If Noynoy Aquino wins the presidency because he capitalized on the popularity and legacy of his mother, it should not surprise him that some people will put on his doorsteps the failures of the Cory administration not only to remind him of what she failed to do but to underscore what needs to be done. He can start with Hacienda Luisita.
By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
MANILA — In declaring his intention to run for the presidency, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III kept invoking the memory of his departed parents, the anti-Marcos opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino. But he was especially invoking that of his mother.
Noynoy said that by running for president, he was responding to the wishes of the people and his parents, and out of a sense of responsibility to “continue the fight for the country.” Noynoy stopped short of declaring that his presidency, if ever, would be a continuation of his mother’s.
This early, some sectors have responded to Noynoy’s declaration in much the same way. If he wins the presidency because he capitalized on the popularity and legacy of his mother, it should not surprise him that some people will put on his doorsteps the failures of the Cory administration not only to remind him of what she failed to do but to underscore what needs to be done.
On top of the list of these failures is agrarian reform, specifically the failure by the government to distribute Hacienda Luisita to the farmers who have been tilling it for generations. Land reform was Cory’s centerpiece program and, many now agree, one of her greatest failures. As far as peasants and the landless Filipinos are concerned, Noynoy will be weighed against this legacy of her mother’s. The issues surrounding Hacienda Luisita would haunt him whether he makes it to Malacanang or not.
The Son Also… Noynoy will run on the might of his parents’ legacy. (Photos: Noynoy, by Keith Bacongco of AKP Images; Ninoy, unknown; Cory, from Time magazine)
“With Noynoy coming from a landed family, agrarian reform and in particular Hacienda Luisita is an acid test for him,” said Jose Enrique Africa, research director of Ibon Foundation.
“I would like to see Noynoy as a ‘social reformist’ by doing the supreme sacrifice of giving up his family’s hacienda to its rightful owners – tenants and farm workers,” said Romulo Tuazon, a political analyst at the Center for People Empowerment and Governance (CenPEG). “Only then can one say he really represents change,” Tuazon said, referring to Noynoy’s promise of change during a speech at the Club Filipino on Wednesday during which he declared his intention to run for president.
For peasants and farmers, nothing less is expected of Noynoy. “Hacienda Luisita was acquired by the Cojuangcos through public funds, so it should be owned by the public and subjected to agrarian reform,” said Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movemrnt of the Philippines). “The agricultural workers are the legitimate owners of Hacienda Luisita.”
What is now known as Hacienda Luisita was a Spanish-owned property before falling into the hands of the American company that managed Tabacalera. Early in 1957, then President Ramon Magsaysay advised Ninoy Aquino, then mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac, to convince his father-in-law Jose Cojuangco Sr. to purchase the land. This, Magsaysay said, was to avoid the possibility of its falling into the hands of the Lopezes, who were the president’s political rivals. With loans from the Manufacturer’s Trust Company of New York, the Chase Manhattan Bank, and the Government Service Insurance System, Cojuangco purchased the land. The GSIS loan carried a stipulation that the land would be distributed to the tenants and farm workers by 1967.
Fifty-two years later, Hacienda Luisita has yet to be redistributed. Cory took pride in the loophole-ridden Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) as the centerpiece of her administration, but exempted the hacienda from its coverage, instead placing it under a “stock distribution option” that supposedly made the farmers investors in -– as opposed to owners of — the hacienda, which was never the intention of a genuine land reform program.