Farmers stage 10-day protest on land reform By Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) Updated September 30, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (19)

[PHOTO AT LEFT - Members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas burn photos of President Aquino at a rally in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City during a 10-day countdown of the leader’s 100th day in office. They demanded fundamental agrarian reforms. BOY SANTOS]

MANILA, Philippines - Militant farmer groups yesterday started a 10-day series of protest rallies against President Aquino for not addressing issues on land reform.

The farmer groups started the string of protest programs by burning pictures of President Aquino in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) yesterday morning. The succession of protest actions will culminate in a program near Mr. Aquino’s family home on Times Street in Quezon City and on Mendiola bridge in Manila on Oct. 8, the President’s 100th day in office.

“We tried to reach him, send him our demands, plead for fundamental reforms, but we were violently dispersed at Mendiola, and he mentioned nothing about land reform in his speeches, totally ignored us farmers and continued killing and arresting us,” said Axel Pinpin, secretary-general of Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK).

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) spokesman Antonio Flores said Mr. Aquino has no plans of serving the interest of farmers.

“Poor Filipinos are not his bosses, but the rich and powerful landlords. From this day onwards, we would be burning pictures of Aquino as symbol of our protest against his anti-peasant and anti-people policies,” Flores said.

During President Aquino’s inauguration last June 30, the groups held a rally in front of the DAR office to call for the distribution of parcels of lands in Hacienda Yulo and Hacienda Looc in Southern Tagalog and Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

KASAMA-TK said they have been displaced because their farmlands have been subjected to massive land use conversions.

The group is also calling for the distribution of Hacienda Roxas and Hacienda Puyat in Nasugbu, Batangas, Hacienda Agoncillo in Laurel town, Hacienda Zobel and lands in Barangay Hukay both in Calatagan, Batangas. Flores also denounced the continued implementation of Republic Act 9700 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPer) which “displaced countless peasants off their farms and preserved the control of landlords over vast lands.”

The groups said Mr. Aquino is intent on keeping family control over Hacienda Luisita.

Luisita farmers take ‘final stand’ for land distributionSOPHIA REGINA DEDACE, GMANews.TV 09/22/2010 | 04:18 PM

'Order land distribution and revoke the stock distribution option (SDO) that makes farmers poorer.'

This was the "final message" sent to the Supreme Court by a splinter group of farmers in Hacienda Luisita, a sprawling sugar estate in Tarlac owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino III.

In a 49-page memorandum filed on Wednesday, a faction of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid ng Hacienda Luisita (AMBALA) said the high court should uphold the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council’s (PARC) December 2005 resolution ordering the revocation of the May 1989 SDO agreement.

Under the SDO scheme, farmers get shares of stocks, whose number is based on the number of days they till land.

"The SDO in Hacienda Luisita Inc. did not improve, but had further thrust the farm workers deep into the quagmire of poverty. Several years after [the SDO's] implementation, the farm workers remain in state of destitution and misery. There is no more reason therefore, for the continued operation of the said scheme," the petitioners said.

"The land should now be distributed to the farm workers. In the first place, this sprawling agricultural estate rightfully, legally, morally and historically belongs to them," the group said.


AMBALA lawyer Jobert Pahilga said the court should immediately take action because the Cojuangcos have no intent of giving up the 6,453-hectare land.

"This is our final stand. In our memorandum, we said the Supreme Court should affirm the decision of the PARC," he said.

Last August 24, the court heard oral arguments for the case and ordered the parties to file their respective memoranda within a 30-day period that will lapse on Thursday. That same day, the court also decided to create a panel to mediate between the estate’s corporate owners and its farmers.

Pahilga said the memorandum they filed was related to the case proper and not to the ongoing mediation proceedings, which his group already walked out from early this week.

Luisita land dispute

In May 1989, HLI and Tarlac Development Corp. (TADECO) forged a Stock Distribution Option agreement with more than 6,200 farmer beneficiaries.

In 2005, the PARC ordered land distribution and the revocation of the SDO agreement because it supposedly did not fulfill CARP's thrust of social justice and improved lives for farmers.

In 2006, the HLI asked the SC to stop the PARC from canceling the SDO scheme and ordering land distribution.

The court then granted the corporation’s plea by issuing a temporary restraining order preventing PARC from enforcing the resolution against the SDO scheme.

On August 6 this year, the HLI management and factions of farmers group forged a compromise deal where the farmers were given the option to remain under the SDO scheme or get a portion of the land.

