Farmers urge Aquino to support distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands
MANILA, Philippines—Euphoric over a favorable court ruling, farmers dared President Aquino on Wednesday to mobilize massive support services for their “difficult transition” to actual ownership of land in Hacienda Luisita.
“This is an opportunity for him to show concern for the agrarian reform program,” said Christian Monsod, lead counsel for the Farmworkers Agrarian Reform Movement in Hacienda Luisita (FARM-Luisita). “He should make a model of Luisita. He should show some spunk (gilas), and help the farmers while they wait for the titles of their land.”
Monsod said the farmer-beneficiaries (FBs) would lose the “welfare benefits” they have been enjoying from the Hacienda Luisita Inc. upon the start of the verification of the land titles, inspection of the estate, and the identification of the farmers by the Department of Agrarian Reform in the next six to 12 months.
And during the “difficult transition” to their installation in their lands, the government should step in and mount a “massive intervention program” in terms of support services for the FBs, Monsod said.
Monsod said the Department of Social Welfare and Development should take the lead in mobilizing support services, while the Department of Interior and Local Government should deploy policemen to ensure order in the sugar estate.
“The DSWD should step in for the next six months until they get their land. Otherwise, they’ll die from hunger, they’ll lose the amenities,” said Monsod, who spoke with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman to relay the farmers’ concerns. “This requires a more massive intervention by the government during the transition to become owner-cultivators.”
DAR has managed to allot P55 billion, instead of P90 billion, for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper) from 2010 to 2012, constraining the budget for support services for the farmer-beneficiaries or FBs, according to Monsod.
“If you give them land, you give them support,’’ he said.
Supreme Court justices voted 8-6 rejecting the bid by the family of Aquino to secure at least P5 billion in compensation for Hacienda Luisita and affirming a November 2011 that valued the vast sugar estate at around P196 million on 1989 prices.
After years of legal struggle, families of the farmer-beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita and farmers around the country hailed the decision.
In November 2011, the high court voted for the distribution of the estate to the farmers.
Now that the ruling has become final, FARM-Luisita president Renato Lalic said the DAR should now “speed up” the distribution of the remaining 4,400 hectares of the estate.
“The litmus test of agrarian reform is the delivery of support services,” said Magistrado Mendoza, volunteer lawyer for FARM-Luisita.
Ric Reyes of farmers’ alliance Katarungan agreed: “This is a historic victory for farmers. There’s nothing left for the President but to end his wishy-washy position on this, show the right path, and order DAR to speedily distribute Hacienda Luisita.’’
Akbayan Representative Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao proposed that DAR link up with the Department of Education to explain to the farmers the implication of the SC ruling.
Agrarian reform advocates have observed that since assuming office on June 30, 2010, Aquino hardly mentioned CARP in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) and speeches.
“It’s sad that after the farmers achieved this victory, the President didn’t even order government agencies to assist the farmers during the transition period,” Monsod said.
Jaime Tadeo, farmers’ representative in the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council for Luzon, said the farmers benefited from the wrangling between Aquino and Corona, now a respondent in an impeachment trial in the Senate.
“It’s God writing straight lines through crooked lines,” he said of the ruling.
Quoting the high court, Magistrado Mendoza, a volunteer lawyer for FARM, said the ruling applied only on the Hacienda Luisita case, and not on other agrarian reform cases.
Lalic also pressed the government to distribute the proceeds of the sale of a 184-hectare portion of the estate to the Rizal Banking Commercial Corp., which farmers had maintained as agricultural. The Supreme Court had acknowledged RCBC as a buyer in good faith.
“We’ve not been paid sufficiently. We appeal to them to pay us now,” he said.
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