A Visit To Hacienda Luisita

SC orders Hacienda Luisita land distribution

The Supreme Court has ordered the distribution of more than 4,900 hectares of Hacienda Luisita lands to over 6,000 registered tenants of the sprawling agricultural estate owned by the relatives of President Aquino.

Voting unanimously, the 14 justices of the tribunal agreed to void the stock distribution plan which Hacienda Luisita Inc. offered to farmworker-beneficiaries (FWBs) in lieu of actual land ownership.

The decision explained that the stock distribution plan put forward by the management will never provide the control sought by the FWBs. Control, in this case, means 50% plus at least one share of the common shares.

Taking into account the P590,554,220 total assets of HLI, the value of the land in question is P196,630,000 or 33.296%.

“There is even no assurance that 100% of the 118,391,976.85 shares issued to the FWBs will all be voted in favor of staying in HLI, taking into account the previous referendum among the farmers where said shares were not voted unanimously in favor of retaining the (stock plan),” the decision says.

The high court noted that if the farmers choose stocks, they will be treated as common shareholders not protected by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

HLI ordered to pay P1.33 billion to beneficiaries.

The SC also reiterated its ruling in July ordering HLI to pay the 6,296 farmers a total of P1.33 billion broken down as follows:

  • P500 million HLI received from Luisita Realty Inc. for the sale of 200 hectares of land in 1996;
  • P750 million for the sale of the Luisita Industrial Park; and,
  • P80,511,500 for the sale of the 80.51-hectare lot for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) road network.

The 3% of the proceeds of the transfers that were paid earlier to the farmers shall be deducted from the P1.33 billion.

The just compensation for the landowners, on the other hand, will be assessed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The valuation compensation will be reckoned from November 21, 1989, the date of the issuance of the original resolution that was questioned by HLI.

DAR was ordered to submit a compliance report after 6 months from finality of judgment. It was also ordered to submit quarterly reports on the execution of the judgment.

Antonio Ligon, counsel and spokesman for Hacienda Luisita, said they will abide by the decision of the Supreme Court, although they have yet to obtain a copy.

“What we are saying is that the distribution should benefit all the legitimate farm workers. There are 10,000 plus legitimate farmworkers and from the decision, although nobody has confirmed that this is the desicion, they are distributing the land to 6,296 legitimate farm workers.”

The ruling penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. was promulgated on Nov. 22, but was officially released to the media on Thursday.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio inhibited himself from the deliberation of the decades-old land dispute.

While they all agreed to the total land distribution, some of the justices had different views on the land valuation.

Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin and Arturo Brion issued their separate concurring and dissenting opinions.

Hacienda Luisita is a 6,435-hectare plantation estate located in Tarlac. It spans various towns in the province. The hacienda is primarily within the 2nd District and 1st District of Tarlac. The estate is as large as the cities of Makati and Pasig combined.

It is owned by the Cojuangco family, which includes former Philippine President Cory Aquino and her son, President Noynoy Aquino. However, Aquino divested his shares from Hacienda Luisita Inc. following his victory in the May 2010 presidential elections. It is now owned mainly by his uncles and aunts.

During the 2010 election campaign, he promised to find ways and means to transfer the assets of Hacienda Luisita to farmer beneficiaries. He also said he had asked his “extended family” to support his position.

During an interview way back 2010 when Aquino was still a Senator running for President, he stressed that if the Cojuangcos wanted to be selfish, they could just easily sell the land, possibly getting Php 4.5B without worrying about debt or image. But the family treats the farmers like their own family. They wouldn’t want to burden the farmers by selling the land to them.  The farmers are good at tilling the land but they are not businessmen.  Hacienda Luisita land is also still in debt, how would the farmers be able to pay it without much experience in managing the land?  Noynoy also said that there are currently 10,000 farmers.  If they distribute the land as is, 1 farmer can only own less than 1 hectare, and also not all of the land will be equal in terms of fertility.  There’s nothing a farmer can do if a non-fertile land was given to them.

One very worrying statement that Aquino said is the fact that his family still considers SDO as an option.  And yet, candidates in his own senatorial slate has stated that as president, Noynoy will implement CARPER fully.

