Luisita Magsasaka


How a workers’ strike became the Luisita Massacre

How a workers’ strike became the Luisita Massacre

By STEPHANIE DYCHIU

01/26/2010 | 05:24 PM

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Third of five parts on the history of Hacienda Luisita, a burning issue facing frontrunner Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s campaign for the presidency. Part four is here.

“It is an illegal strike, no strike vote was called,” then-Tarlac Congressman Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said in a speech at the House of Representatives to defend the dispersal of strikers at his family’s plantation, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on November 17, 2004.

The day before, the dispersal at Hacienda Luisita left at least seven people dead and 121 injured, 32 from gunshot wounds. In his speech, Aquino condemned the violence but defended the dispersal, saying the police and soldiers were “subjected to sniper fire coming from an adjacent barangay.”

Luisita, ‘the symbol of the failure of EDSA’

Five days later, Aquino was flogged by Inquirer columnist Conrado De Quiros.

“At the very most, workers have a right to strike. One would imagine congressmen would know that,” De Quiros wrote in his November 22, 2004 column. “A strike is neither illegal nor immoral, it is sanctioned by the Constitution and enshrined in the tradition of the workers’ movement. Only Lucio Tan and now Ninoy’s namesake think it is not.”

De Quiros further wrote: “Noynoy Aquino says leftists goaded the workers . . . to strike. Well, so what? . . . They could not have succeeded if the workers were not ripe for the goading . . . If leftists had not goaded workers, farmers, students, and other sectors to mount national strikes, or ‘welgang bayan’, during Martial Law, the Aquinos would not be there.”

De Quiros also wrote: “The life of Ninoy is not more important than the lives of the workers who died in the blaze of gunfire . . . Hacienda Luisita will always be the symbol of the failure of EDSA to move the country from tyranny to democracy . . . As in the days of the feudal manor, serfs are owned by their landlords body and soul. They can be told to do anything, including to agree to ‘stock option’.”

Finally: “Ninoy Aquino might have been talking of today when he said: ‘Here is a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy’. Here is a land of privilege and rank—a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste’.”

“If that ain’t broke, what is?” De Quiros concluded.

Lord of the Rings, Luke Skywalker, Noynoy

Five years later, De Quiros was handpicked by the Aquinos to speak at their mother Cory’s funeral.

Exactly one week later, (August 10, 2009), his column carried the headline “Noynoy for president”.

“Noynoy running for president will deliver us back to . . . the time or place of the great fight between Good and Evil,” De Quiros proclaimed. “Between Cory and Marcos, between Obama and Bush, between the Fellowship of the Ring and the Eye of Mordor, between Luke Skywalker and the Evil Empire. Use the Force, Noy.”

Exactly 40 days after his mother’s burial, Aquino “used the Force”and announced he was running for President.

Double strike

Part Three of this special report begins in November 2004, the month of the Luisita massacre.

The tension began when management retrenched 327 farm workers, including union officers.

On November 6, 2004, the union of the farm workers (United Luisita Workers Union or ULWU) launched a picket and blocked Gate 1 of the sugar mill.


Part 1: Hacienda Luisita’s past haunts Noynoy’s future
The issues surrounding Hacienda Luisita are being seen as the first real test of character of presidential hopeful 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 by 1967, a deadline that came and went.

Part 2: Cory’s land reform legacy to test Noynoy’s political will
There is a haunting resemblance between Senator Aquino’s “Hindi Ka Nag-Iisa” music video and a real-life torchlit march of Hacienda Luisita’s workers days before the November 16, 2004 massacre. What could be worth all the blood that has been spilled?


They were joined by the union of the sugar mill workers (Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union or CATLU), who were in a deadlock in their own wage negotiations. The sugar mill workers blocked Gate 2 of the sugar mill.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) were called in, but were unable to disperse the strikers with tear gas, truncheons, and water cannons.

Almost all 5,000 members of ULWU and 700 members of CATLU joined the November 6 strike, while 80 CATLU members chose to continue working, according to a statement delivered under oath by Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo of the Health Alliance for Democracy at the February 3, 2005 Senate hearing on the Luisita massacre.

Araullo’s group conducted their own medical examination and investigation because of fears of a government whitewash. (Araullo is also the chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or BAYAN.)


Was it legal for the police to intervene in the strike?

The strike of the farm workers’ union (United Luisita Workers’ Union or ULWU) on November 6, 2004 at Gate 1 of the sugar mill was not covered by the assumption of jurisdiction of the Labor secretary. The case was with the National Labor Relations Commission, according to the statement of Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo of the Health Alliance for Democracy at the February 3, 2005 Senate hearing on the Luisita massacre. Continue reading…

Did Gloria help the Aquinos?

On November 10, 2004, four days after the strike started, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) declared an Assumption of Jurisdiction. Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas announced that quelling the strike was a matter of national interest because Luisita was one of the country’s major sugar producers. The Assumption of Jurisdiction legally cleared the way to use government troops to stop the strike. The picketers were ordered to vacate within five days, or else be removed by force.

