From Maria Elizabeth Embry
March 1, 2010, 6:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
| Tags: aquino
, hacienda luisita
, Hacienda Luisita Massacre
, Kris Aquino
, political secrets
, Senator Noynoy Aquino
, yellow camp
allow me to post here what I had posted @ a yahoogoups
this is about a lengthy news article written almost 20 yrs ago. be w/ me & let us take a walk down memory lane
Worldwide-Filipino-Alliance] Hacienda Luisita: world famous for “cane-cutters, fighting cocks & golf course”Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:17 AM
From: “email@example.com” View contact detailsTo: firstname.lastname@example.org
to quote the following article:
“To a large extent, the President herself personifies the contrasts and contradictions that characterize the Philippines. ”Cory would have made a tremendous moral impact if she had started out by giving Hacienda Luisita to the workers,” says Raul Locsin, the editor of a Manila business journal, referring to her family’s vast sugar plantation. Instead, Aquino’s family has profited from a toothless agrarian reform law that permits landlords to keep their property by selling a minority share to the workers over a 30-year period – at prices set by the landlords.
So Hacienda Luisita is shielded against reform. Its contract cane-cutters are packed into barracks located not far from airier pens that house the thousands of fighting cocks bred by the President’s brother, Jose (Peping) Cojuangco. The plantation also boasts a superb 18-hole golf course”
to read more….
http://www.nytimes. com/1990/ 08/19/magazine/ cory-aquino- s-downhill- slide.html? pagewanted= all
Cory Aquino’s Downhill Slide
By Stanley Karnow; Stanley Karnow recently won the Pulitzer Prize for his book ”In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. ”
Published: August 19, 1990
Corazon Cojuangco Aquino glides into the reception room, smartly dressed in a pastel peach suit. Smiling warmly, she radiates serenity and self-confidence as she chats about her family, her travels, the weather. I have known her for two decades, and she has always appeared to be extraordinarily poised, even under enormous stress – a trait she attributes to her fatalism. Now, however, her composure seems to mask a certain uneasiness. She recoils when I seek to steer the conversation toward the problems facing her presidency – as if an admission of troubles might be construed as a sign of weakness. But she is indeed beleaguered by daunting difficulties.
In July, an earthquake that devastated central Luzon, the most populous island in the archipelago, dramatized the inability of Aquino’s Government to cope with a crisis. Not only was its relief effort sluggish, but she was further embarrassed when troops from Clark Air Base and the Subic Bay Naval Station – the two major American bases in the Philippines – arrived on the scene first, thus underlining her dependence on the United States.
Aquino is haunted by dissident army groups, which have already tried six times to oust her. Not a week passes without fresh rumors of a new coup, and one may succeed before 1992, the year she has vowed to retire after her six-year term expires. Neither is she safe from assassination in a land where political violence is endemic. Never far from her mind is the memory of her husband, Senator Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino Jr., who was murdered at the Manila airport in August 1983 as he returned from exile in Boston to challenge Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose corrupt autocracy was crippling the country. She mobilized the opposition and staged a spectacular election campaign. After a military mutiny and prodding from Washington, Marcos and his wife, Imelda, fled to Honolulu in February 1986.
”Ninoy used to say that Marcos would leave so many problems behind that whoever followed him wouldn’t last six months,” Aquino has repeatedly recalled to me and others as an indirect way of emphasizing that she has not only defied that gloomy forecast but has made notable progress.
She regularly points out in public speeches that she has rebuilt the democratic institutions dismantled by Marcos and revived a measure of faith in the shattered economy. She proudly cites her record in servicing the country’s $28 billion foreign debt, another consequence of Marcos’s profligacy. She claims credit for the decline of the Communist insurgency, which grew to alarming proportions during Marcos’s regime. She further asserts that ”people power” – as she called her drive to unseat Marcos – kindled resistance to dictators elsewhere in Asia and even spread to Eastern Europe.
For all her achievements, however, Aquino has lost the luster she enjoyed after toppling Marcos, when the world exalted her as the devout housewife who had exorcised evil. Her approval ratings in the Philippines, once astronomic, have dropped to below 50 percent.
Yet her critics sound sorrowful rather than angry, disappointed rather than hostile. ”We like Cory personally, but nothing has changed,” is a refrain I heard more and more in towns and villages. Though they hector her relentlessly, Manila’s flamboyant politicians and newspaper columnists temper their derision with deference. A noted commentator, Luis Beltran, said a few months ago, ”She is sincere, moral and honest, but the presidency is obviously beyond her, beyond her capabilities, beyond her experience.’ ‘
President Bush is reported to be distressed by Aquino’s lack of direction. ”We’re committed to her, and we hope that she’ll muddle through,” says a senior State Department official, ”but she simply doesn’t know how to govern. Moreover, as the Soviet threat recedes, American strategists no longer see the Philippines as crucial to the security of the United States and their concern for the destiny of that Southeast Asian country has diminished accordingly. ”
Aware that her glow has dimmed, Aquino has explained that her victory over Marcos raised expectations of miracles that she could not conceivably fulfill. But she fuels such illusory aspirations by portraying herself as divinely guided – a belief she holds as a devout Roman Catholic. Her defeat of Marcos, she intoned not long ago, ”was indeed a miracle” as well as ”a symbol of God’s love and the task he set us to do.”
