TARLAC CITY—Most were happy, others were overwhelmed, and still others were confused, even angry, as the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on Wednesday released the final list of 6,212 beneficiaries of the sprawling sugar plantation owned by the family of President Aquino, which was ordered distributed to its workers by the Supreme Court.
Printed on tarpaulin and mounted on boards, the list posted by Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes came in two sets: The first was alphabetically arranged and the second pertained to specific barangays (villages) in Hacienda Luisita.
For Irma Salvador-Masanque, 49, seeing her and her relatives’ names on the list was an overwhelming experience. Impatient to wait for her turn, she ducked under the heavy sheets of tarpaulin, ran through the names and came out smiling and excited.
“I am on the list, my brothers and sisters, and in-laws, all eight of us,” she said.
Masanque said her siblings and relatives would still plant sugarcane when they finally get their land. “I hope this happens soon,” she said.
Rodrigo Aquino, 57, who has been working in the hacienda since 1974, said he could only be happy because he and wife, Luz, were both on the list.
Aquino said he would plant rice and vegetables instead of sugarcane as this would be more profitable. He is hoping that the government will help him by distributing seedlings and fertilizers.
He said he did not want to go through the hardship of sugarcane planting again as he did when he was a “tabasero,” or cane cutter. His earnings then, he said, were too small that his two children, who are now married, never made it to college.
For members of the United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu) who were in Barangay Mapalacsiao when De los Reyes handed out copies of the final list, the presence of Noel Mallari, whom they said broke off from their group to form a company union, brought tension as they started heckling and booing him.
The women said Mallari’s group pushed for the stock distribution option (SDO) in lieu of land distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that contributed much to the delay of the cases filed in court.
Others, however, were confused and angry. After confirming that their names were on the final list, there wasn’t a glint of joy in their faces because they feared that they would not get land from the villages where they are living.
No petition for exclusion
In earlier interviews, Assistant Agrarian Reform Secretary Teofilo Inocencio said that while the allocation of farm lots in areas where the beneficiaries live was ideal, there would be places where there was not enough land to be distributed and they would have to settle elsewhere in the hacienda.
On July 5, 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the DAR’s revocation of the SDO that was implemented in 1989. It reaffirmed this decision on Nov. 22 that year and ordered the DAR to distribute 4,915 hectares of the estate to 6,296 farm workers.
On April 24 last year, the court threw out a motion for reconsideration filed by Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI).
De los Reyes said the final number of beneficiaries was drawn after scrutinizing the qualifications and documents of those in the probationary list that was released in October last year as well as those who filed petitions for inclusion.
The DAR last year drew up two sets of names of potential beneficiaries totaling 6,586.
Aside from the preliminary master list of 5,365, another set of 1,221 names was tagged as “probationary.” De los Reyes said people on the probationary list had been asked to submit proof that they were working in the estate in November 1989, the reckoning date established by the Supreme Court when the plantation came under CARP.
The preliminary list of 5,365 beneficiaries was not changed, De los Reyes said, as no one petitioned for the exclusion of anyone on that list.
He said the additional 847 beneficiaries came from the probationary list who complied with the requirements, and some from the 357 who filed a petition for inclusion and were duly qualified.
Distribution in June
Lito Bais, Ulwu chairman, said his group would question the DAR as to how and why the number of beneficiaries rose to 6,212.
Bais said Ulwu had sought the inclusion of only 16 members and insisted that the base figure should still be the signatories to the 1989 SDO.
De los Reyes, however, said that the rest of the petitioners for inclusion were not done by the HLI. He said these people came to DAR.
The agrarian reform secretary said now that the number of beneficiaries had been finalized, the DAR’s next step was to determine how much land the beneficiaries would get.
De los Reyes said he planned to distribute the land by June. He said segregation and surveying were being done to determine how the 4,915 ha would be parceled out.
He said roads, firebreaks and other common-use portions would be removed from the total area to be distributed, as well as the 500 ha belonging to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., as mandated by the Supreme Court, and the 83 ha expropriated for the Subic–Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
Bais, however, said that when the DAR classified the 4,915 ha as agricultural land, the roads and canals were already removed from that and what remained to be deducted were only 583 ha.
De los Reyes said the valuation of the property could be a contentious issue and Land Bank of the Philippines would determine this.
Should HLI disagree with the valuation and file a petition in the Supreme Court, De los Reyes said this would not stop the DAR from distributing the land.
“We are the implementor of the decision of the Supreme Court and we are directed to distribute the land and we will,” he said.
He also brushed aside accusations of the farmers’ group Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) that the DAR was railroading the implementation of the decision of the high court. He said the DAR had been transparent in all its activities.
“While positions taken by Ambala during the consultation meetings will be duly considered in the finalization process, the DAR is duty bound to get the consensus of the parties as required by the Supreme Court decision,” De los Reyes said.
DAR list a sham
Randall Echanis, deputy secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said in a statement that the DAR list was a “sham.”
“Even the basis of the DAR’s master list is patently illegal,” he said, referring to the DAR’s pronouncement that this was based on the master list submitted by HLI in 2010 to the court and HLI’s list of employees under the Social Security System (SSS).
“The master list submitted by the HLI to the Supreme Court is a product of an illegal process or the bogus referendum conducted by the Cojuangcos in August 2010,” Echanis said.
“And since when did the SSS become a basis for the identification of farmer-beneficiaries?” he asked. “SSS membership only proves the employer-employee relationship and is not a basis for the identification of beneficiaries.”
Echanis said the names of “Cojuangco loyalists” made it to the DAR’s final list. He identified them as HLI supervisor Windsor Andaya, Mallari, Julio Suniga, Eldie Pingol, HLI engineer Rizalino Sotto and Edgardo Aguas, incumbent chairman of Barangay Central inside Hacienda Luisita.
“These are the very same people who sided with the Cojuangcos, argued for the continuance of the antipeasant stock distribution option scheme, and vigorously opposed land distribution,” he said.
He claimed that a petition for the six names to be excluded from the list was made by Ambala, but De los Reyes said his department received no petition for exclusion at all.—With a report from DJ Yap in Manila