What Went Before: Hacienda Luisita farmers’ saga

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In 2003, Hacienda Luisita farmers, claiming a stock distribution option (SDO) failed to uplift their living conditions, filed a petition in the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to revoke the arrangement.

The SDO is a scheme under the 1988 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that allows workers to own shares of stocks instead of land. Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) was the first corporation to employ the stock option, in 1989.

In 2004, violence erupted during a strike at the hacienda that left seven persons dead. The incident focused national attention on the plight of the workers and led the DAR to cancel the stock distribution agreement a year later.

In 2006, a temporary restraining order was issued by the Supreme Court after HLI raised the issue to the tribunal.

In 2010, a compromise deal, which promised a P150-million financial package for the beneficiaries, was signed by HLI and various unions in the estate.

Farmers lined up in August 2010 to receive their share of the P20-million first tranche of the financial settlement. The balance of the package, HLI said, would be released once the Supreme Court approved the compromise deal.

However, in July 2011, the high court upheld the DAR’s revocation of the SDO and called for a referendum to allow farmers to vote again on whether they want land ownership or shares of stock.

In another ruling issued in November 2011, the court rescinded the SDO and voted 14-0 to distribute the hacienda.

In April 2012, the Supreme Court rejected with finality a bid by HLI to secure at least P5 billion in compensation for its estate, affirming its previous ruling basing the value of the sugar plantation at around P196 million on 1989 prices when the SDO deal was hammered out.

The DAR began the process of identifying the beneficiaries in May 2012.—Inquirer Research

Sources: Inquirer Archives

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