Under normal conditions, the Labor Code protects the right of workers—even those who have been retrenched—to demonstrate against their employers. Police are not allowed to break up non-violent pickets, and the military cannot be used like a security agency to solve the problems of private businessmen.

The Assumption of Jurisdiction, however, is like a declaration of Martial Law in a labor dispute. It strips workers of their right to demonstrate, and authorizes the use of law enforcement agencies. The Assumption of Jurisdiction is allowed by the Labor Code only if a strike jeopardizes national interest.

The strikers in Luisita grumbled that management was able to get the DOLE to declare an Assumption of Jurisdiction because it had a direct line to Malacañang through former President Cory Cojuangco Aquino, whose children Kris and Noynoy supported President Gloria Arroyo in the presidential elections just six months before (May 2004). The Aquinos and their followers also helped put Arroyo in power after ousting President Joseph Estrada in 2001.


Was Luisita’s sugar mill indispensable to the national interest?

Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas declared an Assumption of Jurisdiction over the Luisita dispute on November 10, 2004. Sto. Tomas said quelling the strike was a matter of national interest because Luisita was one of the country’s major sugar producers. This paved the way for sending government troops to stop the strike. Continue reading…

The strikers stayed put, determined to make management come out and negotiate.

EDSA meets Mendiola

To protect themselves from the forthcoming forcible removal, the workers called on the people in the barrios around Luisita to form a human barrier at the picket line, says Lito Bais, current acting president of ULWU. In an eerie EDSA-meets-Mendiola spectacle, the villagers came, including priests, barangay officials, and children whose families sympathized with the workers. Concerned groups from out of town also sent contingents to help protect the strikers.

On November 15, 2004, the PNP returned as promised with reinforcements. According to Araullo’s report to the Senate, around 400 policemen tried to disperse about 4,000 protesters. CATLU president Ric Ramos was hit and collapsed from a large head wound, but the police were still unable to break the picket.

Can retrenched union officers still represent the union under the Labor Code?


Article 212, Paragraph F of the Labor Code says that the definition of “Employee” includes “any individual whose work has ceased as a result of or in connection with any current labor dispute or because of any unfair labor practice if he has not obtained any other substantially equivalent and regular employment”.

Based on this provision, lawyers of the farm workers argued that management should still have recognized the retrenched union officers because they were still employees of the company under the law, since their retrenchment was still on appeal and they had not yet received separation pay. As employees, the lawyers said, the union officers had a right to self-organization and to fulfill their roles as leaders of the union.

The trip to the Cojuangco house

Sometime in the afternoon of November 15, according to Bais, the union leaders were told to go to the house of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr. in Makati to talk. The negotiations were to be mediated by party-list congressman Satur Ocampo. Ocampo had gone to Luisita along with fellow Bayan Muna party-list congressman Teddy Casiño to aribitrate with the police.

The next morning, November 16, 2004, the union officers left Tarlac for Makati. “Kinabahan na ang mga opisyales namin, pagdating nila sa Makati, na parang may mangyayari dito (Our union officers got worried as soon as they reached Makati. They had a feeling something was going to happen here),” says Bais, who was not yet acting president of ULWU at that time, and had stayed behind. “Parang inalis lang sila dito (It was like they were just lured away from here).”

At the Cojuangco house in Makati, the CATLU officers were told negotiations could only happen if the strike was stopped first. The ULWU officers were not allowed in because they were considered retrenched and no longer authorized to negotiate for the farm workers.

While the union officers were in Makati, the military rolled into Luisita. The union officers now believe the meeting in Makati was just a ruse to lure them away so the military could move into the hacienda.

2 tanks, 700 police, 17 trucks of soldiers

When the union officers returned to the picket line around 3:00 pm after their fruitless trip to Makati, the place looked like a war was about to begin. Near Gate 1 of the sugar mill were “700 policemen, 17 truckloads of soldiers in full battle gear, 2 tanks equipped with heavy weapons, a payloader, 4 fire trucks with water cannons, and snipers positioned in at least 5 strategic places”, according to Araullo’s report to the Senate.

One of the tanks and the payloader rammed through the sugar mill gate that management had previously locked. The protesters were pelted with tear gas and sprayed with water spiked with chemicals from the fire trucks. They fought back by burying the tear gas canisters in soil, and flinging rocks at the fire trucks and tanks using slingshots. Eventually, the tear gas and fire hoses ran out.

“Nagbi-biba na ang mga manggagawang-bukid (The farm workers were cheering their victory),” says Bais. The strikers surged through the gate, waving sticks and throwing rocks at the tank.

Then, gunfire erupted.

1,000 rounds of ammunition used

The first spray of bullets lasted for almost a full minute, as men, women, and children ran for their lives. This was followed by a series of rapid spurts. According to Araullo’s statement, the presidents of the two unions narrowly missed being shot by snipers while running to get behind some sugarcane trucks. Other protesters were beaten and dragged into army trucks and placed under arrest, regardless of gender or age.

Doctors who later autopsied the dead and examined the wounded said the victims were running, crouching, or lying down when they were shot. At the December 1, 2004 Senate hearing on the massacre, videos of the bloody dispersal caught by the media were shown. It was revealed that an astounding 1,000 rounds of ammunition were used by the military and police during the shooting.

