The Hacienda Luisita Peasant Supporters Network, a group of individuals and organizations who are working in solidarity with the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, expresses its alarm over the supposed purported settlement between the Hacienda Luisita Inc. and its farm workers on the distribution of the 6,500-hectare land owned by the Cojuangco and the family of President Benigno Aquino III.
Reports have said that the farmers and the owners of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) in Tarlac on Friday (August 6,2010) ended the 21-year-old land dispute after signing a compromise deal giving farmworkers two options— to receive land parcels or to retain their share of stocks under the Stock Distribution Option.
We wish to raise the following points:
1.The timing of the disclosure of this deal raises suspicion on the real motive behind the concocted negotiation. If the deal was indeed done in good faith, why was it not publicly disclosed since its supposed inception in 2007? Why reveal it only now when the Supreme Court is a few days away from deliberating the case of Hacienda Luisita? There should have been a series of public consultation to discuss and review the terms and conditions of the deal. In the same breadth, the veracity of the mandate of the official and or individuals alleged to be representatives of the farmers, who took their liberty to sign the agreement in behalf of the said farmers, have yet to be confirmed whether in form and act they do negotiated for and in behalf of the farmers—their benefits, in mind.
2.Meanwhile, it appears that both options put the farmers in a losing situation. Under the said deal, only a third of the land or 1,400 hectares out of the 6,500-hectare hacienda would be distributed among the farmer beneficiaries. That is actually absurd since this small portion of sprawling land estate would be divided among 10,502 farmer beneficiaries! The number of farmer beneficiaries is based on the list prepared by Hacienda Luisita Management as actual land beneficiaries, but this list still needs meticulous review and verification.
3.On the other hand, the Stock Distribution Option has already been revoked by the Department of Agrarian Reform in 2006. The department was already poised to distribute the land years ago as ordered by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council, only to be stalled by the Temporary Restraining Order filed by the Cojuangcos in the Supreme Court.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that in the twenty one years implementation of the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), it had not had not lifted the farmers out of their impoverished and vulnerable state. The SDO scheme facilitated the virtual surrender of the farmers of their rightful claims to the agricultural lands of the hacienda in exchange for meager shares of capital stock and production shares.
However, we fear that the state of poverty in Hacienda Luisita would drive the farmers to sought immediate and temporary relief from their economic woes, hence making the compensation package of the SDO an enticing option. But is that the kind of direction that we want our farmers to tread? A path that welcomes them with momentary benefits but leads them deeper into the quagmire of poverty?
The Hacienda Luisita Peasant Supporters Network enjoins the farmers’ desire to immediately resolve the two-decade land dispute, but in a manner that is fair and would uphold the farmers rightful claim to the land. Also, the Network, together with its ally organizations in the religious and lay sectors, and individuals, calls President Benigno C. Aquino III, who is a stakeholder in the vast estate but at the same time accountable to the Filipino people which includes the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, to take a look at the judiciousness and the authenticity of the negotiation being propagated by his own family.
Finally, we denounce any negotiation that would put the Hacienda Luisita farmers at the losing end, and this includes deals done in clandestine and in haste. ###