Similarly persuaded that her virtue will serve as an example, Aquino prefers to remain aloof from the political fray. But many Filipinos submit that rectitude does not work in a feudal society like the Philippines, where local bosses and their political surrogates must be cowed, coddled or plied with patronage.
Armando Doronila, the editor of The Manila Chronicle, imputes Aquino’s ”clumsy and arthritic reflexes” to her unwillingness to exercise power. ”Her vision of the presidency is that of a figurehead,’ ‘ he has written, contending that she operates on the theory that the political institutions she restored would ”create their own magic and dynamism.”
Conspicuously absent from her approach is an imaginative vision for the country. John J. Carroll, an American Jesuit who has lived in the Philippines for many years, says, ”She is not a conceptual thinker.”
Aquino recently formed a new movement, Kabisig, roughly meaning ”linked arms,” whose purpose is to inspire citizens to jolt the stagnant legislature and bureaucracy out of their inertia – and revive her waning popularity should she run for re-election. The traditional politicians – ”tradpols” as the Manila press calls them – dismiss the movement as an effort to blame them for Aquino’s own inadequacies. And they can obstruct her further, as they have been doing for years, by rejecting her appointments and tying up bills in committee.
The present mood of the Philippines reminds me of the 1960’s, when I covered the country as a correspondent in Asia. The disorder, drift and doubt of that period prompted many Filipinos to support Marcos’s imposition of martial law in September 1972, and I suspect that numbers of them might now welcome another Marcos, perhaps in different guise. For despite their love of freedom, Filipinos respect an iron hand. Marcos, who understood this duality, skillfully gave them doses of both – at least before his regime slid into decay. Revisiting Manila recently, I was surprised by the expressions of nostalgia for Marcos, who died in Hawaii last fall, especially from his former foes. ”With all his faults, he was a strong leader,” several said, evoking his best years, when he enforced discipline and improved the economy.
This yearning for decisive leadership currently benefits Aquino’s estranged cousin, Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangco, a former Marcos insider who amassed a pile from various monopolies. A vigorous figure beneath his gentle exterior, he fled to Los Angeles when Marcos fell, and subsequently hired Chwat/Weigend Associates, a firm of Washington lobbyists, to teach him to act like a statesman.
Returning covertly to Manila after Marcos’s death, Cojuangco began organizing for the 1992 election, either to sponsor a presidential candidate or to run himself. He has lured a large following, mainly by dispensing money. His chances of gaining power may be thin, but for a one-time Marcos crony to attract support at all reflects the growing frustration with Aquino.
Other contenders for the presidency include Vice President Salvadore H. Laurel, who broke with Aquino in 1987, and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, her former Defense Secretary. The most popular among them, judging from opinion polls, is Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, a West Point graduate and Aquino’s present Defense Secretary.
”Manila is a place to make a fortune,” Cory Aquino has said, citing as proof new construction, flourishing corporations and a lively stock market. But the boom has been lopsided. Expensive condominiums tower over squatter shacks that lack electricity and running water, while the extravagant parties at the lavish homes of the wealthy seem to be taking place a million miles away from nearby slums. Fancy restaurants cater to clients who spend more on a meal than a peasant earns in a month. The levels of destitution are such that the servants of the affluent themselves employ servants.
The income gap is visible in statistics showing that the top fifth of the population receives half of the national income. In 1988, the World Bank reported that half of the population lived in ”absolute poverty,” their income unable ”to satisfy basic needs.” The poverty is most glaring in rural areas, home to more than half of the country’s 60 million people.
To a large extent, the President herself personifies the contrasts and contradictions that characterize the Philippines. ”Cory would have made a tremendous moral impact if she had started out by giving Hacienda Luisita to the workers,” says Raul Locsin, the editor of a Manila business journal, referring to her family’s vast sugar plantation. Instead, Aquino’s family has profited from a toothless agrarian reform law that permits landlords to keep their property by selling a minority share to the workers over a 30-year period – at prices set by the landlords.
So Hacienda Luisita is shielded against reform. Its contract cane-cutters are packed into barracks located not far from airier pens that house the thousands of fighting cocks bred by the President’s brother, Jose (Peping) Cojuangco. The plantation also boasts a superb 18-hole golf course.
The Philippine Congress, whose election in 1987 Aquino hailed as a hallmark of democracy, is dominated by landed and business factions opposed to change. She has not introduced effective measures to streamline the snarled bureaucracy, whose underpaid employees are responsive only to bribes. Out of religious conviction, she has been slow to endorse birth-control programs aimed at curbing the soaring population. Aquino and her husband were victims of Marcos’s despotism, but she has ignored human-rights violations by vigilante groups, whose creation she approved as a weapon to combat the Communists. Aquino’s plans to privatize state-owned enterprises like the Manila Hotel and Philippine Airlines have crumbled, partly because the appointees who direct them have been battling to keep their jobs. Cool to ”unsolicited advice,” as she puts it, Aquino often disregards or revamps her cabinet, which, in any case, has been chronically divided by rivalries.