Soldiers shut down hospital

Right before the assault on the picket line started, there were unusual movements at the Cojuangco-owned St. Martin de Porres Hospital near the sugar mill, Araullo told the Senate. Existing patients were moved out, and the Army and PNP moved in. At 8:00 pm, just hours after the massacre, the doctors, nurses, and staff of the hospital were told to go home by the police and military, who then took over until the next day. Corpses from the shooting were still in the hospital. The police and military later claimed three corpses tested positive for gunpowder. But no next of kin had given permission or were present during the paraffin tests.

A deliberate attack

The events at the hospital, coupled with the volume of fire, the character of the injuries, and the positions of the victims, Araullo told the Senate, belied the claim that the shooting was done as a defensive move, and indicated that there was “collusion and premeditation between management and the AFP/PNP” to deliberately attack and break up the picket.

When the body count was drawn up, there were seven dead and at least 121 injured. Of the 121 injured, 32 suffered gunshot wounds, 11 were children or in their teens, and four were over sixty years old.


Who were the 7 who died in the Luisita Massacre?

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. Continue reading…

Noynoy defends dispersal

On November 17, 2004, the day after the massacre, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported: “At the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III (LP, Tarlac) , only son of the former President, defended the dispersal of the protesters … Aquino said that elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police who dispersed the workers were ‘subjected to sniper fire coming from an adjacent barangay’… Aquino noted that 400 of the 736 workers in question had decided to return to work.”

In the same report, Aquino’s uncle, former Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., said he received a copy of a press statement from ULWU saying it was not the group behind the picket. Ronaldo Alcantara of ULWU said in the statement that a small group of retrenched workers led by Rene Galang, a former official of ULWU, and Ric Ramos, president of CATLU, were behind the incidents at the hacienda.

The next day, November 18, 2004, the Philippine Star reported: “Tarlac Rep. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III said yesterday there was strong evidence that the clash was triggered by gunfire coming from the ranks of the strikers. He said when the police tried to break the barricade using an armored personnel carrier, they were fired upon by strikers. He cited there were at least eight bullet marks on the APC. Aquino also urged his militant colleagues in Congress against conducting fact-finding missions at the Hacienda, which he said could further ‘inflame the situation.’ Aquino earlier claimed that outsiders instigated the rioting.”

PNP report echoes Noynoy defense

Months later, the PNP submitted its own report to the Senate dated January 24, 2005. The PNP’s account was similar to the statements Aquino gave right after the massacre.


Summary of the PNP’s final report on the Luisita massacre

The final report of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the November 16, 2004 Luisita massacre was submitted on January 24, 2005. It cleared the PNP of blame, and reported that:

> The order to disperse the strikers was made only after the police saw that negotiations between the Department of Labor’s sheriff and the strike leaders had failed.

> The PNP observed maximum tolerance and were simply helping the sheriff implement a return-to-work order.

> The “initial burst of gunfire, single shots in succession, came from the ranks of the striking workers after they crossed the gate and invaded the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) compound”.

> Evidence gathered confirmed the presence and participation of the New People’s Army (NPA), but “the evidence will not suffice for their criminal prosecution”.

> The resistance put up by the strikers resulted in the death of seven strikers and wounding of 36 others.

> 100 policemen and soldiers were injured.

> 111 civilians were arrested and assorted guns and several bolos and knives were recovered from the scene.

> The violence was orchestrated by individuals who were not members of the striking unions, and firearms and explosives were used to generate a more violent reaction from the government forces.

>The slain workers were not residents of Tarlac or employees of Hacienda Luisita.

Read “Who were the 7 who died in the Luisita massacre?”

The PNP’s report was debunked point-by-point by the workers and the party-list group BAYAN, which had conducted its own fact-finding investigation.

(Manila Times, December 8, 2005)

In addition, the report said the PNP only went to Luisita on November 16, 2004 to assist the DOLE in implementing a return-to-work order. Maximum tolerance was observed, and the order to disperse was made only after the police saw that negotiations with the strike leaders had failed. Evidence gathered, according to the report, “confirms the presence and participation of the NPA (New People’s Army) in the strike.” The report also said 100 policemen and soldiers were injured.

Noynoy on the Luisita massacre



“It is an illegal strike. No strike vote was called.”
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 17, 2004)

“[The military and the police who dispersed the workers were] subjected to sniper fire coming from an adjacent barangay.”
(Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 17, 2004)

The clash was triggered by gunfire coming from the ranks of the strikers.
(Philippine Star, November 18, 2004)

When police tried to break the barricade using an armored personnel carrier (APC), they were fired upon by the strikers. There were at least 8 bullet marks on the APC.
(Philippine Star, November 18, 2004)

Outsiders instigated the rioting. Among those injured were sympathizers who came from as far as the Visayas.
(Philippine Star, November 18, 2004)

The workers’ defense

The Department of Labor declared an Assumption of Jurisdiction to quash the workers’ right to strike. The government issued this radical order because the Aquinos had a direct line to Malacañang (Noynoy and Kris Aquino supported President Gloria Arroyo in the 2004 elections).