There are other doubts that I have with Hacienda Luisita and how Noynoy has handled himself and will handle himself in the followiings days now that the SC has released a decision.  Issues such as CARPER, the SDO, and even the excuse of burdening the farmers with debt, when Aquino never once mentioned that none of these debts have been incurred by the farmers themselves, but actually because of business moves by Aquino’s own family.

There’s also this unfulfilled promise by the late president Cory Aquino that she made during her campaign speeches with Hacienda Luisita.  She tried with CARP, but her promises remain unfulfilled.

The struggle between farmers and landowners of Hacienda Luisita is seen as the real test of character for Aquino, whose family has owned the land since 1958. The problem began when government lenders obliged the Cojuangcos to distribute the land to small farmers by1967, a deadline that came and went. Pressure for land reform on Luisita since then reached a bloody head in 2004 when seven protesters were killed near the gate of the sugar mill in what is now known as the Luisita massacre.

The story of the hacienda and its farmers is an issue that is likely to haunt Aquino during his presidency.

I can understand Aquino and how he may actually want the best for the farmers, but there are too many issues, and even some discrepancies in statement and actions that still does not have me convinced if the issue of Hacienda Luisita will be resolved during his presidency.  Even in his answers, knowing full well that this issue has been ongoing, does not give concrete action plans as to how to transfer the land to the farmers (without debt), if indeed that is the end goal of his family.

I would be more impressed if this issue were resolved even before he ends his term as president,

“If the farmers or  “mangagawang bukid” had land and capital, that would be ideal. But since they don’t, going back to work at the hacienda would be the easier option if they want to continue having food on their tables.”

“I believe that as long as the Cojuangcos are here, they’ll never give up the land, and as long as the farmers or “mangagawang-bukid” are there, they’ll never give up the struggle for the land.”

Hacienda Luisita Timeline from the Spanish Era to the Aquino Presidency

Compiled by Andreo Calonzo, Sophie Dedace, Veronica Pulumbarit, Yasmin Arquiza, and Howie Severino, GMANews.TV ….extended !

Spanish Period
Hacienda Luisita was once owned by the “Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas,” also known as “Tabacalera”, founded in November 1881 by Don Antonio López y López, a Spaniard from Santander, in Cantabria, Spain.

Lopez acquired the estate in 1882, a year before his death, and named it “Hacienda Luisita” after his wife, Luisa Bru y Lassús.

Lopez was considered a financial genius and the “most influential Spanish businessman of his generation.” He counted the King of Spain as a personal friend.

Luisita was just one of his haciendas. Lopez also owned estates in other parts of the country: Hacienda Antonio (named after his eldest son), Hacienda San Fernando, and Hacienda Isabel (named after his eldest daughter).

Tabacalera’s incorporators included the Sociedad General de Crédito Inmobiliario Español, Banque de Paris (now Paribas), and Bank of the Netherlands (now ABN-AMRO). Luisita was a sugar and tobacco plantation.

American Period
During the American Occupation (1898 to 1946), the Tabacalera experienced prosperous times because of the legendary sweet tooth of the Americans.

As Cuba could not supply all of the sugar requirements of the United States, they turned to the Philippines. At one point, Hacienda Luisita supplied almost 20% of all sugar in the US.

Japanese Regime
During the Japanese occupation, Hacienda Luisita continued to operate, like all haciendas and tabacaleras in the Philippines, because the Japanese wanted to ensure that commodities such as sugar and rice were available to Filipinos.

Pepe Cojuangco Period

Problems with Huk rebels led the Spanish owners of Tabacalera to sell Hacienda Luisita and the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

Then-Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay reportedly blocked the sale of the plantation to the wealthy Lópezes of Iloilo, fearing that they might become too powerful as they already owned Meralco, Negros Navigation, Manila Chronicle, ABS-CBN, and various haciendas in Western Visayas.

Instead, Magsaysay and Benigno Simeon “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. discussed the possibility of Jose Cojuangco Sr., Aquino’s father-in-law, acquiring Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac from their Spanish owners.

Magsaysay was a “ninong” (principal sponsor) at the wedding of Ninoy and Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, parents of the incumbent President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III.

