Breaking the feudal monopoly of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan over Hacienda Luisita will bring immediate and long-term economic benefits to the farm workers
As the Supreme Court resumes its oral arguments on the Hacienda Luisita compromise deal today, independent think-tank IBON urged SC justices not to miss the historic opportunity to give decades-delayed justice to thousands of Hacienda Luisita farm workers.
The group argued that breaking the feudal monopoly of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan over Hacienda Luisita will bring immediate and long-term economic benefits to the farm workers. IBON cited the experience of Hacienda Luisita farmers who planted vegetables and other crops when the plantation temporarily stopped producing sugar cane in the aftermath of the November 2004 massacre that left seven striking farmworkers dead. In one case, vegetable production fetched a farm worker P500 in three days or almost 18 times the daily wage that he received prior to the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
Such experience on the ground validated the findings of a reported 1989 study by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) that farmers in Hacienda Luisita could earn more with 0.78 hectares of land than owning shares through the highly contentious stock distribution option (SDO).
The SC will hear arguments today on the SDO as well as the compromise deal between the management of Hacienda Luisita Inc. and alleged leaders of the United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu), Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), and the Supervisory Group of HLI. Current officials of Ulwu and Ambala have since disclaimed the alleged peasant leaders who signed the compromise deal on their behalf.
IBON said that at the core of the Hacienda Luisita issue is social justice and a decision favorable to the tillers will be a landmark verdict that will help free 10,000 farm workers in the 6,500-hectare landholding from continuing exploitation and worsening poverty. It added that genuine agrarian reform, which includes the real transfer of ownership and effective control of land to the tillers, is a key starting point for ending chronic poverty in the country. IBON noted that two out of every three poor Filipinos live in rural areas where seven out of 10 farmers, such as those working in Hacienda Luisita, have remained landless despite many attempts at “agrarian reform”.
According to IBON, agrarian reform has to be implemented quickly and comprehensively to succeed and have a real impact on rural poverty and the country’s development. Slow implementation by design, such as through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and now the CARPer, only gives landlords the chance to evade land reform and continue amassing wealth from agricultural production and from conversion to other uses. Thus, how the Aquino administration deals with Hacienda Luisita will send the strongest signal of its interest in social justice, rural poverty alleviation and long-term economic development. (end)