The sniper fire came from plainclothes men inside the sugar mill compound, which only Luisita management and the military/police could access until the military’s own tank rammed the sugar mill gate open shortly before firing started.

If the strikers started the shooting, why were there no casualties among the military/police, but seven killed and 32 wounded by gunshots among the strikers?

Why would the strikers fire bullets into an APC, which is resistant to bullets, but not shoot any of the 700 military/police around? The bullets on the APC could have been planted by the military/police.

The injured who came from the Visayas were sacadas (seasonal sugarcane cutters) from Negros who were hired by the Cojuangcos, but sympathized with the strikers.

TEDDY BENIGNO’S TAKE

The late journalist Teodoro “Teddy” Benigno was a long-time friend of Ninoy and Cory Aquino. He served as Cory Aquino’s Press Secretary from 1986 to 1989. On November 19, 2004, Teddy Benigno wrote about the Luisita massacre in his column in the Philippine Star:

“I would have wished that Ninoy’s son, Rep. Benigno (Noynoy) Aquino and brother-in-law Jose (Peping) Cojuangco just kept quiet. As it was they sort of blamed the dispersal and massacre on trouble-making outsiders—agents provocateurs—who had nothing to do with Luisita. Noynoy, you’re not Ninoy and you should have kept to yourself. Ditto for Peping. Those were self-serving statements and you knew it.”

Noynoy and PNP statements refuted

The statements of Aquino and the PNP were refuted by the strikers and the leftist political alliance BAYAN, which had conducted its own fact-finding mission.

According to them, it was impossible for the sniper fire to have come from the ranks of the strikers because the shots emanated from inside the sugar mill compound, which only management, the military, and the police had access to until the gate that management had locked was rammed open by the military’s tank right before the firing started.

Moreover, they said, it was highly unlikely that the shooting started from the strikers’ side because there were no casualties among the military and police, while there were 7 killed and 32 wounded by gunshots among the strikers.

As for the bullets on the APC mentioned by Aquino, they said it did not make sense for the strikers to fire at a tank, which is bulletproof, but not shoot any of the 700 soldiers and policemen around. The bullets could have been planted.

The group also said no negotiations with strike leaders could have taken place on the afternoon of November 16, 2004, as the PNP claimed, because the union officers had barely arrived from the Cojuangco house in Makati when dispersal operations escalated. In their sworn statements, the police officers in charge of the dispersal could not even give the names of the strike leaders they said they negotiated with before launching the assault.

Misleading the media

Furthermore, while the PNP linked the NPA to the strike, the PNP also said in their report that “evidence gathered against alleged members of the NPA will not suffice for their criminal prosecution”, in effect negating their own claim.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo Alcantara, the officer of ULWU who denied ULWU was behind the strike in the Inquirer report, was a lower-level former officer of the union who was used to mislead the media, according to current ULWU acting president Lito Bais. The president of ULWU registered at the Bureau of Labor Relations at the time of the strike was Rene Galang. Bais says management encouraged splinter factions in the union led by persons under their control.

The PNP’s report did not say anything about the takeover of St. Martin de Porres Hospital that happened just before the dispersal was launched.

The wake at the sugar mill

Days after the massacre, five out of the seven dead bodies were brought by the farm workers and their sympathizers to the picket line near the gate of the sugar mill.

How were they able to go near the gate when the military was still there standing guard? “Sabi namin, siguro naman, patay na ang dala natin, igagalang naman nila. Sila ang pumatay, e (We just said, maybe, since the people we were carrying were already dead, they would respect that. After all, they were the ones who killed them),” says Bais.

The procession was led by a councilor from Tarlac City named Abel Ladera, who grew up in one of the barangays inside Hacienda Luisita. He became an engineer, and once worked inside the sugar mill. The workers relied on the presence of Ladera, an elected official, and some media men to keep management and the military at bay. As the coffins were being lowered and the barbed wire removed, the soldiers went inside the sugar mill so the mourners could prepare for the wake.

Little did Ladera know that his sympathetic involvement with the strikers would put him in mortal danger.

Union’s office destroyed

After the massacre victims’ coffins were brought to the picket line, Bais says the union’s office was destroyed by soldiers. “Nung balikan namin ang opisina namin, wala na lahat. Ultimo ang computer na gamit namin, giba-giba na. Yung mga file, lahat, wala na kaming inabutan. (When we went back to our office, everything was gone. Even the computer we were using was totally destroyed. Our files, everything, we were not able to save anything).” The collection of pictures of the union’s past presidents since the workers’ struggle began was also destroyed, he adds.

Hundreds of soldiers moved into Luisita’s different barangays. To justify the presence of the military, officials of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) presented a report to the media saying the workers’ strike at Hacienda Luisita was the “handiwork of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) and a culmination of long months of instigation and propaganda work to get the workers to rise up in arms against the Cojuangcos.”

Asked for comment on this story, Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, “Noynoy regrets the massacre but the mass action was infiltrated. It was started by infiltrators.”

After conducting hearings about the massacre and recording the testimonies of witnesses, the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment never issued a formal report.