Her personal probity is above reproach, but rampant corruption costs the Philippine treasury some $2.5 billion a year – or about a third of the national budget. Shortly before his death two years ago, Joaquin Roces, a distinguished newspaper publisher and one of her early backers, startled Aquino at a reception by openly accusing her of yielding to ”vested interests, relatives and friends.” Stung, she told an interviewer soon afterward that she had warned her family against taking advantage of her position. ”Short of ordering them to hibernate or go into exile,” she added, ”I don’t know what else I can do.”
To stroll through some of Manila’s downtown streets requires sidestepping uncollected garbage, and driving through the city’s chronically congested traffic is a nightmare. The breakdown in basic public services, the political uncertainties and mounting violence as well as corruption and bureaucratic tangles, have unnerved foreign investors, with potentially grave repercussions on the economy. A planned $360 million petrochemical plant, to be built by a Taiwan group, has been shelved, as has an electrical-power project contemplated by two American companies, Cogentrix and Caltex Petroleum. Of the 388 multinational corporations that maintained offices in Manila in 1985, only 120 remain – and many of those are pondering a pullout. The Communists, badly split by internecine disputes, have resorted to terrorism in an effort to sustain their momentum. Within the last three years they have killed seven American servicemen stationed at Clark Air Base and Subic
Bay. All 261 members of the Peace Corps, the third-largest contingent abroad, were withdrawn in June as Communist guerrillas abducted a volunteer on the island of Negros. The volunteer was released earlier this month, but Washington’s unilateral withdrawal had shocked Aquino, who had sought to dispel the picture of a country in turmoil.
Nothing, however, has afflicted her more than dissension within her military establishment. The army, modeled on American lines during the period of United States colonial rule, before World War II, had scrupulously avoided politics – until Marcos imposed martial law. He co-opted his generals by giving them smuggling and other illicit privileges, which alienated younger officers who felt that favoritism and corruption were hobbling their fight against the Communists.
The disaffected officers created the Reform Armed Forces Movement, or R.A.M., under the auspices of Juan Ponce Enrile, who was then Marcos’s Defense Minister but was turning against him. In February 1986, Enrile and Ramos, at the time Marcos’s acting Chief of Staff, triggered the military mutiny that catapulted Aquino into office.
Recalling her husband’s years in army jails during the Marcos years, Aquino at first distrusted the dissident soldiers and even denied her debt to them. But, recognizing their strength, she soon acceded to their demands. She retreated from promised social reforms, gave them greater latitude to fight the Communists and ignored their human-rights abuses.
Emboldened, the rebels launched a series of comic-opera coups designed to intimidate rather than overthrow Aquino. Each time, fearful of antagonizing them further, she punished them lightly – in one case ordering them to do 30 push-ups. In August 1987, however, dissident soldiers staged a serious, though abortive, uprising that left 53 dead.
Aquino seemed to be recovering from that attempt when, on Dec. 1, 1989, rebel troops again attacked. They were close to winning when President Bush, heeding her appeal for help, sent in two Phantom jets from Clark Air Base, 50 miles north of Manila, to protect Malacanang, the presidential palace, against the dissidents’ planes. The American display of force initially deterred the rebels, who may have also been discouraged by a White House warning that all American aid would be cut off if they prevailed. Nevertheless, they fought on for nearly a week, and more than 100 Filipinos, most of them civilians, were killed before a truce was declared.
Even Aquino’s most vocal critics were relieved when the coup failed, concluding that, for all her defects, she was preferable to a military junta. But the assault shook her badly. If crowds did not rush out to acclaim the rebels, neither did they pour into the streets to cheer Aquino. And her plea for American intervention predictably drew charges that, out of gratitude for her rescue, she would bow to American pressure to retain the bases in talks then due to start. Aquino has privately hinted that she favors renewing the leases on the bases, at least for a limited time. To deflect her nationalist critics, however, she will say publicly only that she is ”keeping my options open.”
The uprising also revealed a new dissident army faction: the Young Officers Union, or Y.O.U., composed mainly of majors and captains. More ideological than R.A.M., it has called for ”genuine national and social liberation” – a slogan that has inspired conjecture that the group might join the Communists in a coalition.
Six weeks after the attempted coup, President Bush sent a special envoy to Manila on a mission that aggravated Aquino’s woes at home and further impaired her image in Washington.
Bush’s deputy national security adviser, Robert M. Gates, met alone with Aquino. After reaffirming America’s support for her Government, Gates bluntly told her to ”get your house in order” by regaining the allegiance of the army, checking corruption and bureaucratic red tape, and introducing urgent economic and social reforms. ”The most pressing problem is stability,” he reportedly said. ”It’s time to stop putting off the hard decisions.”
