Hacienda workers poorer under SDO: SC decision denies chance of improved condition

The SC missed the opportunity of making a landmark verdict on the Hacienda Luisita issue, which would have broken the feudal monopoly of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan over the 6,453-landholding and brought immediate and long-term economic benefits to the farm

The Supreme Court (SC) decision fails to give justice to thousands of Hacienda Luisita farmers, as well as the chance to improve their poor conditions by ordering a referendum on the controversial stock distribution option (SDO) instead of distributing land to the beneficiaries. The experience of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) after decades under the SDO shows that the scheme has worsened their livelihood and pushed them to greater poverty. Since the SDO was implemented, hacienda workers reported diminished mandays, mass lay-offs and meager daily wages, with seasonal and casual workers receiving less than Php200 a day. Around the country, farm workers under such stock sharing schemes experience a similar situation, like those in haciendas owned by Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco in Isabela and Negros Occidental. There are several other farmlands under the SDO in Negros Occidental, Davao and Iloilo. On the other hand, history has shown that countries that have distributed land to farmers have seen marked increases in farmers’ productivity and income, resulting in concrete benefits for farmers and their communities. The SC missed the opportunity of making a landmark verdict on the Hacienda Luisita issue, which would have broken the feudal monopoly of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan over the 6,453-landholding and brought immediate and long-term economic benefits to the farm workers. To this day, the Aquino-Cojuangco family continues to insist that the SDO is a more rational option compared to outright land distribution, and continues to come up with tactics to avoid active peasant claims in HLI. Pres Aquino’s evasive stance, on the other hand, reveals a lack of interest in agrarian reform and strong landlord defiance, especially with his excuse that he had divested his shareholdings in HLI. According to IBON, the agricultural sector remains the single biggest source of livelihood for Filipinos and this highlights the importance of distributing land and providing government support to the country’s direct producers to end chronic poverty, instead of insisting on such deceiving schemes as the SDO. (end)

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