TO BE CONTINUED

Hacienda Luisita and the Aquinos’ rift with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

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READER’S FEEDBACK:

DISCLAIMER: All Emails to the Editor that are chosen for publication may be edited for brevity and conciseness. The views expressed in this feedback section do not necessarily reflect the views of GMANews.TV, Mediamerge, or of GMA Network.

Thank you for this detailed report.

I haven’t chosen any Presidential candidate for now. Your report is helping me in choosing the next leader of the land. I would appreciate it more if you could have a documentary that will be shown in one of your top and best news and current affairs program. This might help the Filipino people examine the darker side of Ninoy. I hope you could also feature other Presidentiables.

I always share this report to my friends here in Davao and they liked it so much not because they hate Ninoy but because they see the truth and substance in your reporting. God bless you!

Anonymous
Davao

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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

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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?

Who were the 7 who died in the Luisita Massacre?

Jhaivie Basilio, 20

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.)



Metropac: SCTex contract cost “unrealistic”

MetroPac: SCTEx contract cost ‘unrealistic’ BusinessWorld | 02/09/2010 11:21 AM MANILA, Philippines –

Financial terms required by the government agency bidding out the contract to operate the country’s longest tollway are “unrealistic,” according to businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan. Traffic volume at the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) remains small and whoever wins the operation and management or O&M contract will have to shell out a huge sum for subsidies, he said in an interview last Friday. State-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) is considering the financial offer of Manila North Tollways Corp., a unit of listed Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. which is part of the Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp., for the 94-kilometer SCTEx. The BCDA had actually rejected the financial offer of Manila North Tollways, although it passed technical requirements. Another bidder, Northlink Toll Management, Inc., a joint venture between San Miguel Corp. and Star Tollways Corp., was declared “ineligible” for failing to comply with the technical requirements. Both firms are appealing the BCDA’s decisions. Under BCDA’s terms, the winning bidder must bear the “operational funding requirements for the management, operations and maintenance of the SCTEx including periodic maintenance works, special/major/emergency works and all other additional works, and insurance.” The winner must also provide management services, toll collection, traffic safety and security management, tollroad maintenance including greenery and landscaping, and other related services. The BCDA wants a semiannual lease or concession fee amounting to either the peso equivalent of the yen-dominated loan taken out by the government to finance the tollway’s construction as well as all financing charges; or 20% of audited gross revenues, whichever is higher. Mr. Pangilinan, who is also chairman of Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Co., said the BCDA’s requirements were “unrealistically high.” “Let me put it this way. The traffic and the revenues that are being generated by SCTEx are not sufficient to service that loan, period.” “So the concessionaire will have to subsidize and incur a loss. But who will do that for a number of years? Who would want to lose money?” he asked. BCDA officials could not be reached for a comment. The BCDA had estimated the annual loan payments to Japanese creditors at P1.2 billion starting 2011. The loan for the SCTEx project amounted to P26 billion. “I think their financial terms are unrealistic in relation to the projected traffic. The conces-sionaires will have to lose money in the first year,” Mr. Pangilinan said. Last year, more than 18,000 vehicles used the SCTEx daily on average. The original projection was an average of 35,000 vehicles daily in the first year of operation. The tollway is being operated temporarily by Tollways Management Corp., which is 46% owned by Metro Pacific Tollways. Manila North Tollways operates the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), which is connected to SCTEx in Pampanga. It hiked profits by 16% to P1.17 billion on revenues of P4.07 billion from January to September 2009, when an average of 149,164 vehicles passed through NLEx. Metro Pacific is the Philippine unit of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., which partly owns PLDT. Mediaquest Holdings, Inc., owned by the Beneficial Trust Fund of PLDT, has a minority stake in BusinessWorld. Shares in Metro Pacific stayed at P2.22 apiece yesterday after shedding 4% on Friday. abs-cbnNEWS.com is the online news department of ABS-CBN Interactive Inc., a subsidiary of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. ABS-CBN and Meralco are both part of the Lopez Group of Companies. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/01/20/10/sctex-controversy-bigger-c-5-says-villar-ally SCTEx controversy bigger than C-5, says Villar ally by Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 01/21/2010 12:54 AM MANILA, Philippines – The Aquino family should pay the government for the construction of the interchange in Hacienda Luisita, which is estimated to be worth around P170 million, an ally of Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar said. At the continuation of the House oversight committee hearing Wednesday on alleged irregularities in the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin ‘Boying’ Remulla said the family of presidential survey frontrunner Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III should refund the government for the purchase of the allegedly overpriced right-of-way property for the SCTEx road project. He claimed that regular government procedure mandates the landowner should give the property to the government at zero cost. “Interchanges in private properties have to be paid for by the private property owners. He should donate the right-of-way. They [Aquinos] still have the industrial land,” Remulla said. Remulla also claimed that the SCTEx road controversy is “bigger” than the C-5 road extension project scandal against Villar. “’Yong kay Villar, zonal value ang pinag-uusapan. Hindi overpriced. Dito may interchange pa. Ang laki ng kanilang pakinabang masyado,” Remulla said. No overprice, no payment needed Sought for comment by abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak, Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda said the interchange “need not be paid because the contractors designed the Luisita toll to be the end point.” In a text message, he said the interchange was “supposed to promote commerce between Subic and the Luisita industrial zone corridor.” Lacierda also said Remulla has not presented evidence that the right-of-way property was overpriced. “He has been mouthing overprice without proof. Government officials have already testified to the non-overpricing. This is not C-5,” Lacierda said. He said Remulla should not “divert the issue.” During Wednesday’s hearing, retired Brig. Gen. Robert Gervacio, the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) program manager for SCTEx’s operational and support services, cleared Aquino of any wrongdoing in the project. “Everything is aboveboard. There was no contact between BCDA and Senator Aquino,” Gervacio said in response to questions raised by Akbayan Rep. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros, a guest senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party. Extraordinary transaction? Philippine National Construction Corp. President Maria Teresa Defensor on Wednesday’s hearing testified that the government does not ordinarily pay private landowners for right-of-way properties in government projects because the private landowner presumably benefits from the construction of a national road. Defensor also testified that the Toll Regulatory Board, which processes applications for interchanges in major road projects, does not normally pay for the construction of interchanges in private lands. She said there’s a process where private landowners apply for the construction of an interchange and, if approved, shoulder the full cost of construction. This is also because the value of the land will presumably increase, and the landowner benefits from the rise in property values resulting from the infrastructure project. “Ang suwerte naman nila masyado. The value of the industrial land is now P1,000 per hectare because of the interchange,” Remulla said. The cost of the interchange built inside the Hacienda Luisita complex was shouldered by the government and funded through a loan from the Japan Bank and International Corp. It is a flagship project of President Gloria Arroyo. Just lucky? However, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA)-SCTEx project engineering chief retired general Eduardo Lena explained that the government paid for the construction of the interchange because it was part of the original plan for SCTEx. The hearing failed to directly link Senator Aquino to the allegedly irregular transaction. The BCDA had negotiated with Senator Aquino’s uncle, Pedro Cojuangco. But Remulla said Senator Aquino should still be held accountable. “It’s the uncle. It’s just one family you are dealing with. And he is a direct beneficiary. He cannot control his family. Patay malisya siya pag family ang involved. Pero nakinabang siya,” he said. Remulla added that it is also a taxpayers’ issue because the people will shoulder the cost of the loan. SCTEx controversy The SCTex controversy began in November 2009 with Remulla’s allegations that Senator Aquino’s family benefited from the allegedly overpriced sale of the right-of-way property. The property was sold for P100 per hectare. Remulla questioned it because the zonal value was only P8, he said. The controversy has since branched out into several other allegations of irregularities such as: -Senator Aquino’s family allegedly failed to fairly distribute to the farmers their share in the sale of the right-of-way property; -The contraction of the interchange inside the Hacienda Luisita was allegedly irregular; -The Cojuangco family has allegedly not been paying government royalty fees for the quarrying activities inside Hacienda Luisita. Remulla also revived calls for the Cojuangco family to distribute Hacienda Luisita to the farmers. Remulla said there will be two to three more hearings on the controversy.

