side of the Aquino legacy

Part Two of this series on Hacienda Luisita begins in 1989, the year the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) was introduced at the hacienda after the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) took effect in 1988.


Senator Noynoy Aquino’s mother, President Cory Cojuangco Aquino, was accused of including the SDO in her outline for CARP (Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order No. 229, July 22, 1987) so her family could once again avoid distributing Hacienda Luisita to farmers.


Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future
See Part One for the history of the farmers’ claim in Hacienda Luisita.


(The SDO was a clause in CARP that allowed landowners to give farmers shares of stock in a corporation instead of land. It was abolished in the updated land reform law CARPER, or CARP with Extensions and Revisions, that was passed in August 2009.)

LAND ASSETS UNDERVALUED



The excluded areas caused the undervaluation of the farm workers’ share in HLI, explained Eduardo Tadem, member of the technical working group of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), in an October 20, 1989 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

(In the same report, Tadem said the PARC, which was chaired by President Cory Aquino, had ignored a study of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) showing Luisita’s farm workers could earn more with 0.78 hectares of land instead of stocks.)

The remaining 4,915.75 hectares that were submitted to CARP were “independently appraised by Asian Appraisal and the Securities and Exchange Commission” at P40,000 per hectare, according to an August 30, 1989 article in the Manila Bulletin written by the Aquino administration’s Solicitor General, Frank Chavez, to defend Luisita’s SDO.

The valuation of P40,000 per hectare represents an enormous difference from the valuation of about P500,000 per hectare and P219,000 per hectare respectively for the excluded 120.9 hectares of residential land and 265.7 hectares of land improvements that were retained by the Cojuangcos.

The SDO gravely damaged the potential of land reform to deliver social justice to scores of rural poor, whose votes had ironically been courted by President Aquino in 1986 by promising land reform.

Aquino’s abrogation left such a deep scar that even the New York Times, in its announcement of her passing on August 1, 2009, did not let it slip: “Born into one of the country’s wealthy land-owning families, the Cojuangcos of Tarlac, Mrs. Aquino did not lead the social revolution that some had hoped for. She failed to institute effective land reform or to address the country’s fundamental structural ailment, the oligarchic control of power and politics.”

Cojuangcos give stocks instead of land

In 1989, the Cojuangcos justified Luisita’s SDO by saying it was impractical to divide the hacienda’s 4,915.75 hectares of land among 6,296 farm workers, as this would result in less than one hectare each (0.78). A study by the private group Center for Research & Communication (now University of Asia & the Pacific) was cited to support this claim.

The claim was contradicted by a study of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), which stated that the farm workers could still earn more with 0.78 hectares of land each than stocks. But the NEDA study was ignored by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), according to Eduardo Tadem, a member of the technical working group of PARC who spoke out in an October 20, 1989 report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The PARC was chaired by President Cory Aquino.

In 2005, after its investigation into the Luisita massacre, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) also debunked the claim that economies of scale justified Luisita’s SDO. The DAR said the issue of economies of scale could have been addressed under Section 29 of CARP, which states that workers’ cooperatives should be created in cases where dividing land was not feasible.

In the column of Domini Torrevillas in the Philippine Star last Jan. 19, however, Noynoy declared: “Neither I nor the farmers are satisfied with the government’s land reform program. We have seen in Hacienda Luisita that this does not work. Luisita, which was then called Tabacalera Land, used to be 12,000 hectares. The company voluntarily gave half or 6,000 hectares for the Land Tenure Act. That is why Luisita today is only an approximate 5,500 hectares. However, the people who were provided land ended up losing or selling their property. Most of them returned to their lives as Luisita workers.

“This shows that mere land distribution is not beneficial to farmers. We cannot just transfer land to a farmer and say, ‘I am done with you.’ We need to teach him until he becomes a manager, becomes the agriculture business planner, the cooperative member. We must help him find means to buy biological pest control, natural fertilizers, pesticides and farm implements.”


Farmers asked to vote on SDO

On May 9, 1989, Luisita’s farm workers were asked to choose between stocks or land in a referendum. The SDO won 92.9% of the vote. A second referendum and information campaign were held on October 14, 1989, and again the SDO won, this time by a 96.75% vote.

In his 1992 book A Captive Land: The Politics of Agrarian Reform in the Philippines, American development studies expert James Putzel expressed doubt that the farmers understood the choice that was presented to them. “The outcome of the vote was entirely predictable,” he wrote. “The balance of power in the country favored families like the Cojuangcos. The problem was not really that the farm workers were denied the right to choose . . . it was rather that [they] were denied an environment that would allow them to identify what their choices were.”

(Dr. James Putzel did extensive research on agrarian reform in the Philippines between the late 1980s to the early 1990s. He is currently a Professor of Development Studies at the London School of Economics.)


Even before the second referendum was held, Father Joaquin Bernas, the President of the Ateneo de Manila University and a member of the commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, pointed out the inconsistency of Luisita’s SDO with the Constitution in his June 27, 1989 column in the Manila Chronicle. “The [SDO] is a loophole because it does not support the Constitution’s desire that the right of farmers to become owners of the land they till should be promoted by government,” Bernas said.

