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Manipulation of Luisita costs seen

/ 10:26 PM May 19, 2012

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—A lawyer of a group of farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita said the government should study the right price of home lots in the sugar estate after documents showed that there were different values for agricultural lands and home lots there in 1989.

The year 1989 was used by the Supreme Court as the year of reckoning for setting land value in computing the just compensation for Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), a firm owned by President Aquino’s family.

The court, in an April 24 resolution, upheld for the third and final time the decision of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) in 2005 to revoke the stock distribution program (SDP) as mode of agrarian reform in the estate and ordered the distribution of 4,915 hectares of land to 6,296 farmworkers.

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Citing studies of a London School of Economics professor and financial documents from HLI, lawyer Christian Monsod, a volunteer counsel for the Farmworkers Agrarian Reform Movement (FARM), said home lots in the sugar estate were valued at P500,000 per hectare in 1989 while farm lots went for P40,000 a hectare that year.

Monsod said that when different rates exist in the same property, the government should determine if it is right to pay P500,000 a hectare for the home lots given by HLI to 6,296 farmworkers in 1989.

The Supreme Court has ordered the government, through the Department of Agrarian Reform, to pay HLI just compensation for the home lots using 1989 prices as basis.

“It’s a strange valuation,” said Monsod of the P500,000 price per hectare. “I trust the [DAR] will not use that valuation.”

He said in 1988, a year before the SDP was implemented instead of actual land distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), each hectare in the sugar estate, originally spanning 6,443 ha, cost only P55,000.

Monsod said if the DAR would use P500,000 as the value of each hectare of home lot in Hacienda Luisita, the agency would have to shell out P60.5 million in taxpayers’ money for a total 121 ha as benefits of farmworkers being HLI shareholders.

Farmworkers held 33 percent of HLI. The majority 67 percent was controlled by  Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco), a holding company of the Cojuangcos.

Monsod said FARM’s Sept. 20, 2010, memorandum informed the court of the disparity in land values based on information cited in Dr. James Putzel’s “A captive land: The politics of agrarian reform.” The Ateneo de Manila University published the book in 1992. Putzel serves as director of the Crisis States Research Center at the London School of Economics.

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The land values, Monsod said, were “manipulated,” citing a review of Putzel’s data and those that former Solicitor General Frank Chavez used to defend the SDP in Hacienda Luisita.

Monsod said the manipulation happened when HLI and Tadeco overvalued the 1,527 ha they excluded from the SDP and which they contributed as landowners’ share. The 121 ha covering the home lots are part of these excluded lands.

On the other hand, Monsod said HLI and Tadeco undervalued the 4,915 ha that they allowed to be covered by the SDP and which they assigned in form of shares of stocks to farmworkers.

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TAGS: agrarian reform, Hacienda Luisita, Just Compensation
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