Contributor: Maria Elizabeth Embry



SCTex was Gloria’s gift to Aquinos

SCTex was Gloria’s gift to Aquinos

By Charlie V. Manalo

02/07/2010

The Tarlac portion of the Subic-Clark- Tarlac Expressway (SCTex) was one of President Arroyo’s ways of expressing her gratitude to the Cojuangco-Aquinos who helped her grab power unconstitutionally from then sitting President Joseph Estrada in 2001.

This was disclosed by Tribune sources yesterday.

Rep. Crispin “Boying” Remulla distributed copies of a Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) check for P50 million, representing a government downpayment for the overpriced road right of way (RoW) for the raw land in Hacienda Luisita, the property of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan in Tarlac.

Remulla hinted broadly that the money could have been used to fund the campaign of President Corazon “Cory” Aquino’s son Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s congressional candidacy.

“Imagine constructing a P12-billion road project for a mere 500-hectare industrial park!” Remulla said. “And not to be content with the San Miguel private interchange for the consumption of the Hacienda Luisita, two other interchanges, the Concepcion and La Paz interchanges, both

leading to Hacienda Luisita were constructed.”

Remulla also accused Noynoy of having blood in his hands in connection with the Luisita Massacre as he and his family were engulfed in a quagmire of greed the moment they received the payment for RoW.

“Interestingly, if you analyze the timing of the Luisita Massacre, it occurred in between the payment for the RoW for the Hacienda,” Remulla said as he presented a photo copy of the returned checks issued by the BCDA to HLI as payment to the right of way (RoW) for the 84 hectares of land.

One check with the amount of P50 million as down payment to HLI was dated April 16, 2004 while the other amounting to P25,680,810 representing full payment of the RoW was dated Feb.15,2005.

The break between the Aquino family and the Arroyos came in July, 2005, after the now infamous “Hello Garci” tapes, which contained incriminating conversations beween Arroyo and then Commission on Elections commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano which detailed the electoral cheatng operatons ordered by Arroyo to ensure her fraudulent victory in the presidential elections of 2004.