August 1957
The Philippine government facilitated the Cojuangcos’ takeover of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac by:

(1) Providing Central Bank (CB) support to help the Cojuangcos obtain a dollar loan from the Manufacturer’s Trust Company (MTC) in New York for the purchase of the sugar mill (Central Azucarera de Tarlac). The CB had to deposit part of the country’s dollar reserves with MTC for MTC to release Cojuangco’s loan. The CB’s intervention was done under the condition that Cojuangco would also acquire Hacienda Luisita, not just the sugar mill, “with a view to distributing the hacienda to small farmers.”

(2) Granting the Cojuangcos a peso loan through the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to purchase the hacienda.

November 25, 1957
The GSIS approved the loan made by the Cojuangcos amounting to P5.9 million, on the condition that Hacienda Luisita would be “subdivided among the tenants who shall pay the cost thereof under reasonable terms and conditions.”

However, four months later, Jose Cojuangco Sr. asked the GSIS to change the phrase to “…shall be sold at cost to tenants, should there be any.” (itals by ed.) This phrase would be cited later on as justification not to distribute the hacienda’s land.

April 8, 1958
Jose Cojuangco, Sr.’s company, the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO), became the new owner of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

Ninoy Aquino, President Cory’s husband and President Noynoy’s father, was appointed the hacienda’s first administrator.

The Ferdinand Marcos presidency 
Ferdinand Edralin Marcos was elected president.

The 10-year window given by the Philippine government for the Cojuangcos to distribute the land elapsed with no land distribution taking place. During this time, farmers began to organize into groups to push for land distribution.

The Cojuangcos, however, insisted that there were no tenants on the hacienda, hence no need to distribute land.

The government sent three letters to the Cojuangcos between the 1960s to the 1970s to follow up the issue of land distribution.

September 21, 1972
Marcos declared Martial Law. His most vocal critic, Ninoy Aquino, was among the first to be arrested.

May 7, 1980
The Marcos government filed a case before the Manila Regional Trial Court (MRTC) to prod the Cojuangco-owned TADECO into surrendering Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform so that the land could be distributed to the farmers at cost. The case was filed as Ninoy Aquino and his family were leaving for exile in the US.

January 10, 1981
The Cojuangcos responded to the government complaint by arguing that the land could not be distributed because the hacienda did not have tenants. They also argued that sugar lands were not covered by existing agrarian reform legislation. Anti-Marcos groups claimed that the government’s case was an act of harassment against Ninoy Aquino’s family.

August 21, 1983
After living in exile for three years in Boston, Massachusetts, Ninoy Aquino returned to Manila. He was assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.

December 2, 1985
The MRTC ordered TADECO to surrender Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. The Cojuangcos decried this as an act of harassment because Cory was set to run against Marcos in the February 1986 snap elections. The family later elevated the matter to the Court of Appeals.

December 3, 1985
On December 3, 1985, Cory Aquino officially filed her certificate of candidacy for President. Land reform was among the pillars of her campaign. She promised to give “land to the tiller” and to subject Hacienda Luisita to land reform.

February 1986
The February 7 snap election was marred by allegations of widespread fraud against Marcos. The anti-Marcos sentiments led to the “People Power Revolution,” a series of nonviolent and prayerful mass street demonstrations that toppled the dictatorship and installed Cory Aquino to the presidency.

Cory Aquino presidency
January 22, 1987
Eleven months into the Cory Aquino presidency, thousands of frustrated farmers marched to Malacañang demanding land reform and the distribution of land at no cost to beneficiaries. In a violent dispersal, 13 protesters were killed in what has gone down in history as the “Mendiola Massacre.”

July 22, 1987
Cory issues Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order No. 229 outlining her agrarian reform program, which covers sugar and coconut lands. The outline also includes a provision for the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a mode of complying with the land reform law that did not require actual transfer of the land to the tiller.

March 17, 1988
The government under Cory Aquino withdrew its case against the Cojuangcos. Cory’s appointee, Solicitor General Frank Chavez, filed a motion for the Court of Appeals to dismiss the civil case the Marcos government filed and won at the Manila Regional Trial Court against the Cojuangcos. The Department of Agrarian Reform and the GSIS, then headed by Aquino appointees Philip Juico and Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, respectively, did not object to the motion to dismiss the case.