American officials recalled that Aquino had ”listened impassively’ ‘ to Gates. However, Filipinos close to her revealed that she was ‘’stunned” by Bush’s message, and doubly wounded when American officials, to intensify the pressure on her, leaked its details to the American press. She was even more rankled when Congress cut $96 million off a proposed $481 million assistance package to the Philippines as part of a global reduction in foreign aid.
Aquino retaliated in February by refusing to see Dick Cheney, the United States Defense Secretary, then due to arrive in Manila on a tour of Asia. Never before had a Philippine leader snubbed a high American official, and her gesture ignited protests in Washington, where it was read as a gambit to extract more aid for the bases.
Representative Patricia Schroeder, a Colorado Democrat who heads a House subcommittee on Military Installations and Facilities, accused Aquino of ”upping the ante.” Toby Roth, a Wisconsin Republican and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asserted: ”Let them keep their bases. We do not want them, we do not need them. They are only an albatross around the necks of the American people.”
Bush was equally dismayed, but he admonished Aquino in his typically casual manner. ”Listen,” he said in a newspaper interview, ”every time I talk to Dick Cheney I come away smarter. . . . So maybe you’d be like me, maybe you could learn from the man – or he could learn from you.”
Aquino’s rebuff of Cheney boosted her stock in Manila, where newspapers blared headlines like ”Cory Gets Tough.” But several Filipinos, her partisans among them, soon began to chide her for ”overreacting. ” While tweaking Uncle Sam’s nose might be gratifying, several observed, American ”rent” for the bases and other expenditures bring in about $1 billion a year. Aquino’s former press secretary, the columnist Teodoro Benigno, wrote: ”We lose a lot in this refusal, because it is based on personal pique and not . . . on the national interest.”
Nevertheless, convinced that flexing her muscles would enhance her popularity, Aquino went after Enrile, her fiercest critic, now a senator. Late in February, she ordered his arrest for ”rebellion and murder” in connection with the aborted December coup – the same charge she had denounced as ”politically motivated” when Marcos had used it to jail her husband.
The episode was vintage Manila theater. Enrile sauntered into an air-conditioned ”cell” equipped with a television set and telephones, spent a week being feted by relatives, friends and journalists, and sauntered out on bail of 100,000 pesos, or about $4,500. In June, the Philippine Supreme Court dropped the charge, ruling that it lacked substance.
Another Aquino initiative backfired in March when one of her generals was killed in northern Luzon while trying to seize Rodolfo Aguinaldo, a rebellious provincial governor, who escaped and is still at large.
Aquino was further embarrassed last month when a New York jury acquitted Imelda Marcos and her co-defendant, the Saudi Arabian expediter Adnan M. Khashoggi, of fraud and racketeering charges. Aquino had hoped that a conviction would confirm Marcos’s culpability in looting the Philippines and, by implication, improve her own image.
Whatever her deficiencies, Corazon Aquino largely owes her predicament to the past, which has dealt the Philippines a bad hand.
Before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the archipelago lacked common bonds or a remote, divine emperor who symbolized central authority. The United States took over in 1898 and ruled until 1946. Hence Philippine history is essentially colonial history. A neat quip accurately sums it up: ”Three hundred years in a Catholic convent and a half-century in Hollywood.”
This heritage has inhibited Filipinos from forging a strong sense of their national identity, so that their society today is fragmented by family, clan and regional loyalties. Thus their unity lies chiefly in an allegiance to Christianity and the legal definition of Philippine citizenship.
Under Spain, the Philippine economy languished until the 19th century, when the industrial revolution in the West spurred a demand for such commodities as sugar, hemp and copra. Plantations grew, developing a class of big landlords – many of them Chinese immigrants married to Filipino women – whose dynasties dominate the Philippines today. Corazon Aquino’s great-grandfather arrived from China in the 1890’s, converted to Catholicism, prospered as a trader, and acquired the plantation still owned by his descendants. The Americans were benign imperialists compared with their European counterparts. Their dream was to turn the Filipinos into imitation Americans – ”our little brown brothers,” as the first civilian governor, William Howard Taft, dubbed them. American teachers spread English, and facsimile political and judicial bodies were housed in Greek-style buildings copied from those of Washington. By 1907, the Filipinos had the first freely elected
legislature in Asia. The United States Congress voted nine years later to grant them eventual independence, and from that point on the people virtually ruled themselves. During World War II, they fought alongside American troops against the Japanese.
But American officials failed to protect the peasantry against exploitation by big plantation owners. American manufacturers were allowed to export their products to the Philippines duty-free, in exchange for which Philippine commodities could enter the United States without tariffs. This classic colonial arrangement, besides stunting the growth of local industry, preserved the traditional landed oligarchy. The United States Congress imposed the same trade system after the Philippines became independent in 1946, when the country, shattered by World War II, desperately needed American aid. Filipinos were, and continue to be, captivated by American culture. They adopt American nicknames, American food and American sports. Yet their fundamental values remain largely unchanged. Suspicious of impersonal institutions, Filipinos function through a web of personal ties based on mutual obligations.
