Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adel Tamano: The Redistribution of Hacienda Luisita is Long Overdue

“Why wait for 5 more years when it should have been done decades ago”.
This was the statement of Atty. Adel Tamano, senatorial candidate of the Nacionalista Party, questioning the sincerity of Senator Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III when the latter promised to redistribute Hacienda Luisita in 5 years at a press conference held in Aquino’s ancestral home in Concepcion, Tarlac. 
Tamano said that the redistribution of Hacienda Lusita is long overdue. He was referring to the 6,419-hectare sugar estate operated by the influential Cojuangco clan located in Tarlac. Tamano said that Hacienda Luisita was subjected to land reform in 1980 for distribution to the farmers. Instead of complying with a court order transferring control of Hacienda Luisita to the then Ministry of Agrarian Reform, the Cojuangcos elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals. The case against the Cojuangcos was dismissed in 1988. In 1989, under the administration of President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, the Cojuangco clan took advantage of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme provided under the Aquino administration’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Under the SDO scheme, landlords were allowed to run landholdings like a corporation wherein the farmer-beneficiaries are given stocks in exchange for land.
After 16 years of SDO, the farm workers beneficiaries have become more impoverished. They complained of unfair labor practices and illegal dismissals and retrenchment. They claimed that their take-home pay went down to as low as P18 for seasonal workers and P9 for casuals per week. The deadlock between the farm workers and the Cojuangco family led to a strike by 5,000 farm workers and 700 mill workers. Seven striking farm workers were killed and more than a hundred workers were wounded when police and military dispersed the picketline at the hacienda’s gate on November 16, 2004.  This is what is now more popularly known as the “Hacienda Luisita Massacre.” Seven other farmer leaders and their supporters have been killed since the strike.
Compounding the woes of the poor farmers, Tamano said that in August 15, 1995, the Cojuangcos applied for conversion a 500 hectares land of the hacienda. The 500 hectares were sold for over 2 billion pesos but the farm workers were only given 37.5 million pesos. In 2006, portions of the hacienda were converted to make way for infrastructure projects like the SCTEX where the Conjuangcos reportedly earned a huge sum due to overpricing.
Tamano said that up to this time Senator Aquino has not been able to fully explain why the distribution of the hacienda could not be implemented. As to the claim of Aquino that the hacienda is heavily indebted hence the family does not want to burden the farmer-beneficiaries with the alleged debt, Tamano said that it is unfair to make the farmer-beneficiaries to suffer from the Cojuangcos’ own wrongdoings. Tamano noted that on December 23, 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) issued Resolution No. 2005‐32‐01 which recalled/revoked the SDO plan and placed hacienda Luisita under the compulsory coverage scheme of the CARP. Instead of complying with the order, the Cojuangcos were able to secure a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) from the Supreme Court which enjoins PARC and DAR to implement/execute the resolution revoking the SDO. In the meantime, the farmers continue to suffer.  
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