The Central Bank also did not object to dismissal of case as it assumed that Luisita would be distributed anyway through the upcoming Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

May 18, 1988
The Court of Appeals dismissed the case filed by the Marcos government against the Cojuangco-owned TADECO. The government itself, under Cory, moved to withdraw the case that compelled TADECO to distribute land.

June 10, 1988
President Aquino signed into law Republic Act No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. A clause in the agrarian reform program included SDO, which allows landowners to give farmers shares of stock in a corporation instead of land.

August 23, 1988
Tarlac Development Co. (TADECO) established Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to implement the distribution of stocks to farmers in the hacienda.

The Cojuangcos justified Luisita’s SDO by saying it was impractical to divide the hacienda’s 4,915.75 hectares of land among 6,296 farm workers because this would give farmers less than one hectare of land each (or 0.78 hectares of land per person).

May 9, 1989
Luisita’s farm workers were asked to choose between stocks or land in a referendum. The SDO won 92.9% of the vote. A second referendum and information campaign were held five months later and the SDO won again, getting 96.75% of the vote.

Father Joaquin Bernas, a 1987 Constitutional Commission member, said Luisita’s SDO is inconsistent with the Constitution. “The [SDO] is a loophole because it does not support the Constitution’s desire that the right of farmers to become owners of the land they till should be promoted by government,” Bernas said in his June 27, 1989 column in the Manila Chronicle.

May 11,1989
When the CARP was implemented in Hacienda Luisita in 1989, the farm workers’ ownership of the plantation was pegged at 33 percent, while the Cojuangcos retained 67 percent.

Luisita’s SDO agreement spelled out a 30-year schedule for transferring the stocks to the farm workers:

“At the end of each fiscal year, for a period of 30 years, the SECOND PARTY (HLI) shall arrange with the FIRST PARTY (TADECO) the acquisition and distribution to the THIRD PARTY (farm workers) on the basis of number of days worked and at no cost to them of one-thirtieth (1/30) of 118,391,976.85 shares of the capital stock of the SECOND PARTY (HLI) that are presently owned and held by the FIRST PARTY (TADECO), until such time as the entire block of 118,391,976.85 shares shall have been completely acquired and distributed to the THIRD PARTY (farm workers).”

November 21, 1989
Then-Agrarian Reform Secretary Miriam Defensor-Santiago approved the SDO agreement of Luisita. However, Santiago’s tenure at the DAR only lasted two months. In 2005, Santiago, already a senator, said Cory allegedly removed her from the DAR because of a comment she made to the media—that Cory should inhibit herself from being the chairperson of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), which approves SDO agreements.

Fidel Ramos presidency
September 1, 1995
The Sangguniang Bayan of Tarlac (Provincial Board of Tarlac) passed a resolution that reclassified 3,290 out of Luisita’s 4,915 hectares from agricultural to commercial, industrial, and residential land. The governor of Tarlac province at that time was Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, wife of Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., brother of Cory Aquino.

August 14, 1996
The Department of Agrarian Reform approved for conversion 500 hectares of the Luisita land.

Gloria Arroyo presidency
By this time, the farm workers’ daily wage flattened at P194.50 and work days were down to one per week. The hacienda workers then filed a petition with the DAR to have the SDO agreement revoked.

October 14, 2003
Workers from the HLI supervisory group petitioned the DAR to revoke the SDO, saying they were not receiving the dividends and other benefits earlier promised to them. Two months later, a petition to revoke the SDO bearing more than 5,300 signatures was filed by union officers at the DAR to revoke the SDO and stop land conversion in Luisita.

July 2004
The union tried to negotiate a wage increase to P225 per day. Workers also asked that the work days be increased to 2-3 days per week, instead of just once a week. The management disagreed, claiming that the company was losing money.

October 1, 2004
Luisita management retrenched 327 farm workers, including union officers.

November 6, 2004
Almost all 5,000 members of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and 700 members of Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) staged a protest against the mass retrenchment.

November 16, 2004
Violence erupted between the protesters, the police and military forces. At least seven people were killed and 121 were injured, 32 from gunshot wounds. This incident eventually became known as the “Luisita massacre.”