This is especially true in politics, where parties have customarily been cliques whose members seek office not to govern but to furnish jobs, public-works contracts and other favors to their families and friends, who in turn labor to elect them or to keep them in office. So lucrative are the spoils of power that Marcos spent nearly one-quarter of the national budget on his 1965 re-election campaign. Limited to two terms under the law, he scrapped the system, remained in office and went on pillaging without restraint.
The Philippines never became a ‘’showcase of democracy,” as many Americans often claim. The most prominent Filipino politician during the American colonial era, Manuel Quezon, was an autocrat. The old dynasties that opposed Marcos were outraged less by his despotism than by his expropriation of their assets to reward his cronies. Neither was the martyred Ninoy Aquino an unalloyed champion of civil liberties. His models included Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and the South Korean General Park Chung Hee, neither of whom would qualify as democrats.
Looking back, many political analysts argue that Corazon Aquino ought to have used her initial burst of popularity to push through drastic reforms rather than depend on the democratic process, which has, in effect, restored the reactionary oligarchy. But she felt that to resort to arbitrary rule would have violated her campaign pledges. Her occasional excursions into liberal oratory notwithstanding, she is also deeply conservative.
However the future unfolds for Aquino, the Philippines still resembles the portrait painted by her husband, Ninoy, in Foreign Affairs magazine in July 1968.
”Here is a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor,” he wrote, ”where freedom and its blessings are a reality for a minority and an illusion for the many. Here is a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy . . . dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.” Its government was ”almost bankrupt,” its state agencies ”ridden by debts and honeycombed with graft,” its economy ”in pathetic distress.” Filipinos were ”depressed and dispirited . . . without purpose and without discipline . . . sapped of confidence, hope and will.” But, he concluded, the fault was chiefly their own. ”They profess love of country, but love themselves – individually – more.”
Photos: Senator Juan Ponce Enrile waving from prison in February following a December coup attempt. Charges were later dropped. President Corazon Aquino reviewing troops in Manila shortly after last year’s rebellion. With her are Lourdes Quisumbing, then the Secretary of Education (left), and Sergio Barrera, Chief Protocol Officer. (Photographs By Andy Hernandez/Sipa) ; Government soldiers in Manila rushing to positions during last December’s aborted takeover. (Sygma)
A version of this article appeared in print on August 19, 1990, on page 624 of the New York edition.
Mari a Elizabteh Embry
Why Luisita Matters
By: Jojo Robles
Why Luisita matters
In the coming days, expect to hear more about Hacienda Luisita, the giant, undistributed Tarlac agricultural estate owned by the family of leading presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino. That’s because, whether he likes it or not, Aquino’s flagging political fortunes may hinge on what he does or does not do about this festering issue.
But first, it can be argued that the last thing Aquino needs right now, when his survey rankings are on the verge of a free fall, is one of his own camp followers breaking ranks. But that’s apparently already happening, with no less than one of his own Liberal Party senatorial candidates going public with a demand that Aquino’s family distribute the lands in Hacienda Luisita to the farmers there.
The supposed token leftist in Aquino’s senatorial lineup, Akabayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros, could not have come out with the statement on the ticklish issue that the leading presidential bet has repeatedly sought to dodge at a worse time. But Hontiveros, according to one news report, explained that her being a guest candidate in the LP senatorial slate did not mean that she had abandoned her quest for justice for the victims of the so-called Hacienda Luisita and Mendiola massacres.
“Healing and reconciliation can only happen if justice is served for the victims of the Hacienda Luisita and Mendiola massacres. But there’s no justice yet for the victims,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros’ demand came even as farmers’ groups allied with their fellow tillers in the Cojuangco-Aquino sugar plantation stepped up the pressure on Aquino to act to distribute the land to the tenants, who were given shares of stocks in the family corporation instead of land titles under a controversial exception made in the late President Cory Aquino’s land reform program. And now, Aquino’s rivals are also digging up the circumstances of the sale of a portion of the hacienda land to the government to make way for a new highway—a sale that allegedly did not benefit the farmer-stockholders, who control a third of the corporation on paper, at all.
Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla, who is closely identified with Aquino’s chief opponent Manny Villar, castigated Aquino for not lifting a finger to help the Luisita farmers, despite alleged profits made by his family on the sale of 80 hectares of Luisita land. The government paid the amount to Aquino’s family so that the new Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway may pass through the sprawling 6,453-hectare agricultural estate.
Remulla said Aquino’s family never intended to distribute the land to the tenants there since his grandfather Jose Cojuangco Sr. bought the plantation more than 50 years ago with a loan from the Government Service Insurance System. The government guaranteed a $2.1-million foreign loan taken out by the Cojuangco family to buy Luisita from its Spanish owners in 1957, apart from extending a P5.9 million facility that allowed the elder Cojuangco to purchase the property on the condition that all of the land would eventually be distributed to the farmers and residents there.
