‘Finally justice,’ say Hacienda Luisita farmers
MANILA, Philippines—Finally, justice for the farmers who struggled for 22 years to claim the land they have tended in the disputed Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.
Thus said the lawyer of a group of farmers Thursday.
“We’re very glad. Finally justice has been served,” said Christian Monsod, counsel for the Farmworkers Agrarian Reform Movement (FARM), a group of 1,245 farmer-beneficiaries in the sugar estate owned by President Aquino’s family. “It’s clear all the land will be taken, and will be distributed to the farmers.’’
“These farmers have waited 22 years to get the land. This was sidetracked by the SDO (stock distribution option). It’s only fair that they should be getting this land,” he added.
Supreme Court justices voted 14-0 to distribute the sugar plantation to the 6,296 farmer-beneficiaries in a landmark ruling.
When news about the favorable ruling spread Tuesday night, FARM chairman Renato Lalic said: “We’re very happy that the decision is favorable to us. We expected this. The Supreme Court ruled that the SDO was unprofessional. That’s why we pressed on with the fight. We were sure we’re going to win.’’
Amid the euphoria, Monsod said President Aquino must have exerted influence on the the estate manager Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to accept the Supreme Court ruling.
“We have to assume that the President had a hand in the decision of HLI not to appeal this decision, thereby upholding social justice with finality. I’m sure the farmers are very grateful to the President for that,” he said on the phone.
“The announcement of Luisita that they will not anymore appeal completes the steps that have enabled the farmers to finally get their land without further delay,” he added.
Monsod said the farmers were “very appreciative” of the President when he publicly supported the motion for reconsideration filed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Solicitor General and the farmers’ groups against the Supreme Court ruling in July, which allowed the farmers to choose between lands and stocks, while ruling that the stock distribution option should no longer be pursued by HLI in its dealings with the farmer-tenants.
Monsod observed that the ruling was also significant because it opened the door for the DAR to go after the 1,500 hectares excluded by the Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco), the Cojuangco holding company, in 1989.
“It says that this decision does not preclude the DAR from looking at any other lands of Tadeco that should be covered,” he said. “The court affirms DAR’s right to look into this in accordance with mandate of Agrarian Reform Law.”
Monsod expressed the hope that there would not be “surprises about liens on the land from the borrowings of the HLI management.’’
Lalic said the farmer-beneficiaries would prove to the government that they could till and live off on six hectares of land each.
“They were saying that this is a small plot of land. We say to them, we can live on it, earn our keep, make a living, send our kids to school and improve our lives,” he said, squelching speculations that they would eventually sell the land.
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