The original petition the farm workers submitted lay dormant at the DAR since it was filed in December 2003, but began to move after the November 2004 massacre.

December 2004
A month after the Luisita massacre, picket lines were established around the hacienda. Soon after, eight people who supported the farmers’ cause or had evidence supporting their case were murdered one by one.

The killings began on December 8, 2004 with the death of Marcelino Beltran, a retired army officer turned peasant leader. Beltran was assassinated in his house just before he was to testify about bullet trajectories at the Senate and Congress on December 13 and 14, 2004.

November 25, 2004 to February 22, 2005
The DAR’s Task Force Luisita conducted an investigation and focus group discussions among the farm workers.

July 2005
The Arroyo-Aquino alliance broke up on the same month Task Force Luisita submitted the findings and recommendations from its investigation, which became the government’s basis for revoking Luisita’s Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and ordering the distribution of the hacienda’s land to the farmers a few months later.

August 2005
A special legal team was formed by the DAR to review the report submitted by Task Force Luisita.

September 22, 2005
Task Force Luisita recommended the revocation of the stock distribution agreement forged in May 1989, saying the SDO failed to fulfill the objectives of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law about promoting social justice and improving the lives of the farmers.

December 22, 2005
PARC issued Resolution No. 2005-32-01, ordering the revocation of Luisita’s SDO agreement and the distribution of the hacienda’s land to farmer beneficiaries.

February 1, 2006
HLI asked the Supreme Court to prevent the PARC from enforcing the resolution.

June 2006
The Supreme Court granted HLI’s petition and issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the PARC from canceling the SDO agreement.

June 2007
Negotiations between the HLI management and some farmers began after representatives of AMBALA and the Supervisory group wrote to DAR that they are amenable to an out-of-court settlement.

Noynoy Aquino presidency
February 9, 2010
In Tarlac, then-Senator Noynoy Aquino said at the kick-off of his presidential campaign that Hacienda Luisita’s land would be distributed to farm workers by 2014.

June 30, 2010
Benigno Aquino III took his oath as the 15th Philippine president.

August 6, 2010
HLI and factions of farmers’ groups signed a compromise agreement giving the farmers the chance to remain as HLI stockholders, or receive their share of Hacienda Luisita land. Many voted to retain their stocks and receive cash from HLI, only to complain later that they got minuscule amounts.

August 11, 2010

HLI asked the Supreme Court to approve the compromise deal.

August 16, 2010
A faction of the farmers’ groups asked the SC to junk the compromise deal because it was signed even before the high court could rule on the validity of the stock distribution option (SDO), one of the two choices offered by HLI to the farmers in the agreement (the other choice was land distribution). The rival faction also questioned the authority of the signatories in the agreement to represent the plantation’s farmer-beneficiaries.

August 18, 2010
For the first time since the land dispute was brought to its doors four years earlier, the SC heard oral arguments on the Hacienda Luisita case.

July 5, 2011
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court held the PARC’s order revoking Hacienda Luisita Inc.’s stock distribution plan. Under the plan is the stock distribution option agreement that allowed farmers to pick between shares of stock and land. The SDO deal was forged between HLI and the farmers in 1989.

The SC also ordered the DAR to administer the conduct of another referendum where the 6,296 qualified farm-worker beneficiaries can vote whether they want to remain as HLI stockholders or receive actual land instead.

The SC said that while the stock distribution plan is nullified, the qualified farmer beneficiaries must still be given the option to choose if they want to remain as stockholders or not.

“While the assailed PARC resolutions effectively nullifying the Hacienda Luisita SDP are upheld, the revocation must, by application of the operative fact principle, give way to the right of the original 6,296 qualified FWBs to choose whether they want to remain as HLI stockholders or not. The Court cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that in 1989, 93% of the FWBs agreed to the SDOA, which became the basis of the SDP approved by PARC,” the high court said.

November 22, 2011

The Supreme Court has ordered the immediate distribution of Hacienda Luisita to over 6,000 registered farmworkers-beneficiaries of the vast sugar plantation owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino.

A senior court official said at least eight magistrates voted to grant the motion for reconsideration of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council and the farmers’ group Ambala during the high tribunal’s regular en banc session

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