Aquino had demanded the resignation of Arroyo from the presidency then. Aquino’s demand was not heeded.

“The moment they received their payment for the RoW for Hacienda Luisita, they knew right then and there the value of their property would skyrocket. And by conservative estimate, Hacienda Luisita is now valued at P60 billion. And who would give away that property with that value?” said Remulla.

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano said Noynoy’s echoing of the Cojuangco clan’s position on the question of Hacienda Luisita’s distribution has isolated him not only from farmers but from a large section of the middle class that advocates agrarian reform.

Mariano issued the statement after Aquino, the Liberal Party standard-bearer, in a press conference the other day claimed that the Luisita issue is not as simple as it appears and that “government cannot dictate any solution to the land row.”

“Senator Aquino’s statement that government cannot dictate solution to the land row clearly demonstrates his opposition to Hacienda Luisita’s distribution and genuine agrarian reform,” said Mariano. “The Filipino peasantry cannot expect Aquino to implement genuine agrarian reform.

“By echoing the position of Kamag-anak Inc. on the Luisita land row, Aquino has exposed himself as an anti-peasant and anti-agrarian reform candidate,” the militant lawmaker said.

Kamag-anak Inc. refers to the Cojuangco clan that gained notoriety during the presidency of the late Cory Cojuangco- Aquino.

Aquino said there are more than 10,000 farmers claiming a part of the land but the estate consists of only 4,100 hectares.

He said transferring all the land to a huge number of claimants poses a problem because “obviously you won’t be able to give one hectare to each of them.

“We already heard that position more than 20 years ago when the Cojuangco family was maneuvering to evade Luisita’s distribution,” said Mariano: “Senator Aquino’s statement shows that his family will never let go of Luisita.”

“With Senator Aquino’s anti-agrarian reform position,” Mariano noted, “he will surely find a hard time getting the votes of the peasantry and a large section of the middle sector that advocate agrarian reform.”

Remulla also scored Noynoy saying that contrary to his statement, the Hacienda Luisita row can easily be settled.

“All Noynoy has to do is to ask his family to ask the Supreme Court (SC) to withdraw the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) they have been able to acquire which had effectively stopped the land distribution of Hacienda Luisita to its farm workers,” Remulla said.

“He should tell his family, ‘If you want me to become President of the country, the let us give up what we have to give up’.

“But if Senator Aquino can’t fix up his own backyard, how can he be expected to fix up the entire Philippine backyard?” Remulla pointed out.

“Facts speak for themselves. What agenda of change is Noynoy talking about?” Remulla stressed

“The Cojuangco-Aquino family is indeed the luckiest family under this (Arroyo) administration,” he stressed.

“This family is the luckiest family in the Philippines under the Arroyo administration as they (family members) are not only holding positions in the government but have also cornered juicy contracts including the multi-billion peso dam project in the district of one of President Arroyo’s son,” Remulla said in an earlier forum at the Sulo Hotel.

“And that is on top of the fact that they were gifted by this administration by the P12 billion Tarlac portion of the SCTex project, three interchanges which lead to the Cojuangco-Aquino controlled Hacienda Luisita property,” Remulla added.

According to the Cavite solon, the original plan for the expressway project conceived during the time of former President Estrada did not include the Tarlac portion as the road project was only meant to link the industrial hub of Subic and Clark.

The industrial park of Subic covers around 10,000 hectares while that of Clark covers more than 50,000 hectares.

When Arroyo assumed power in 2001, the Aquinos reportedly lobbied for the Tarlac portion, citing the need to interlink their industrial park to that of Subic and Clark.

However, the industrial park of Tarlac located inside the Hacienda Luisita covers only 500 hectares.

The Tarlac portion suffered a glitch and was nearly cancelled as the Cojuangco- Aquinos intensely lobbied for a compensation of P200 per square meter for the almost 84 hectares of their property the road project would pass through.

The officials of the BCDA refused to budge from the Cojuangco-Aquinos bullying and threatened to cancel the project.

It was at that point, Remulla said that “a very influential member of the Aquino” family called up “a very powerful person” to personally ask her to push through with the project. The “very powerful person” in turn gave the BCDA the go-signal to push through with the Tarlac portion of the SCTex and compensating the Cojuangco-Aquino controlled Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) P100 per square meter or roughly P84 million.

Though refusing to name who the “very influential member of the Aquino family” and the “very powerful person” are, Tribune sources say they were no less than the late Cory Aquino and President Arroyo.

Remulla also tried to portray Noynoy Aquino as being the “secretly anointed” presidential bet of Arroyo, to deflect the popular impression that Sen. Manuel Villar is the anointed presidential bet of Arroyo as Aquino has come up with this charge, on the basis that Villar has refused to criticize Arroyo.

“Noynoy is GMA’s secret candidate,” Remulla said, stressing that his close relatives are with the Arroyo administration, naming them all.

Remulla said the “rift” between the two families is a mere facade of their relationship as the Cojuangco-Aquinos are up to now enjoying a privilege status under the administration.

