April 25, 2012

The Farmworkers Agrarian Reform Movement in Hacienda Luisita (FARM-Luisita) and Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA) today claim victory in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita, and for the lands to be valued at 1989 prices. The decision validates the decade long struggle of farm workers in Hacienda Luisita and re-affirms that land distribution should be at the heart of government’s agrarian reform program.

FARM-Luisita president Renato Lalic said the recent Supreme Court decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita is a strong signal to get CARP out of its paralysis and its critical condition.

“Hindi lamang kaming 6,296 na mga manggagawangbukid ng Hacienda Luisita ang maisasalba sa pinal desisyon na ito ng  Supreme Court pabor sa pamamahagi ng lupa kundi ang libu-libo pang magsasaka sa bansa na umaasa na makakamit din ang hustisyang matagal na nilang inaasam,” Lalic said. (It’s not only us, the 6,296 farm workers of Hacienda Luisita that benefit from the Supreme Court decision but thousands of other farmers in the country that are dreaming of social justice.)

FARM members vow to make their land productive. Already, they are preparing their farm development plan. “Kahit wala pang isang ektarya mukaha naming, kaya naming paunlarin lalo pa’t may suportang serbisyo dahil kumikita na kami ngayon”, Lalic added. (Even if we will only receive less than one hectare of land, we can make it productive, especially with support service; we are already earning from our lands that we till.)

Ka Jimmy Tadeo, Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) farmers’ representative, said this should signal a multiplier effect for the government to act and resolve problematic landholdings especially those with similar SDO cases in other parts of the country.

 “Now that there’s no more legal impediment for the distribution of Hacienda Luisita, DAR has no excuse but to implement agrarian reform immediately. We should compel them to review other SDO cases such as the Hacienda Hernandez in Iloilo, in Mindanao and 10 more in Negros province.” 

FARM however asked DAR to carefully and immediately resolve the conflict among the farmworkers. DAR needs to talk to the different groups in Hacienda Luisita and collectively come up with acceptable solutions on individual or collective titling and farm development plans.

Farmer leaders from the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance, a coalition of farmers, farmworkers, rural women and agrarian reform advocates pushing for the just and effective implementation of agrarian reform in the country, remain vigilant in the midst of victory. “ Bagamat nagdiriwang kami sa ginawa ng Korte Suprema, mas magiging mapagbantay ang hanay ng mga magsasaka sa posibleng maging sunod na hakbang ng mga Cojuangco. Hindi namin hahayaan gawin nila ang ginawa nilang panggagapang sa korte kaugnay ng isyu sa 20 porsyento ng cocolevy fund, na sa isang personal na sulat lamang ni Atty. Estelito Mendoza ay agad itong pinaboran ng ilang mahistrado ng korte. Mahigpit na panghahawakan ng mga magsasaka ang tagumpay na ito,” Ka Ed Mora of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Pilipinas said. (Though we are celebrating the decision of the Supreme Court, we are watching the next moves of the Cojuangcos. We will not allow them to  do what they did to get a favorable decision on the 20 percent coconut levy fund, which the Supreme Court ruled to award to the Cojuangcos. This happened allegedly after Atty. Estelito Mendoza, an ally of the Cojuangcos, helped influence the decision of the magistrates on behalf of the Cojuangcos. We will hold on this victory.)

The coconut levy fund is comprised of levies paid by small coconut farmers to the government as tax. The government used this tax money to buy shares in the San Miguel Corp (SMC), a food and beverage giant owned by a local oligarch/businessman, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco. The small coconut farmers have struggled to recover the fund to develop their sector instead.  The Supreme Court recently released a decision favoring the Cojuangcos.

Akbayan Citizen’s Action Party today congratulated the farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita. Akbayan joined the farmers in calling DAR to immediately and without any hesitation distribute the land to the Hacienda Luisita farmers. The partylist also called on President Noynoy Aquino and DAR to use exceptional political will to distribute the remaining lands without any fear or favor. “The Aquino government must side with the interests of the country’s peasants and respond to the underhanded tactics of these landlords with an escalation of land distribution”, Akbayan Representative Kaka Bag-ao said. #

For contact or to set interviews with farmer leaders and their lawyers:
Joann Fernandez (for FARM-Luisita/KATARUNGAN): +639198007010
Mary Ann Manahan (for Save Agrarian Reform Alliance/Focus on the Global South): +639062983206