The government sued the Cojuangcos during the Marcos regime over the refusal of the family to distribute the land. But the suit was uncharacteristically withdrawn upon Cory Aquino’s assumption to the presidency in 1986, upon the lobbying of officials of the new administration, Remulla said.
Then the so-called Mendiola Massacre took place in early 1987; 13 farmers were killed and 39 others were wounded in a clash with policemen and soldiers who were guarding Malacañang Palace that day. The massacre spooked the new President into fast-tracking the “genuine” land reform program that she had promised during her campaign against Marcos a year earlier.
Cory’s land reform program met stiff opposition from plantation owners throughout the country who protested what they called the government’s seizure of their property. Still, the program allowed the family of the President to keep their land through a stock distribution option, wherein their tenants were given shares of the family corporation instead of titles to the land they were tilling.
* * *
During the abbreviated term of President Joseph Estrada, the Aquino-Cojuangco clan lobbied hard for the extension of the North Luzon Expressway to Tarlac, to connect the economic zones in Central Luzon, according to Remulla. The project, which was implemented by the current Arroyo administration through the Bases Conversion Development Authority, eventually connected Clark and Subic to Tarlac through Luisita.
The Cavite congressman said the farmland was overpriced 10 times when it was sold to the BCDA at P100 per square meter. On top of that, the family also got an interchange worth P170 million for free, which boosted the hacienda’s value from P600 million to P60 billion, he said.
Remulla said part of the payments made by the Arroyo administration to the Aquino-Cojuangco family were used to bankroll the congressional bid of Noynoy Aquino in 2001. The release of the payments were also expedited because of the lobbying of the late President, Remulla alleged, because Mrs. Aquino and President Arroyo were political allies at the time, having both worked for the ouster of Estrada.
During this time, the Aquino-Cojuangco family also started drawing up plans to convert their agricultural estate into a giant mixed-used development project, something that would effectively end the land claims of the farmers. During this period, Noynoy Aquino also worked as an executive of the family-controlled corporation, which meant that he had intimate knowledge of the SCTEX land purchase and the conversion plans, Remulla added.
But the Luisita farmers still wanted their land, and in 2004, when construction of the SCTEX was already being started, the Luisita Massacre took place. This time, seven plantation workers were killed when soldiers broke up a picket line put up by farmers demanding that the Aquino-Cojuangco family give the land to them.
Then, only last year, upon the expiration of the Cory Aquino land reform law, Congress passed CARPer, which extended the land-distribution program. The passage of CARPer into law was significant, because it removed the exemption that allowed landowners to distribute stock options to farmers in agricultural landholdings, like the Aquino-Cojuangco family did at Luisita.
Ever since he became a Tarlac congressman, according to Remulla, Noynoy Aquino never said anything about the Luisita controversy. And when he became a senator, Noynoy did not vote to extend the land reform program, which abolished the stock-distribution scheme.
Now that he is a presidential candidate, Noynoy has repeatedly said that he own only a small fraction of Luisita personally. But even the sizable holdings of the farmers are dwarfed by the shares of the Aquino-Cojuangco companies that control Luisita.
As the campaign heats up in the coming days, Noynoy Aquino will continue to be hounded by questions about Hacienda Luisita—questions that have remained unanswered in decades. As his own fitness for the presidency comes increasingly under scrutiny, expect Noynoy’s huge family plantation to loom large in the background.
Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future
January 23, 2010, 7:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
| Tags: aquino
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, Yellow Ribbon
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.
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.
TO BE CONTINUED
This story was first published in November 2009, the fifth anniversary of the Luisita massacre. This updated version has been expanded to accommodate additional information. Succeeding parts of this series will be published in the coming days. Part Two is here.
To Noynoy Aquino: Your own backyard first backhoe!
January 5, 2010, 6:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
| Tags: aquino
, hacienda luisita
, Kris Aquino
, Noynoy Aquino
, Philippine Massacre
, Senator Benigno Aquiono III
, yellow camp
, yellow magic
What is happening to our country? It seems like the word “massacre” is spreading like a virus and all the victims are having a hard time to claim justice.
Buti ang mga magnanakaw nahuhuli agad.
Pero ang mga mamamatay tao, Malaya pa din nakakagalaga sa ating bansa.
The Mendiola Massacre happened during the 80’s followed by the enormous gruesome slaughter in Hacienda Luisita Massacre and both are under the Aquino’s power.
Paano ka magtitiwala muli sa angkan ng mga Aquino? Kung ang parehong madudugong pangyayari ay walang nakamit na hustisya? Buhay ang nawala dahil sa walang saysay na kamatayan… kung meron man ito ay ang nagsilbi ng buong puso ang mga magsasaka ng hacienda luisita upang mapaunlad an gating ekonomiya pero ito pa ang napala naming. Sweldo na hindi makatarungan at kamatayang di malilimutan.
