The organization of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita said the HLI management is engaged in a “grand collusion” with the DAR to derail if not sabotage the process to effectively stop the distribution of Luisita lands to farm worker beneficiaries by “orchestrating moves and actions detrimental to or grossly opposed to effective land distribution and justice driven land reform inside the Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate.”
By GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
MANILA — Neophyte representative Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) partylist is set to file anytime this week a resolution urging his colleagues at the House of Representatives to investigate what he described as a “grand collusion between the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Hacienda Luisita Inc (HLI) management to manipulate and misrepresent the landmark decision of the Supreme Court in the long-running agrarian conflict inside the 6,435-hectare sugar estate in Tarlac.”
In a draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by Bulatlat.com, Rep. Hicap lamented that it has been more than a year since the Supreme Court resolved with finality the controversial agrarian reform dispute inside the sprawling 6,435 hectare Hacienda Luisita. It tasked the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to ensure that land reform and agrarian justice will finally reign in the Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate.
The Anakpawis lawmaker said the decision of the high tribunal affirmed that some 4,915.75 hectares of land in Hacienda Luisita should be distributed to 6,296 farm worker beneficiaries, and that the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) management should pay farm workers the amount of P 1.33 billion ($30.9 million) representing proceeds from the sale of 500 hectares of HLI land to Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) and LIPCO and the 80.5 hectares, which was appropriated by the Bases Development Conversion Authority (BCDA) for Subic Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).
Rep. Hicap noted that in the decision of the SC dated July 5, 2011 and affirmed by succeeding resolutions of the high tribunal dated November 22, 2011 and April 24, 2012, the total number of hectares to be distributed to farm worker beneficiaries should be 4, 915.75 hectares less 580.15 hectares representing hectares of land sold to RCBC and appropriated for SCTEX, therefore, 4,335.60 hectares to be distributed to farm worker beneficiaries.
Leaders of Hacienda Luisita farm workers organized under Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) have persistently asserted that DAR has consistently digressed from or is remiss in implementing the SC decision on Hacienda Luisita. They questioned the move of DAR to conduct a land survey without the knowledge of agrarian reform beneficiaries as represented by farmworker groups, and when such came to their knowledge, DAR refused to allow officials and members of farm worker organizations to take part in the survey.
The DAR hired a private firm to supposedly complete and consolidate the survey on 5,419 hectares of land in Luisita. However, after the survey, the DAR came out with 4,099 hectares of land for distribution, a far cry from the original total number hectares of land subject for distribution, and even more than 200 hectares less from the 4,333.60 hectares supposed to be distributed to beneficiaries if lands sold to RCBC and SCTEX are considered.
The agrarian reform department insisted that it arrived at 4,099 hectares after deducting hectares of land covered by existing residential areas, canals, roads, firebreaks, a cemetery, buffer zones, lagoons, fishponds, eroded areas and legal easements. But farm workers insisted that these areas were already excluded at the time the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) was “approved” in a referendum.
What about the 6,443 hectares?
Rep. Hicap, quoting reports from Luisita-based groups, insisted that the DAR survey should have focused on the 6,443 hectares of land that originally composed the sugar-estate and not 5,419 hectares. Neither should DAR deduct anew hectares of land covered by existing residential areas, canals, roads, firebreaks etc after such was done in 1989. In his resolution, the Anakpawis partylist lawmaker argued that DAR focused its survey on 4,0999 hectares of land in Hacienda Luisita in a vain attempt to reduce the coverage of land distribution where, in fact, there are still hectares of land inside the sugar estate that have not been surveyed or considered by DAR for coverage and distribution.
Likewise, the Anakpawis solon agreed with Luisita farm workers that for the purpose of transparency, the government should appoint another surveyor or geodetic engineer to verify the survey made by DAR and to determine if there are other agricultural lands aside from the 4,915 hectares, which the high court earmarked for land distribution.
