The Supreme Court has announced its decision today on the case involving big landholdings owned by President Benigno Aquino III’s family, which farmers have swiftly dubbed as “cowardly” and “a betrayal”.
ABS-CBN reports that the court “revoked the Stock Distribution Plan (SDP) in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to hold a new referendum in the sugar estate owned by the Cojuangco family.”
GMA News published the full text of the court’s decision.
On Nov 16 2004, 12 farmers and farm workers died in the infamous Hacienda Luisita massacre.
Farmers: Agrarian unrest to continue
Representatives of so-called “beneficiaries” have a different take on this development.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines, KMP) called the court ruling “the biggest betrayal of a lifetime.”
The farmers’ group said that the decision meant that the Cojuangco family, of which President Aquino is the lead political representative would continue to own majority of the 6,000-hectare sugar estate.
“The Supreme Court’s cowardly act clearly demonstrates that it is an instrument of deception, oppression, and exploitation. It subscribes to the politics of accommodation of the Aquino ruling clique,” says KMP Secretary-General Danilo Ramos adding:
“Obviously, Malacanang’s unseen hands played a great factor in the SC’s anti-farmer decision.”
Ramos said that the Supreme Court’s order to hold a referendum in Hacienda Luisita is no different from the referendum cooked by the Cojuangco-Aquinos in 1989 and in August last year.
“It forms part of the Cojuangco-Aquinos grand design to evade land distribution,” says Ramos.
“The SC decision smacks of cowardice of the justices,” Ramos said, adding, “The 6-4 decision is the biggest betrayal of a lifetime. It is even worse than the Hacienda Luisita massacre because we are talking here of thousands of farm workers grossly deprived of their land and rights.”
“It will not end the more than half-a-century-old agrarian conflict in Hacienda Luisita and would instead fuel agrarian unrest in the Hacienda,” Ramos warned.
Actual land distribution has largely been a contentious issue in the government’s implementation of the so-called Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Although President Corazon Aquino proclaimed CARP as her centerpiece program, Hacienda Luisita was exempted from land distribution.
“We have already junked the referendum in August last year when the Cojuangco-Aquinos desperately pushed for the anti-farm worker compromise deal. It is totally condemnable that the justices have towed the Cojuangco-Aquinos line,” says Rodel Mesa, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) spokesperson.
“It (decision) signals the start of a more intense struggle of Hacienda Luisita farm workers. Hacienda Luisita farm workers are now bound to assert their rights to own the lands,” says Mesa, who is also secretary general of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).