By F. Marasigan and J. Mayuga
AGRARIAN Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes was asked on Monday to step up the distribution of the Hacienda Luisita.
At the same time, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita wants de los Reyes to fast-track the process of collecting the farmers’ share from the P1.33-billion proceeds of the sale of portions of the hacienda as ordered by the Supreme Court in its April 24 ruling.
“Almost four months after the decision, Hacienda Luisita remains under the control and disposition of the President [Aquino] and his relatives. DAR [Department of Agrarian Reform] chief [Virgilio] de los Reyes is all talk but can’t deliver what is expected of him,” UMA Secretary-General Rodel Mesa said.
“In the spirit of social justice, Mr. de los Reyes must not be reluctant to implement the court decision. He should not be afraid of the President because he is just doing his mandate to provide tillers land to till, and not be a puppet of Mr. Aquino,” Mesa said.
He said the speedy, unconditional distribution of Hacienda Luisita plus the P1.33 billion share for the sale of the 500 hectares that have been converted to non-agricultural use and the 80 hectares expropriated for the use of the Subic-Tarlac Expressway is just and reasonable after four decades of land deprivation.
“Mr. de los Reyes should prioritize the completion of Hacienda Luisita’s distribution and pay the farmer-beneficiaries what is due to them. He should not let any technicalities hinder land distribution with the farmer-beneficiaries paying the high price as the land continue under the control of the President’s corporation,” Mesa said.
Meanwhile, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu) hit the DAR’s paid advertisement that appeared in a major daily on Monday calling Hacienda Luisita farmers to a “second interview.”
The DAR’s paid advertisement advises Hacienda Luisita farmers to attend the second interview from August 13 to 17, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the covered courts in the villages of Hacienda Luisita. Those who will fail to attend will be interviewed from August 20 to 24 at the DAR Provincial Office.
“Instead of immediately moving for the cancellation of the Cojuangco family’s land title, the DAR appears to be very pre-occupied with this public reletions stunt involving the highly questionable and pro-Cojuangco enlistment scheme in Hacienda Luisita,” KMP Deputy Secretary-General Willy Marbella said.
Marbella said the verification scheme by the DAR is a waste of time and taxpayers’ money because 6,296 farmer-beneficiaries have already been identified in 1989, the year when the DAR and the Cojuangcos placed the more than 6,000-hectare land under the controversial stock-distribution option (SDO) scheme.
“Our doubts that this so-called verification process is a brazen maneuver by the Cojuangcos were reinforced by the fact that this scheme was being extended despite the existence of original list of beneficiaries, has even surpassed the original number of beneficiaries, and is now turned into an obvious PR gimmick by the DAR,” says Lito Bais, Ulwu chairman.
“Obviously, President Aquino has direct knowledge and tolerates these moves by the DAR in Hacienda Luisita,” Bais said, adding: “This scheme by the DAR serves the Cojuangcos’ agenda to bloat the number of beneficiaries, further reduce the size of land for distribution, sow confusion and disunity in our ranks, and eventually put their dummies and loyalists as so-called beneficiaries.”
The DAR has interviewed 8,400 farmers as part of the validation process that, de los Reyes said, is the first important step in distributing Hacienda Luisita.
At the same time, de los Reyes said the DAR is now working to have the more than 4,300-hectare portion of the hacienda that will be distributed surveyed by a reputable land surveying company.
Meanwhile, the DAR has bidded out the project to audit HLI’s books to determine the legitimate corporate expenses which will be deducted from the P1.33 billion share of the farmers from the sale of portions of the hacienda.
The DAR, since it started the process of distributing the hacienda in May, said the process of distributing the hacienda will take at least a year to complete, considering the gargantuan task of identifying the qualified farmer-beneficiaries and surveying the land to be distributed by the agency.
Hacienda Luisita is the biggest landholding ever to be subjected to land distribution since the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in 1989.