“If the relationship between the Cojuangco- Aquinos and the Arroyos is indeed as sour as Senator Noynoy’s camp claims it to be, then why is Paul Aquino, Noynoy’s political strategist still with the Arroyo administration?” Remulla asked. “This is not mere coincidence.”

For his part, Villar denied forging any alliance with the outgoing administration of Arroyo to stop an “impending” Aquino administration and throw the monkey wrench into the campaign of Senator Aquino of the Liberal Party.

Villar, who was in Nueva Vizcaya to grace the opening of the Cagayan Valley Regional Athletic Association meet told the media that “there was no truth to such allegations which are being crafted by my rivals to destroy the credibility of my campaign.

“Some people cannot accept that a (formerly) poor man like me is running for the presidency without the help of the power elites,” Villar said.

In an ambush interview with media in that province, Villar said it was highly improbable for him to forge an alliance with the administration at this point since “I am very much identified with the opposition.”

The Aquino camp accused Villar of having forged an “unholy alliance” with the administration the Palace spokesman praised Villar and his camp for not engaging in a “hate campaign” against Arroyo and her administration.

source: http://www.tribune. net.ph/headlines /20100207hed1. html



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 and the suspension of belief

What about the injustices?

Baby boom to be blamed for Luisita farmers’ poverty

January 31, 2010 17:54:00
Delfin Mallari Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon

CANDELARIA, QUEZON, Philippines –The poverty and discontent among Hacienda Luisita farmers should not be blamed on the landed Cojuangco clan but on the tenants’ lack of family planning, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s eldest sister said on Sunday.

“Palaki nang palaki ang kanilang pamilya. Hindi nakakaya. Magkano lang ang kanilang kinikita? Siyempre pag hinati yun , siyempre paliit ng paliit,” said Ballsy Aquino-Cruz when asked about the root cause of the conflict between the Cojuangco family and the Luisita farmers.

“Just like any other company, fine if it (Hacienda Luisita) gains profit, and sorry if does not. Just wait for the next time.”

Cruz and sister Pinky Abellada were here Sunday morning along with LP senatorial candidates Neric Acosta, Yasmin Busran-Lao and Martin Bautista; former social welfare secretary Dinky Soliman; and Pinky Roxas, cousin of Senator Mar Roxas. Roxas is Aquino’s running mate in the May presidential election.

The LP delegation met with local supporters of Aquino-Roxas tandem.

Cruz refuted allegations that the management of Hacienda Luisita did not give farmer-shareholders their just share of over P80 million paid by the government for the 83-hectare right-of-way through the Luisita estate in constructing the Subic-Clark-Tarlac-Expressway.

She said the money was spent by the corporation to pay off debts.

“Hacienda Lusita is a corporation. It has lots of debts. The money was not divided among shareholders and instead, it went to the company (treasurer),” Cruz explained.

In defending the stock distribution option, which has been criticized for effectively exempting the Cojuangcos from agrarian reform, Cruz said the farmers were able to have their land without the government paying even a single centavo for it.

“They got 33 percent (of the whole Hacienda Luisita area) for nothing. The government did not even pay a single centavo. If it was distributed under the government land reform, the landowner will be paid for the land,” she stressed.

Cavite Representative Jesus Crispin Remulla, an ally of Nacionalista Party presidential candidate and Sen. Manny Villar, alleged that right of way deal with the Hacienda Luisita for the construction of SCTEX was overpriced. He said the SCTEX was realigned to make it pass through Luisita.

Remulla claimed that the P80 million paid by the government to Luisita for the road right-of-way was over priced by at least P92 per square meter and that the Luisita farmers, who had been toiling at the hacienda for decades, got a pittance.

Under the stock distribution option, the farmers became owners of 33 percent of the vast estate and should have received at least P25 million of the P80 million right-of-way payment, the lawmaker said.

The farmers, he said, were, instead, given only P2 million pesos in dividends, which translated to 50 centavos to P1 per farmer.

But Aquino’s other sister, Pinky Abellada, said the state-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority has cleared the deal as aboveboard.

“If they really have evidence, they should file it before the (Senate) Ethics Committee. We expect more mud to be thrown against Noynoy but he is ready to face them all,” Abellada said.

Abellada said she would be willing to take a bullet just to emphasize Aquino’s “unblemished” integrity.

“Kung may tao na magsasabi na may ebidensya sya na nagnakaw si Noynoy kahit piso lang, please barilin ninyo ako (If there is somebody, who offer evidence to show that Noynoy stole from the public coffers, even if it’s just one peso, just shoot me please). I’m very sure that my brother is untainted (with corruption),” she said.

Cruz said they own only 11 percent of the 67 percent shares controlled by the Cojuangco clan. “We are only minority (owners). We are not powerful. There are also other stockholders.”

“Our respective shares are a little over two percent,” Abellada added.

It was during the time of their mother, the late president Corazon Aquino, when an executive order was signed, outlining the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of the government. She expanded the coverage of land reform to include sugar lands.

The new law, however, 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.

This was accepted by the Luisita farmers, making them 33 percent owners of Hacienda Luisita, Cruz pointed out.

source: http://politics.inquirer.net/view.php?db=1&article=20100131-250527