The Supreme Court’s final ruling on the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farm workers showed the independence of the three justices appointed by President Benigno Aquino III, Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara said Tuesday.
“It tends to show that the Palace-appointed justices acted independently and did not pay a debt of gratitude to the President, unlike what we saw in the past,” said Angara in a text message.
A Malacañang spokesperson begged off from giving a reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on the sugar estate owned by Mr. Aquino’s family.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace had not yet read the high court’s decision on the valuation of the land.
“We will defer to the Office of the Solicitor-General and the Department of Agrarian Reform on this,” Valte said in a text message to reporters.
Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño said that while the court decision to peg just compensation to the 1989 valuation instead of the present market price was praiseworthy, the Cojuangcos should just waive payment.
“The Cojuangcos should just agree to distribute the land for free since the Cojuangco family had already profited several times over from the land since 1958. He (President Aquino) said it was the farm workers’ turn to benefit from the land. If agrarian reform is indeed social justice then a P1 compensation for the Cojuangcos would suffice,” said Casiño.
Effect on Corona
A defense lawyer of Chief Justice Renato Corona said the court decision may have a positive effect on the public perception of the Chief Justice, who has claimed that Mr. Aquino pushed for his impeachment because the Supreme Court ruled in November 2011 to distribute the hacienda to farm workers.
However, Rico Paolo Quicho said that the high tribunal’s ruling would not have a direct effect on Corona’s impeachment trial in the Senate.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is a collegial decision and has nothing to do with the impeachment of the Chief Justice,” Quicho said in a text message.
Asked if the tribunal’s ruling would have any positive effect on Corona, Quicho said: “Yes, [it shows] that he is upholding the rule of law and is not afraid to face the consequences for fighting for what is right.”
“The independence of the judiciary must be protected and respected,” he added.
Tranquil Salvador III, also of the defense, said he believed the high court “decided based on the merits of the case, that being the mandate of the Constitution.”
Corona’s counter attack?
Three senators said everyone should respect the court decision even as they refused to connect this to the impeachment trial of Corona.
“I refuse to impute malicious or other partisan political motives. It has nothing to do with the impeachment. Definitely, that is what I would like to believe,” said Senator Gregorio Honasan.
He cautioned against politicizing a program that was supposed to benefit farmers.
“Is this the Chief Justice’s counter attack? When you talk of the implementation of a very important law, Carper, we should not inflict partisan politics on the program,” said Honasan, referring to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform-Extension with Reforms.
The senator was at the forefront of the passage of Carper in 2009, which extended for another five years the land acquisition and distribution program of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
As the chairman of the Senate committee on agrarian reform, the senator was the main sponsor of the Senate version of the measure.
Honasan noted that agrarian reform was the “centerpiece program of the administration of the mother of the President.”
“The high court in the land has ruled. According to the law, each party is authorized a motion for reconsideration. We now have to respect the decision of the highest court of land. So we’re hoping that with two years remaining in the Carper this will set the tone for the full implementation of the law,” said the senator.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III was not inclined to link the high court ruling to the pending impeachment case of the Chief Justice.
“As long as the (Supreme Court) did not change the doctrine, we should not put any sinister motive into the decision, or malicious motive in the decision. The doctrine really is that the fair market value should be fixed at that time of the taking (of the land subject to agrarian reform),” said Pimentel.
Senator Pia Cayetano said that as a lawyer she was called upon to respect issuances of the high court. “I haven’t read [the decision], so I can’t comment on the merits, on the details,” said Cayetano.
She begged off from commenting on whether the ruling had something to do with the impeachment trial.
“I don’t know … our issues here are already controversial. Let’s not link them to those things,” said Cayetano.
The militant farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas hailed the Supreme Court decision as it urged farmers to be vigilant until they are awarded the land.
“The Supreme Court decision is a big leap forward for the Luisita farm workers and the Filipino peasantry’s life-and-death struggle for genuine agrarian reform,” said Randall Echanis, KMP deputy secretary general.
“Their (Luisita farmers) victory will serve as an inspiration to other farmers to continue with the struggle,” Echanis said.
“But the Hacienda Luisita farmers and farm workers must remain vigilant and frustrate every maneuver of the Cojuangcos to continuously deny them of their hard-won victory,” the KMP leader said.
“Mr. Aquino must immediately abide by the high court’s decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita and direct his family to let go of the Hacienda,” said Echanis. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Kristine L. Alave