More than 7,000 of the 10,00 farmer beneficiaries voted to remain under the SDO scheme.

In AMBALA's memorandum on Wednesday, it said that the court should lift the TRO it issued in 2006.

It also asked the court to refund the farm workers of 33 percent of the proceeds of the sale of 500-hectares to Luisita Industrical Park Co. or Lipco. — KBK/RSJ, GMANews.TV


Spanish Period: Hacienda Luisita was once owned by the “Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas," also known as "Tabacalera", founded in November 1881 by Don Antonio López y López, a Spaniard from Santander, in Cantabria, Spain.

Lopez acquired the estate in 1882, a year before his death, and named it “Hacienda Luisita" after his wife, Luisa Bru y Lassús. Lopez was considered a financial genius and the “most influential Spanish businessman of his generation." He counted the King of Spain as a personal friend. Luisita was just one of his haciendas. Lopez also owned estates in other parts of the country: Hacienda Antonio (named after his eldest son), Hacienda San Fernando, and Hacienda Isabel (named after his eldest daughter). Tabacalera’s incorporators included the Sociedad General de Crédito Inmobiliario Español, Banque de Paris (now Paribas), and Bank of the Netherlands (now ABN-AMRO). Luisita was a sugar and tobacco plantation.

American Period: During the American Occupation (1898 to 1946), the Tabacalera experienced prosperous times because of the legendary sweet tooth of the Americans.

As Cuba could not supply all of the sugar requirements of the United States, they turned to the Philippines. At one point, Hacienda Luisita supplied almost 20% of all sugar in the US. Japanese Regime During the Japanese occupation, Hacienda Luisita continued to operate, like all haciendas and tabacaleras in the Philippines, because the Japanese wanted to ensure that commodities such as sugar and rice were available to Filipinos. Pepe Cojuangco Period 1957 Problems with Huk rebels led the Spanish owners of Tabacalera to sell Hacienda Luisita and the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

Then-Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay reportedly blocked the sale of the plantation to the wealthy Lópezes of Iloilo, fearing that they might become too powerful as they already owned Meralco, Negros Navigation, Manila Chronicle, ABS-CBN, and various haciendas in Western Visayas. Instead, Magsaysay and Benigno Simeon "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. discussed the possibility of Jose Cojuangco Sr., Aquino's father-in-law, acquiring Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac from their Spanish owners.

Magsaysay was a “ninong" (principal sponsor) at the wedding of Ninoy and Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, parents of the incumbent President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III. August 1957 The Philippine government facilitated the Cojuangcos' takeover of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac by:

(1) Providing Central Bank (CB) support to help the Cojuangcos obtain a dollar loan from the Manufacturer's Trust Company (MTC) in New York for the purchase of the sugar mill (Central Azucarera de Tarlac). The CB had to deposit part of the country’s dollar reserves with MTC for MTC to release Cojuangco’s loan. The CB's intervention was done under the condition that Cojuangco would also acquire Hacienda Luisita, not just the sugar mill, "with a view to distributing the hacienda to small farmers."

(2) Granting the Cojuangcos a peso loan through the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to purchase the hacienda.

November 25, 1957 The GSIS approved the loan made by the Cojuangcos amounting to P5.9 million, on the condition that Hacienda Luisita would be “subdivided among the tenants who shall pay the cost thereof under reasonable terms and conditions."

However, four months later, Jose Cojuangco Sr. asked the GSIS to change the phrase to "...shall be sold at cost to tenants, should there be any." (itals by ed.) This phrase would be cited later on as justification not to distribute the hacienda’s land.

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

The Ferdinand Marcos presidency In 1965 Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was elected president.

1967 The 10-year window given by the Philippine government for the Cojuangcos to distribute the land elapsed with no land distribution taking place. During this time, farmers began to organize into groups to push for land distribution.

The Cojuangcos, however, insisted that there were no tenants on the hacienda, hence no need to distribute land.

The government sent three letters to the Cojuangcos between the 1960s to the 1970s to follow up the issue of land distribution.

September 21, 1972 Marcos declared Martial Law. His most vocal critic, Ninoy Aquino, was among the first to be arrested.

May 7, 1980 The Marcos government filed a case before the Manila Regional Trial Court (MRTC) to prod the Cojuangco-owned TADECO into surrendering Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform so that the land could be distributed to the farmers at cost. The case was filed as Ninoy Aquino and his family were leaving for exile in the US.

