Not all Luisita workers on new list of beneficiaries, DAR exec saysBy Tonette Orejas
Inquirer Central Luzon
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—Not all of the 6,296 farm workers given shares of stock instead of land in Hacienda Luisita in 1989 made it to the list of recipients of land ordered distributed by the Supreme Court in November 2011, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes said Friday.
“Not all have appeared [for the interviews],” De los Reyes said when the Inquirer reached him by telephone in Leyte.
He said the Department of Agrarian Reform’s preliminary list does not include all farm workers who enlisted under the stock distribution option (SDO) in 1989 because “some did not come forward, some have died, others are abroad as immigrants or overseas workers while one or two are in prison or fugitives.”
De los Reyes did not cite the number of beneficiaries on the preliminary list, saying the DAR was at the stage of matching two lists of farm workers with the records of the Social Security System on their membership contributions.
The first list contained the names of farm workers who voted in 1989 in favor of SDO. As stockholders of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), they agreed to receive shares of stock instead of land to implement the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
HLI was formed by the Tarlac Development Corp., originally owned by President Benigno Aquino’s grandfather, Jose Cojuangco, who bought Hacienda Luisita and a sugar mill there using a government loan and guarantee in 1957.
The second list was submitted by HLI to the Supreme Court in 2005, when the case filed by farm workers reached the high court that year.
Both lists recorded the same names of 6,296 farm workers, De los Reyes said.
The verification process was taking time because the SSS records are in microfilm, he said.
Asked when the 2012 list will be completed, De los Reyes said, “Hopefully by end of October.”
The verification of beneficiaries has taken six months since May when the high court made final and executory its decision upholding the resolution of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) in 2005 to distribute 4,915 hectares to 6,296 farm workers and scrap the SDO.
More than 8,000 farm workers showed up for the interviews, DAR records showed.
They were made to submit documents such as identification cards, 1989 pay slips, SSS remittance records for the year 1989, death certificates of deceased beneficiaries, birth and marriage certificates of successors-in-interest of deceased farm workers, various legal documents and certificates of award for home lots.
De los Reyes said the DAR’s 2012 list of beneficiaries will be displayed in public areas on the sugar estate’s 10 villages in Tarlac City and Concepcion and La Paz towns and at the DAR Tarlac office. The list will be published in national newspapers.
“The objective is to be transparent and thorough,” De los Reyes said.
The posting of the list of beneficiaries will begin a process of seeking inclusion or exclusion from the list. This second stage of the verification process will take two to three months, he said.
De los Reyes said a surveying firm that won a DAR bidding would start a segregation survey. This will plot the roads, irrigation canals and other facilities, and housing and farm lots.
The distribution of lots, said De los Reyes, would continue regardless of questions on the value of Hacienda Luisita land.
The tribunal had set November 1989 as the basis for determining the price of every square meter of land on the estate. The Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) is mandated to determine the land value.
The Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) have urged the DAR and the Office of the Solicitor General to file a resolution opposing the opinion of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the Hacienda Luisita case to base the land valuation at 2006 prices instead of 1989 prices.
In a statement, the groups said Sereno’s dissenting opinion “had given more bearing and justification for the [Cojuangco and Aquino families] to demand bigger compensation that could reach P5 billion.”
But farm workers interviewed by the Inquirer said many potential beneficiaries have either sold their rights to sugar planters for long-term contracts or found financiers to support commercial rice farming or vegetable production.
No plan has emerged on how to own or cultivate Hacienda Luisita because the farm workers are divided into four groups, they said.
What is left to claim of the 4,915 hectares are 4,334 hectares, or what was left after deducting the 500 hectares bought by the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and 81 hectares bought by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway. This leaves each farm worker with about 7,000 square meters or less than a hectare each.
Lawyer Christian Monsod has urged the farm workers to be vigilant of the audit of the HLI, saying this will determine if the company can actually pay P1.33 billion to the 6,296 beneficiaries from the sale of the 581 hectares.
Monsod said the amount can easily help them avail themselves of a 30-year payment scheme of the LBP.
He estimated that at P170,000 a hectare, a valuation that he said the LBP and the DAR used in 1989, farm workers would be able to pay the government for their land.