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Reporter Ronalyn V. Olea writes an article for Bulatlat on the plight of the peasants of Hacienda Luisita, owned by the family of President Aquino:
One year after the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of Hacienda Luisita land to farm worker-beneficiaries, not a single parcel of land has been given back to the rightful owners.
This was the main message of the four-day Lakbayan para sa libreng pamamahagi ng lupa sa Asyenda Luisita (Journey for the free distribution of land in Hacienda Luisita) staged by more than 200 farm workers and their supporters.
The Lakbayan started April 24 in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac City and ended at the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge.
“Three years of the Aquino presidency and one year since the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of the land, we remain landless,” Rodel Mesa, chairman of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita and secretary general of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said.
On the morning of April 27, they marched from DAR to Times Street in Quezon City. Elements of the Quezon City Police District blocked the protesters a few meters away from the ancestral house of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
“Don’t you know that this is where the most voracious family live?” Mesa told the policemen in Filipino, referring to the Cojuangco-Aquinos who have controlled the Hacienda Luisita for more than five decades.
Mesa said the Cojuangco-Aquinos, after benefiting from the land for more than 50 years, have the gall to demand compensation. “They have insatiable hunger for money,” Mesa said.
Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and its extension law, landlords shall be paid ‘just compensation.’
Farm worker-beneficiaries, on the other hand, have to pay amortization for a period of 30 years.
In their petition to the high court, the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) management argued that the valuation of the land must be pegged at P1 million per hectare or $23.8 thousand.
Based on this valuation, a 0.7 hectare of land would range from P50,000 to P60,000 per year ($1,190 to $1,428).
In March, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes said farm workers will not get any land if they will not sign a promissory note.
Speaking during a program at the foot of Chino Roces bridge, Joseph Canlas, chairman of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson slammed the promissory note.
“Why ask the farmworkers to sign a commitment to pay for the land when not a single parcel of land has been distributed?” Canlas said.
Upon reaching the Chino Roces bridge, farm workers buried a copy of the DAR’s promissory note.
So far, the DAR released a final list of farm worker-beneficiaries. The Ambala, however, said the DAR “bloated the number of beneficiaries to 6,212 and included dummies of Cojuangco-Aquinos.”
Alleged “Cojuangco loyalists,” including HLI supervisor Windsor Andaya, Noel Mallari, Julio Suniga, Eldie Pingol, HLI engineer Rizalino Sotto, and Edgardo Aguas, incumbent chairman of Central village inside Hacienda Luisita, are also in the DAR’s list. In a previous interview with Bulatlat.com, Bais said these are the persons who signed a compromise agreement with the Cojuango-Aquinos in August 2010.
The Supreme Court also ordered the Cojuangco-Aquinos to pay the farm workers P1.33 billion ( $32.4 million) from the sale of more than 200 hectares of land in Hacienda Luisita.
The DAR has not selected an auditing firm to implement the decision.
Bais said, however, that the DAR is “obviously favoring an auditing firm linked with the Cojuangco-Aquinos.”
“We cannot rely on DAR to implement genuine land reform. We cannot rely on Noynoy Aquino. We must continue implementing our own version of agrarian reform,” Bais told his colleagues.
“We must cultivate the land,” Bais added.
The farm workers have started cultivating portions of Hacienda Luisita land and planted palay, vegetables and other crops. The bungkalan (cultivation) program of Ambala and Ulwu covers six out of 10 villages of Hacienda Luisita.
Bais said they intend to cover all the villages. By June, the groups are eyeing 1,300 hectares of land to be planted with palay, vegetables and fruits.
By October, Bais said they will plant palay to 500 more hectares of land.
“There is no other way. We have to struggle to achieve victory,” Bais said. “The support of the Filipino people is with us.”