January 10, 1981 The Cojuangcos responded to the government complaint by arguing that the land could not be distributed because the hacienda did not have tenants. They also argued that sugar lands were not covered by existing agrarian reform legislation. Anti-Marcos groups claimed that the government’s case was an act of harassment against Ninoy Aquino’s family.

August 21, 1983 After living in exile for three years in Boston, Massachusetts, Ninoy Aquino returned to Manila. He was assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.

December 2, 1985 The MRTC ordered TADECO to surrender Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. The Cojuangcos decried this as an act of harassment because Cory was set to run against Marcos in the February 1986 snap elections. The family later elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals.

December 3, 1985 On December 3, 1985, Cory Aquino officially filed her certificate of candidacy for President. Land reform was among the pillars of her campaign. She promised to give “land to the tiller" and to subject Hacienda Luisita to land reform.

February 1986 The February 7 snap election was marred by allegations of widespread fraud against Marcos. The anti-Marcos sentiments led to the “People Power Revolution," a series of nonviolent and prayerful mass street demonstrations that toppled the dictatorship and installed Cory Aquino to the presidency.

Cory Aquino presidency January 22, 1987 Eleven months into the Cory Aquino presidency, thousands of frustrated farmers marched to Malacañang demanding land reform and the distribution of land at no cost to beneficiaries. In a violent dispersal, 13 protesters were killed in what has gone down in history as the “Mendiola Massacre."

July 22, 1987 Cory issues Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order No. 229 outlining her agrarian reform program, which covers sugar and coconut lands. The outline also includes a provision for the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a mode of complying with the land reform law that did not require actual transfer of the land to the tiller.

March 17, 1988 The government under Cory Aquino withdrew its case against the Cojuangcos. Cory's appointee, Solicitor General Frank Chavez, filed a motion for the Court of Appeals to dismiss the civil case the Marcos government filed and won at the Manila Regional Trial Court against the Cojuangcos. The Department of Agrarian Reform and the GSIS, then headed by Aquino appointees Philip Juico and Feliciano “Sonny" Belmonte, respectively, did not object to the motion to dismiss the case.

The Central Bank also did not object to dismissal of case as it assumed that Luisita would be distributed anyway through the upcoming Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

May 18, 1988 The Court of Appeals dismissed the case filed by the Marcos government against the Cojuangco-owned TADECO. The government itself, under Cory, moved to withdraw the case that compelled TADECO to distribute land.

June 10, 1988 President Aquino signed into law Republic Act No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. A clause in the agrarian reform program included SDO, which allows landowners to give farmers shares of stock in a corporation instead of land.

August 23, 1988 Tarlac Development Co. (TADECO) established Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to implement the distribution of stocks to farmers in the hacienda.

1989 The Cojuangcos justified Luisita’s SDO by saying it was impractical to divide the hacienda’s 4,915.75 hectares of land among 6,296 farm workers because this would give farmers less than one hectare of land each (or 0.78 hectares of land per person).

May 9, 1989 Luisita’s farm workers were asked to choose between stocks or land in a referendum. The SDO won 92.9% of the vote. A second referendum and information campaign were held five months later and the SDO won again, getting 96.75% of the vote.

Father Joaquin Bernas, a 1987 Constitutional Commission member, said Luisita’s SDO is inconsistent with the Constitution. “The [SDO] is a loophole because it does not support the Constitution’s desire that the right of farmers to become owners of the land they till should be promoted by government," Bernas said in his June 27, 1989 column in the Manila Chronicle.

May 11,1989 When the CARP was implemented in Hacienda Luisita in 1989, the farm workers’ ownership of the plantation was pegged at 33 percent, while the Cojuangcos retained 67 percent.

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

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

November 21, 1989 Then-Agrarian Reform Secretary Miriam Defensor-Santiago approved the SDO agreement of Luisita. However, Santiago's tenure at the DAR only lasted two months. In 2005, Santiago, already a senator, said Cory allegedly removed her from the DAR because of a comment she made to the media—that Cory should inhibit herself from being the chairperson of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), which approves SDO agreements.

Fidel Ramos presidency September 1, 1995 The Sangguniang Bayan of Tarlac (Provincial Board of Tarlac) passed a resolution that reclassified 3,290 out of Luisita’s 4,915 hectares from agricultural to commercial, industrial, and residential land. The governor of Tarlac province at that time was Margarita “Tingting" Cojuangco, wife of Jose “Peping" Cojuangco, Jr., brother of Cory Aquino.