UP Center of Law calls Luisita SDO illegal

A year after Father Bernas spoke out, the University of the Philippines Center of Law also called Luisita’s SDO illegal in a paper it submitted to the Senate Committee on Agrarian Reform in June 1990. The paper questioned the morality, propriety, and constitutionality of a plan that allowed the landlord to retain controlling interest at the expense of farmer beneficiaries.

President Cory Aquino replied that the paper was just the opinion of one professor. But she said she would look into it.

The Department of Justice then issued a legal opinion affirming the constitutionality of the SDO, saying an act of the legislature, approved by the executive, was presumed valid within the limits of the Constitution unless nullified in court.

The legislature back then was dominated by landlords, including President Aquino’s brother, Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., the top decision-maker in Hacienda Luisita.

Cojuangco was “at the head of the landlord juggernaut” in Congress, according to a June 13, 1993 report of writer Antonio Ma. Nieva in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Justice who issued the legal opinion saying Luisita’s SDO was constitutional was Aquino stalwart Franklin Drilon.

Drilon is currently chairman of the Liberal Party, whose standard-bearer is Senator Noynoy Aquino.

Corporation formed before vote

In his book A Captive Land, Putzel also noted that Hacienda Luisita, Inc (HLI), the company formed by the Cojuangcos to operationalize Luisita’s SDO, was incorporated in August 1988—nine months before the farm workers were first asked to choose between stocks or land in May 1989.


This bred suspicion that the SDO was considered a done deal early on, and the two rounds of voting with the farmers were only organized to give an appearance of transparency.

Aquino appointees in charge of DAR

Adding to the cloud of doubt was President Aquino’s perceived influence over the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) because she had the power to appoint the department’s head.
The Agrarian Reform Secretary who oversaw the farmers’ vote in Luisita in May 1989 was Philip Juico, the husband of Margie Juico, a close friend of President Aquino who also served as her Appointments Secretary.

In July 1989, Aquino replaced Phillip Juico with “graft buster” Miriam Defensor-Santiago after Juico’s name was dragged into the Garchitorena land scam.


The Garchitorena land scam
The implementation of CARP during the term of President Cory Aquino was rocked by a number of scandals, one of them the Garchitorena land scam. See how the land scam was linked to President Aquino.


Very early into her role, Santiago, a former judge, told the media that there were “serious flaws in the law against which I am powerless” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 21, 1989). Santiago ended up giving Luisita’s SDO the go-signal in November 1989.

Two months later, Aquino replaced Santiago. Many years later, Santiago said Aquino removed her because of something she said about Luisita.


In Santiago’s place, Aquino appointed Florencio “Butch” Abad. Abad lasted only three months because the Commission on Appointments repeatedly refused to confirm his appointment.
Abad is currently the campaign manager of Senator Noynoy Aquino.

Cojuangcos assume majority control

In 1989, the farm workers’ ownership of Hacienda Luisita was pegged at 33%, while 67% was retained by the Cojuangcos.


How the Cojuangcos got majority control of Hacienda Luisita
When the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was implemented in Luisita in 1989, the farm workers’ ownership of the hacienda was pegged at 33%, while 67% was retained by the Cojuangcos. See how the Cojuangcos were able to gain control of the corporation.


Luisita’s SDO agreement spelled out a 30-year schedule for transferring stock to the farm workers:

“At the end of each fiscal year, for a period of 30 years, the SECOND PARTY (HLI) shall arrange with the FIRST PARTY (TADECO) the acquisition and distribution to the THIRD PARTY (farm workers) on the basis of number of days worked and at no cost to them of one-thirtieth (1/30) of 118,391,976.85 shares of the capital stock of the SECOND PARTY (HLI) that are presently owned and held by the FIRST PARTY (TADECO), until such time as the entire block of 118,391,976.85 shares shall have been completely acquired and distributed to the THIRD PARTY (farm workers).”

The impact of this provision was far-reaching.


Stocks not transferred to farmers

The stocks representing the farm workers’ full 33% share were not transferred to them in 1989, but were spread over “a period of 30 years” with only “one-thirtieth (1/30)” released every year. At this rate, it would take until 2019 for the farm-worker beneficiaries to receive their complete set of stocks. While their shares remained undistributed, these were “owned and held” by the Cojuangco company TADECO (Tarlac Development Corporation).

Thus, the common belief that 33% of Hacienda Luisita has been owned by farm workers since CARP was implemented in 1989 is not entirely accurate, because the full transfer of stocks did not happen in 1989.

Farmers asked to work for “free” stocks

The farm workers also had to continuously render labor to receive shares, because distribution was based “on the number of days worked”. If a worker quit or if management fired him, he no longer got the undistributed portion of his shares. If management cut work days, distribution of shares was also affected.

Complicating things further was a separate provision that set the annual payroll as the basis for deciding who could get shares at the end of each year. As names on the payroll changed every year when workers left or joined the company, the list of shareholders grew longer and longer, diluting the entitlement of the original beneficiaries. In 1989, there were 6,296 farm-worker beneficiaries in Luisita. By 2005, there were 11,955 names on the HLI stockholder list. Not all of the 11,955 remained employed with HLI, or were part of the original 6,296 beneficiaries.