“Whereas, the DAR flatly rejected the appeal of Ambala and the rest of the farm worker beneficiaries for collective ownership of land, which is allowed in the 1987 Constitution under Section 4, Article 13 of the Constitution. Section 4 of the said provision read “the State shall, by law, undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farmworkers who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farmworkers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof.”
The progressive lawmaker said the DAR instead of recognizing collective ownership as an effective way of land distribution resorted to the highly questionable and grave error prone “tambiolo” or lottery process of allocating land to farm worker beneficiaries.
In the raffle or “tambiolo” system, Rep. Hicap said, it may happen that one farm worker beneficiary will be awarded a parcel of land located far away from his place of residence. In this case, a resident of Barangay Balete may be awarded a parcel of land in Barangay Mapalacsiao, which is several kilometers away from his residence. He said the tambiolo process performed by DAR has ridiculed and trivialized the struggle of sugar farm workers for genuine land reform and agrarian justice. The lottery-like land reform scheme was initiated in four out of 10 barangays that made up Hacienda Luisita namely, the villages of CutCut, Bantog, Texas and Asturias.
For their part, leaders of Ambala said the lottery land reform process is mind-boggling “with some farm workers literally being thrown outside their villages to work.” They stressed that many of the beneficiaries whose lot assignment was set outside their own respected villages are having a very difficult time. The leaders cited the case of the farm workers in Brgy. Asturias whose farm lot assignments are in Brgy. Mutrico. In Brgy. Balete, representatives of Ambala received information that all the beneficiaries were arranged to get lot assignments in Brgy Pando, which is in the Conception part of Hacienda Luisita. It said Luisita farm workers in Brgy Balete would have to spend P200 ($4.65) back and forth on transportation fare everyday just to go on their lot assignments once the DAR start its pre-arranged tambiolo process for Brgy Balete beneficiaries on August 19 to 21.
Farm worker beneficiaries also questioned the policy of DAR to require them to pay amortization for the land they would acquire. This is in grave violation of the farm workers right to the fruits of their own labor. They argued that since the 4,915 hectares of land is owned by HLI, which constitute its assets, and the farm worker beneficiaries were required to work to own their share in the assets of the corporation, then the qualified beneficiaries, having rendered work to earn their share in the asset of HLI should be considered to have paid the land and therefore should no longer be subject to land amortization.
Likewise, Ambala said the transfer of ownership of the land had been consummated when the 4,915 hectares of land was placed under the SDO agreement and the qualified beneficiaries were made to work “mandays” to earn portion of the 4,915 hectares of land or equivalent to or representing 33 percent of the HLI equity. It said the Supreme Court recognized that the qualified farm worker beneficiaries were already owners of the land when it ordered the payment of the proceeds of the sale of the 580.15 hectares, amounting to P 1.33 billion ($30.9 million) to them.
Ambala asserted that the Supreme Court, in its decision on the Luisita case, also recognized that ownership of farm worker beneficiaries on the home lots already awarded to them. While it ordered the government to pay just compensation to HLI for the value of the home lots, it did not require the farm worker beneficiaries to pay it.
The group said the HLI management is engaged in a “grand collusion” with the DAR to derail if not sabotage the process to effectively stop the distribution of Luisita lands to farm worker beneficiaries by “orchestrating moves and actions detrimental to or grossly opposed to effective land distribution and justice driven land reform inside the Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate” such as the reduction of coverage, tambiolo or lottery brand of land distribution, signing of intent to pay the amortization etc.
It said the series of campaigns to deny land to farm worker beneficiaries is being complemented by the resurgence of militarization inside the 6,453 hectare sugar estate. The deployment of more military troops and police personnel, excluding the 48 police personnel and fire truck which the DAR commissioned to assist it in tambiolo land reform, is being done to terrorize the farm workers, transforming this land reform undertaking into a shotgun piece of land reform. Ambala pointed out that the deployment of military troops and police personnel is meant to intimidate farm workers protesting the full fencing of the disputed 500-hectare of land illegally acquired and occupied by RCBC inside Luisita.