New Solicitor General worries Hacienda Luisita farmers | Inquirer News

New Solicitor General worries Hacienda Luisita farmers

The changing of the guard at the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) should not lead to a change in its position to distribute Hacienda Luisita to land tillers, farmers and militant groups said Monday.

The groups expressed concern that the resignation of Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz could be linked to the land dispute.

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Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan noted that Cadiz resigned before the Supreme Court case on the sugar estate, which is owned by President Benigno Aquino III’s family, could become final.

“We are very concerned about the position of the replacement of SolGen Cadiz on the Luisita dispute still pending in the Supreme Court. Cadiz’s resignation comes at a critical juncture when the court sets to rule with finality on the case,” Reyes said.

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The Supreme Court ordered in November last year the distribution of the Tarlac sugar estate to farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, ending years of heated debate over the fate of the land.

The hacienda management has filed a motion for reconsideration and clarification over the amount to be paid to the farmers and asked the court to give the farmers the option to remain as stockholders.

Before this decision was handed down, the OSG under Cadiz and Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, had argued for the distribution of land and had contested the previous court ruling that allowed farmers to choose between getting shares of stocks or a redistribution of the estate

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) believes that the Cadiz’s resignation has something to do with the controversial case.

“We believe that Solicitor General Anselmo Cadiz’s resignation is closely linked to the continuing political maneuvers and arm-twisting being exerted by the President’s family involving the Hacienda Luisita agrarian dispute,” said Randall Echanis, the KMP deputy secretary general.

Both Reyes and Echanis were adamant that the position taken by Cadiz should stay.

“The new SolGen must not depart from the basic position already taken by the OSG,” Reyes said. “We will be closely watching the new SolGen should he take on a position favorable to Luisita.”

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He added that there would be questions about whether the Hacienda Luisita case was a factor in the selection of Cadiz’s replacement.

Next SolGen

Cadiz will be replaced by Deputy Ombudsman Francis Jardeleza, who used to be the general counsel of San Miguel Corp., partly owned by the President’s uncle, Eduardo Cojuangco.

Jardeleza declined to be interviewed about the matter on Monday because there was no statement yet from Malacañang about his appointment.

Jardeleza has a master of laws from Harvard Law School and was the salutatorian of his class at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

He used to work for the Accra Law Office and had chaired its litigation department. He later left to put up his own law firm.

San Miguel lawyer

In 1996, he became the senior vice president and counsel of San Miguel Corp. He held the position up to June 30, 2010, leaving it for early retirement.

He specialized in mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, securities, intellectual property and corporate governance. He teaches constitutional law at the UP College of Law.

A national coalition of coconut farmers’ group on Monday assailed the looming appointment of Jardeleza as solicitor general.

The appointment of Jardeleza as solicitor general would be “bad news” for coconut farmers who claim ownership of the 20-percent in San Miguel shares in Cojuangco’s name, said Joann Fernandez, spokesperson of Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan).

Fernandez said Mr. Aquino should appoint “a people’s lawyer as SolGen and not a lawyer of his uncle, Danding.”

Coco levy shares

She said Katarungan feared that Jardeleza would not lift a finger against the interests of San Miguel. “Our struggle to regain the coco levy shares in Mr. Cojuangco’s possession has again suffered a serious blow,” she said.

A group of coconut farmers in the country has been seeking the return of the funds from the levy that were used to acquire shares of stocks in San Miguel.

In April last year, however, the Supreme Court affirmed a 2007 decision of the Sandiganbayan and declared that the 20-percent block of shares in San Miguel held by Cojuangco, which coconut farmers claimed was bought using the coco levy fund, was his “exclusive property.”

The motion for reconsideration filed by coconut farmers’ groups on the 20-percent block of shares was not only denied but was expunged by the high tribunal.

A second motion for reconsideration filed by farmers’ groups and the Presidential Commission on Good Government in November last year is still pending in the Supreme Court.

The militant Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the mother federation of farmers’ groups in Hacienda Luisita, said Cadiz resigned “because of his failure to protect the interest of Aquino in Hacienda Luisita.”

“There is no great deal of reason why he resigned not unless he made Aquino mad at his position to distribute Hacienda Luisita. First Corona, now Cadiz. Who’s next in line?” UMA secretary general Rodel Mesa said in a statement.

Mesa said the resignation of Cadiz and the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona was part of the “grand plan of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan to take back Hacienda Luisita.” With a report from Philip Tubeza

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TAGS: Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), Government, Hacienda Luisita, Office of the Solicitor General
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