NOYNOY DEFENDS COJUANGCOS




“The hacienda tenants voluntarily agreed to give up land distribution for shares of stock of the corporation”, and have enjoyed the fruits of their “wise decision”.
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 25, 2007)

“The only reason we got [into Luisita] to begin with was the people asked for us, or we were acceptable to them. There was a labor problem sometime in the 1950s, when I wasn’t still around.”
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 13, 2009)

On the farmers’ plea to have Luisita’s SDO contract revoked so land can be distributed: “The Constitution talks of inviolability of contracts.”
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 10, 2009)

“We want to leave only when we have formulated the plan on how they could pay the debts of the corporate farm. When that has been cleared, then we could bid goodbye [to Luisita management].”
(Manila Times, November 13, 2009)

“The problems descending a sunset industry like the sugar industry were exploited by quarters outside the hacienda. The net result is that the people who had jobs from 1958-2004 have lost their jobs.”
(Statement emailed to GMANews.TV on December 7, 2009)

“We are working for the restoration of jobs. Those who are forcing us to speak on this matter are not after the welfare of my former constituents, but to advance their propaganda aims.”
(Statement emailed to GMANews.TV on December 7, 2009)

Stock distribution suddenly accelerated

After the November 2004 massacre and subsequent investigation by the DAR, HLI announced on June 9, 2005 that it had given out all undistributed stocks “in one supreme act of good faith,” about 15 years ahead of the 30-year schedule.

It is believed this was done because the 30-year distribution period was a loophole. Way back in 1995, Dr. Jeffrey M. Riedinger, currently Dean of International Studies at Michigan State University, already said the 30-year distribution period seemed “without basis in the law” in his book Agrarian Reform in the Philippines: Democratic Transitions and Redistributive Reform.

(Section 11 of DAR Administrative Order No. 10, Series of 1988 states that stocks should be transferred to beneficiaries within 60 days after the SDO is implemented. HLI had not yet been issued a Certificate of Compliance by the DAR since 1989 because the full transfer of stocks had not happened.)

Like Father Bernas in 1989 and the UP Center of Law in 1990, Riedinger also said the SDO “appears to violate the constitutional mandate that ownership of agricultural lands be redistributed to the regular farm workers cultivating them.”

3% production share and home lots

Under the SDO, Luisita’s farm workers were entitled to two new perks: they were allotted a 3% share in the gross production output of the hacienda, and some were given home lots inside the plantation. The farm workers make clear, however, that these were mandated by law under Section 30 and Section 32 of CARP, not voluntary acts of generosity of the Cojuangcos.

The 3% production share never went beyond P1,120 per farm worker per year. The titles of the home lots also have problems, which this report will not get into now.

About 5 years after the SDO was implemented, management began to claim that HLI was losing money. The farm workers’ wages plateaued and their work days were cut.

Meanwhile, a mall and industrial park were sprouting on the portion of the hacienda closest to McArthur Highway. Losing money but building a mall? the farmers brooded. Something was up.

Conversion—the real plan

On September 1, 1995, the Sangguniang Bayan of Tarlac passed a resolution reclassifying 3,290 out of Luisita’s 4,915 hectares from agricultural to commercial, industrial, and residential. The governor of Tarlac province at that time was Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, wife of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr. Out of the 3,290 reclassified hectares, 500 were approved for conversion by the DAR.

As land was being converted, the area left for farming grew smaller and smaller. More work days were cut, and wages were practically frozen. Mechanization also reduced the need for manual labor.


Then, a master plan commissioned in 1998 by the Luisita Realty Corporation, a subsidiary of Jose Cojuangco and Sons, was unearthed. It showed the company’s long-term intention to convert the hacienda into a business and residential hub, with no areas left for agriculture. (That land use plan from 1998 already contained the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway or SCTEx, which was completed in 2007, and is now the subject of allegations in Congress against Senator Noynoy Aquino and his family, instigated by his electoral rivals.)

The farm workers began to fear for their jobs, without any assurances of receiving their 33% equity share in the sale of the converted land.

Mass retrenchment

By 2003, the farm workers’ daily wage was down to P194.50 (P9.50 after deductions for salary loans and other items), and work days were down to 1 per week.

They finally saw the futility of having four board seats against management’s seven (the SDO agreement allotted 4 board seats to the farm workers ahead of the 30-year waiting period for their stocks). They were always going to be outvoted. They also feared that their board representatives could easily be manipulated because they were not as well-versed as management in corporate matters.

The SDO had to go, they concluded.

The union leaders scrabbled together a petition to revoke the SDO and stop land conversion in Luisita. It was signed by 5,339 farm workers and filed at the Department of Agrarian Reform on December 4, 2003. In July 2004, the union tried to negotiate a wage increase to P225 per day. They also asked for an increase in work days to 2-3 days per week. Management said no, saying the company was losing money.

Management then issued notices retrenching 327 farm workers effective October 1, 2004. A month later came the workers’ strike, then the massacre.

TO BE CONTINUED




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.