List of Luisita beneficiaries out soonBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – Farmers alleging a scheme by the Cojuangcos to get their dummies into a list of people to be given land from Hacienda Luisita will have all the time to look at the list of beneficiaries and raise questions, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes said on Saturday.
Delos Reyes said the Department of Agrarian Reform would publicly release in August or September a preliminary list of beneficiaries for scrutiny by the farmers who may wish to add or remove names on the list.
Delos Reyes said all the proceedings in the identification, screening and validation of potential beneficiaries of the vast sugarcane plantation owned by the Cojuangco clan were open to the public “in the interest of transparency.” President Benigno Aquino III is a member of the Cojuangco clan.
“Even the preliminary masterlist will be made available to the public so that interested parties, particularly farmers’ groups and civil society groups, may scrutinize the list,” he said in a statement. “Interviewing is no guarantee all of them are getting lots.”
He said in an earlier interview that the list would be posted on tarpaulins in the estate’s villages.
According to the DAR’s Management Information System, 8,482 farmworkers have been interviewed and screened as of June 29.
Members of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas held a vigil at the Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang last Thursday to press for the release of the original list of farmworkers.
They alleged that the DAR’s “questionable verification process” was part of the Cojuangcos’ scheme to bloat the number of beneficiaries, slash the size of land for distribution, sow confusion among farmers, and put their dummies on the list.
DAR kicked off the process with an information campaign in 10 villages of Hacienda Luisita last May 18 soon after receiving the final decision of the Supreme Court ordering the distribution of the remaining 4,300 hectares of the plantation to 6,296 farmers.
Delos Reyes said the preliminary masterlist would still be subjected to an inclusion-exclusion process, in which farmers may appeal to be included or request the exclusion of workers.
He admitted that this stage could be the most contentious since potential beneficiaries could be stricken off the list if proven that they were not working on the estate as of Nov. 21, 1989, the date prescribed by the high court.
Delos Reyes said the verification process was arduous but necessary. After all the Luisita estate was”managed as a plantation, not by a kasama system where there is a farmworker assigned to specific parcels,” he said.
De los Reyes said his department had concluded the first round of interviews, and would complete the second and third rounds next month.
Delos Reyes expressed confidence that the department could meet its self-imposed deadline of identifying the potential beneficiaries of the estate in the next three to four months due to the computerization of farmers’ database.
Contrary to allegations the DAR planned to maintain the estate as a sugar plantation to favor the Cojuangcos, Delos Reyes said the beneficiaries were free to plant any crop of their choice.