August 14, 1996 The Department of Agrarian Reform approved for conversion 500 hectares of the Luisita land.

Gloria Arroyo presidency 2003 By this time, the farm workers’ daily wage flattened at P194.50 and work days were down to one per week. The hacienda workers then filed a petition with the DAR to have the SDO agreement revoked.

October 14, 2003 Workers from the HLI supervisory group petitioned the DAR to revoke the SDO, saying they were not receiving the dividends and other benefits earlier promised to them. Two months later, a petition to revoke the SDO bearing more than 5,300 signatures was filed by union officers at the DAR to revoke the SDO and stop land conversion in Luisita.

July 2004 The union tried to negotiate a wage increase to P225 per day. Workers also asked that the work days be increased to 2-3 days per week, instead of just once a week. The management disagreed, claiming that the company was losing money.

October 1, 2004 Luisita management retrenched 327 farm workers, including union officers.

November 6, 2004 Almost all 5,000 members of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and 700 members of Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) staged a protest against the mass retrenchment.

November 16, 2004 Violence erupted between the protesters, the police and military forces. At least seven people were killed and 121 were injured, 32 from gunshot wounds. This incident eventually became known as the “Luisita massacre."

The original petition the farm workers submitted lay dormant at the DAR since it was filed in December 2003, but began to move after the November 2004 massacre.

December 2004 A month after the Luisita massacre, picket lines were established around the hacienda. Soon after, eight people who supported the farmers’ cause or had evidence supporting their case were murdered one by one.

The killings began on December 8, 2004 with the death of Marcelino Beltran, a retired army officer turned peasant leader. Beltran was assassinated in his house just before he was to testify about bullet trajectories at the Senate and Congress on December 13 and 14, 2004.

November 25, 2004 to February 22, 2005 The DAR's Task Force Luisita conducted an investigation and focus group discussions among the farm workers.

July 2005 The Arroyo-Aquino alliance broke up on the same month Task Force Luisita submitted the findings and recommendations from its investigation, which became the government’s basis for revoking Luisita’s Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and ordering the distribution of the hacienda’s land to the farmers a few months later.

August 2005 A special legal team was formed by the DAR to review the report submitted by Task Force Luisita.

September 22, 2005 Task Force Luisita recommended the revocation of the stock distribution agreement forged in May 1989, saying the SDO failed to fulfill the objectives of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law about promoting social justice and improving the lives of the farmers.

December 22, 2005 PARC issued Resolution No. 2005-32-01, ordering the revocation of Luisita’s SDO agreement and the distribution of the hacienda’s land to farmer beneficiaries.

February 1, 2006 HLI asked the Supreme Court to prevent the PARC from enforcing the resolution.

June 2006 The Supreme Court granted HLI's petition and issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the PARC from canceling the SDO agreement.

June 2007 Negotiations between the HLI management and some farmers began after representatives of AMBALA and the Supervisory group wrote to DAR that they are amenable to an out-of-court settlement.

Noynoy Aquino presidency February 9, 2010 In Tarlac, then-Senator Noynoy Aquino said at the kick-off of his presidential campaign that Hacienda Luisita’s land would be distributed to farm workers by 2014.

June 30, 2010 Benigno Aquino III took his oath as the 15th Philippine president.

August 6, 2010 HLI and factions of farmers' groups signed a compromise agreement giving the farmers the chance to remain as HLI stockholders, or receive their share of Hacienda Luisita land. Many voted to retain their stocks and receive cash from HLI, only to complain later that they got minuscule amounts.

August 11, 2010 HLI asked the Supreme Court to approve the compromise deal.

August 16, 2010 A faction of the farmers’ groups asked the SC to junk the compromise deal because it was signed even before the high court could rule on the validity of the stock distribution option (SDO), one of the two choices offered by HLI to the farmers in the agreement (the other choice was land distribution). The rival faction also questioned the authority of the signatories in the agreement to represent the plantation’s farmer-beneficiaries.

August 18, 2010 For the first time since the land dispute was brought to its doors four years earlier, the SC heard oral arguments on the Hacienda Luisita case. Compiled by Andreo Calonzo, Sophie Dedace, Veronica Pulumbarit, Yasmin Arquiza, and Howie Severino, GMANews.TV

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