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Luisita farmers wait a little longer

/ 02:34 AM October 17, 2012

Gener Luna, 22, a third-generation member of the family of Hacienda Luisita farmer Artemio Luna, is still waiting for the chance to own their sugar cane farm in Tarlac. EV ESPIRITU

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Have I qualified as one of the beneficiaries of lands in Hacienda Luisita?” This question has been bugging Felix Nacpil Sr., 70, in the last six months and he looks forward to getting the answer at the end of October, the deadline set by Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes.

With it comes his long-running dream to finally own a piece of lot in the more than 6,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of President Aquino in Tarlac. Nacpil, a labor organizer, has seen deaths and violence as workers in the plantation and mill fought for wages, benefits and lands.

“I am excited. I got information from a [Department of Agrarian Reform or DAR] personnel that I made it to the list,” said Nacpil, who relies now on an improvised walking stick made of steel pipe to move around.

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“I’m old, I can wait some more time, but I hope the land is given before I die,” said Nacpil, who had worked at the hacienda for 43 years. He started working there in 1959 or two years after the President’s grandfather, Jose Cojuangco Sr., bought the estate and the sugar mill using a government loan and guarantee.

In his case, Nacpil said the DAR found his name in the 1989 master list of 6,296 farm workers who voted to get corporate shares instead of lands, a scheme called stock distribution option (SDO), when Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, implemented the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program at her family’s property that year.

While there was certainty in Nacpil, Jose Valencia is worried.

“My name is on the 1989 master list, but when the DAR put me on the ‘S6’ bracket, meaning I did not receive a home lot, I was excluded,” said Valencia, 40.

Felix Nacpil Jr. of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and Renato Lalic of the Farm workers Agrarian Reform Movement (Farm)-Luisita said they received information that only some 5,000 farm workers on the 1989 master list made it to what is now the “2012 preliminary list of beneficiaries.”

Violation

Lalic said the list shaving or exclusion of almost 2,000 farm workers violated the November 2011 ruling of the Supreme Court, which said the original 6,296 farm workers should be given lands in Luisita.

In upholding the decision of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (Parc), the tribunal, led by then Chief Justice Renato Corona, ordered the DAR to distribute 4,915 ha and scrap the SDO.

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De los Reyes confirmed to the Inquirer last week that not all of the original 6,296 farm workers qualified to be beneficiaries of lands. For one, he said not all of them appeared for interviews. For another, the 2012 preliminary list has not included all those in the 1989 list 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 [have become] fugitives.”

Transparency

De los Reyes said the DAR 2012 list of beneficiaries will be displayed in public areas in the sugar estate’s 10 villages in Tarlac City and Concepcion and La Paz towns and at the DAR Tarlac office. The list will also be published in national newspapers.

“The objective is to be transparent and thorough,” De los Reyes said.

The posting of the list will begin a process of seeking inclusion or exclusion of the beneficiaries. This second stage of the verification process will take two to three months.

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, he said, would continue regardless of questions on the value of Hacienda Luisita land.

The Supreme Court had set November 1989 as the year on which the price of every square meter of land in the estate would be assessed. The Land Bank of the Philippines is mandated to determine the land value.

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TAGS: agrarian reform, Felix Nacpil Sr., Hacienda Luisita, Luisita farmers, Philippines - Regions
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