Nagpalabas ng pahayag ang kampo ni Aquino para sa suporta nila sa Maguindanao Massacre at sadyang nakakainis hindi dahil sa tinutulungan nila ang mga nabiktima nito makamit ang hustisya na para sa kanila kundi inuuna pa ni Senator noynoy ang Maguindanao Massacre na kung saan sinabi sa kanyang news letter:
Laban na Tapat
Laban ng Lahat
Last week saw a grisly carnage that outraged a nation. And though we might be unable to fathom what lurks in the twisted minds and dark hearts of monsters, one thing is certain: There is something seriously awry in the system that a crime against humanity such as this was allowed to happen.
The Maguindanao Massacre is the very manifestation of the corruption, the abuse, the arrogance in government. No holds barred, it is evil incarnate, allowed to roam in our motherland, to feed off the earth we till. And they dare to call themselves leaders.
It is against this backdrop that the first words of the Aquino-Roxas platform strike momentously: the national leadership is in need of transformational change, the people are crying out for change.
The game is afoot. With the overturning of the Penera decision by the Supreme Court, the political season is in full swing from now until May. It will be vicious, it will be cruel. But we will stand our ground.
We will remain steadfast because there is a hope, a dream, a change, a promise, a nation, a people and a future at stake. We will not waver because this, above all, is a fight for Justice: for the victims of the massacre, and the victims of a corrupted leadership. Ito’y laban na tapat, laban ng lahat.
~ Nina Sanchez,
Ito ang Aming Tugon sa Sulat na ito:
Laban na Tapat
Laban ng Lahat
It was November 16 2004 we saw a grisly carnage that outraged a nation. And though we might be unable to fathom what lurks in the twisted minds and dark hearts of monsters, one thing is certain: There is something seriously awry in the system that a crime against humanity such as this was allowed to happen.
The HACIENDA LUISITA MASSACRE is the very manifestation of the corruption, the abuse, the arrogance in government. No holds barred, it is evil incarnate, allowed to roam in our motherland, to feed off the earth we till. And they dare to call themselves leaders.
We will not waver because this, above all, is a fight for Justice: for the victims of the massacre, and the victims of a corrupted leadership.
Senator Noynoy Aquino if you are truly a God fearing as always seen on your Ads, kindly have a heart us justice,
Hacienda Luisita Farmers, whom your people outrageously killed.
The Trapo system has been continually conducted in Hacienda Luisita Inc.
I don’t think we can afford another Aquino Administration if you can’t simply address the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, more importantly how come you boast about change in your platform if you yourself can’t make this misery end and give us what we are entitled to: Justice to the slaughtered farmers and unjust low wages that can’t even give us a decent meal a day. (P9.50/ week)
Hacienda Luisita ghosts back to haunt Noynoy candidacy
November 17, 2009, 2:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
| Tags: 11-16
, 2010 presidentiables
, hacienda luisita
, luisita massacre
, November 16
, Philippine Massacre
Hacienda Luisita ghosts back to haunt Noynoy candidacy
By STEPHANIE DYCHIU
11/16/2009 | 08:04 PM
First of two parts
Would you like your Noynoy sweetened or sugar-free?
Until Senator Noynoy Cojuangco Aquino decided to run for President on September 9, 2009, the massacre of farm workers exactly five years ago today at the Cojuangco family’s disputed sugar plantation Hacienda Luisita seemed destined to fade from foggy Filipino memory.
Since that announcement, however, the dead farmers’ fight to make the senator’s family give up the Luisita sugar lands in the name of land reform is back in the headlines.
Why are the ghosts of the Luisita massacre now haunting Senator Aquino, who, by his own estimate, holds only 1/32 share of the hacienda, and has no direct hand in its operations?
In search of answers, GMANews.TV traveled to Tarlac and spoke to some farm workers and one of Luisita’s union leaders. A separate interview and review of court documents was then conducted with one of the lawyers representing the workers’ union in the Supreme Court.
What follows is their side of the Luisita saga. Recaps of relevant historical events have been included by GMANews.TV for added perspective.
The workers’ story begins way before the first shot was fired on November 16, 2004. For them, the seeds of conflict in Luisita were already there as early as the 1950s, and always seemed to be linked to the mood of whoever occupied Malacañang.
Remnant of colonialism
Before the Cojuangco family took over Hacienda Luisita in the 1950s, the plantation belonged to the Spanish-owned Compaña General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera). Tabacalera acquired the land in 1882 through a royal grant 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 Spanish owners shifted to sugar. Sugar production in the Philippines 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 family also put up a small sugar mill in Paniqui, Tarlac. The Paniqui sugar mill was headed by Jose “Pepe” Cojuangco, Sr., father of former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.
In 1958, Jose Cojuangco Sr.’s new company, the Tarlac Development Corporation, bought Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac from its previous Spanish owners. Noynoy Aquino’s father, Ninoy, was its first administrator after it was bought. Scott Kho
Dollars, Ninoy, and the purchase of Luisita
By the 1950s, aggravation over the Hukbalahap rebellion made the Spaniards decide to sell Hacienda Luisita and leave the Philippines. Meanwhile, in 1954, Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco married Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. , with President Ramon Magsaysay as one of the ninongs (sponsor) at the wedding.
In 1957, President Magsaysay and Ninoy Aquino are said to have discussed the possibility of Ninoy’s father-in-law, Jose Cojuangco, Sr., buying Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Hacienda Luisita from the Spaniards. The Spaniards, however, wanted to be paid in dollars because they were leaving the country for good.
During those days, dollars were tightly regulated. But with assistance from friends in government, Jose Cojuangco, Sr. was able to get a 10-year loan from the Manufacturer’s Trust Company in New York. The Central Bank of the Philippines permitted the loan under several conditions. One of these was the eventual distribution of the hacienda to small farmers “in line with the government’s social justice program”.
Jose Cojuangco, Sr. contracted another loan with the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) for P7 million to further finance the purchase of Hacienda Luisita and miscellaneous equipment. The GSIS granted the loan, also tacking on a condition that Hacienda Luisita should at some point be distributed among its tenants at reasonable cost.
In 1958, Jose Cojuangco, Sr.’s new 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.
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
– Lito Bais, United Luisita Workers Union
Birth of a senator and a labor union
“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 farmers 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). He 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. This led to the creation of the United Luisita Workers Union. 1967 was also the year Ninoy Aquino became the Philippines’ youngest senator, marking the start of his bitter rivalry with President Ferdinand Marcos.
After President Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, his most voluble critic Aquino was one of the first people arrested. Aquino remained in jail until 1980, when he suffered a heart attack. He was allowed by the Marcos government to go to the US for treatment, accompanied by wife Cory and their children Ballsy, Pinky, Noynoy, Viel, and Kris.
Marcos ejects Ninoy, eyes Luisita
As the Aquino family left for the US (where they would remain in exile for the next three years), a case was filed by the Marcos government against the Cojuangco company TADECO for the surrender of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, so the land could be distributed to the farmers in accordance with the provisions of the loans given to the late Jose Cojuangco, Sr. in 1957. Cojuangco had died in 1976.
Outside Luisita, this lawsuit was seen as an act of harassment against Ninoy Aquino’s family by the Marcos government. Inside the hacienda, however, the farmers thought luck had finally turned in their favor and land distribution was coming. (Whether or not the Marcos government really intended to distribute the hacienda to the farmers is a matter for conspiracy theorists to decide.)
SUGAR AND POLITICS. Truckloads of newly harvested sugarcane await delivery to the Luisita’s sugar mill. For the hacienda’s farm workers, the seeds of conflict were already there as early as the 1950s, and always seemed linked to the mood of whoever occupied Malacañang. Scott Kho
According to Bais, the widow of Jose Cojuangco, Sr., Demetria Sumulong Cojuangco, fought to keep the hacienda. “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),” he says. “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?)”
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. (This was possibly 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. In Negros, for instance, landlords were mulling conversion to prawn or bangus farms.)
The Marcos government pursued its case against the Cojuangcos, and by December 1985, the Manila Regional Trial Court ordered TADECO to surrender Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. The Cojuangcos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals.
Cory ejects Marcos, keeps Luisita
That same month, December 1985, President Marcos announced snap elections would be held on February 7, 1986. Cory Aquino, now a widow after Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in 1983, was fielded by her late husband’s allies to run for president against Marcos.
The elections took place in February 1986 amid an atmosphere of violence and accusations of massive cheating. Marcos was declared winner, but was subsequently ousted by the People Power revolution. Cory Aquino was sworn in as president. Her revolutionary government dissolved Marcos’s 1973 constitution to pave the way for drafting a new constitution. Land reform, one of the pillars of Cory Aquino’s election campaign, was to be a highlight of the new constitution.
Mendiola, a portent of the Luisita massacre
On January 22, 1987, eleven months into the Aquino administration, the Mendiola massacre happened. Several thousand 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. Police tried to disperse the farmers, but the situation went out of control. At least one dozen farmers died on the spot. Many more were seriously injured.
President Cory is said to have fast-tracked the finalization of the land reform law because she was deeply affected by this tragedy. The new 1987 constitution took effect in February, the month following the Mendiola massacre, and five months later, on July 1987, President Cory signed an executive order outlining the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. She expanded the coverage of land reform to include sugar lands.
The outline of the new law also included a provision for the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a mode of complying with the land reform law that did not require actual physical transfer of land.
Stage is set for “SDO”
By May 1988, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case filed in 1980 by the Philippine government—under Marcos—against TADECO to compel the handover of Hacienda Luisita. It was the Philippine government itself—this time 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 agrarian reform law.
A month after the case was dismissed, in June 1988, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law took effect. The provision for SDO that it included would be availed of by the management of Hacienda Luisita and about ten other haciendas around the country. Through the SDO, the requirements of the agrarian reform law can be addressed without a direct transfer of land to tenants.
Conflict over the SDO would trigger the November 16, 2004 massacre of farmers in Hacienda Luisita fifteen years later.
To be continued..