SC verdict on Hacienda Luisita to affect 13 other estates

THE decision of the Supreme Court (SC) on the legality of the stock distribution offer (SDO) implemented in Hacienda Luisita would affect 13 other SDOs approved by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) since 1991.

SC is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the SDO, which the Cojuangco management said farmers and agricultural workers in the 6,400-hectare plantation had approved overwhelmingly in a four-day referendum held the other week.

The holding of such referendum was questioned by Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Bayan Muna and other progressive party-lists.

Based on documents, the large plantations that would have to be dismantled if the High Court rejects the Hacienda Luisita SDO are six SDOs for sugarcane plantations in Negros Occidental  approved on Feb. 15, 1991: Archie Fishpond, Inc., with 102 hectares; Arsenio Al. Acuna Agricultural Corp., 108 hectares; Elenita Agricultural Dev’t Corp., 113 hectares; Ma. Clara Marine Ventures, Inc., 58 hectares; Palma Kabankalan Agricultural Corp., 219 hectares, and; Tabigue Marine Ventures, Inc., 50 hectares.

The others are: Ledesma Hermanos Agricultural Corp., with1,024 hectares in Negros Occidental, approved on May 13, 1991; SyCip Plantation, Inc., 685 hectares in Negros Oriental, approved on Nov. 13, 1991; Negros Industrial By-Products and Processes, Inc., in Negros Occidental, with 438 hectares, approved on Feb. 28, 1992; Wuthrich Hermanos, Inc., with 174 hectares in Iloilo, approved on Sept. 1, 1992; SVJ Farms, Inc., with 170 hectares in Negros Occidental, approved on Nov. 16, 1992, and; Asia Agro-Industrial Enterprises, with 100 hectares of coconut plantation in Davao del Sur. approved on April 26, 1994.

All told, the 13 SDOs cover 3,572 hectares, an area that is far less than the 4,916 hectares of Hacienda Luisita.

The SDO of Hacienda Luisita was the first to be approved in Nov. 11, 1989, barely a year after the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was enctaed into law.

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said the SDO was based on Section 20 of Executive Order No. 229 issued by the late President Corazon Aquino in 1987 ostensibly to implement agrarian reform.

Hacienda Luisita management has banked on Section 31 of Republic Act No. 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), which was enacted into law in 1988, to justify the SDO and the referendum to ask beneficiaries whether they would hold on to their shares of stock or just get land.

Mariano said a reading of RA 6657 would show that SDO was not contemplated, and thus could not be invoked as the basis for the latest CA that was the subject of several days of referendum at the vast 6,400-hectare estate.

Hacienda Luisita’s SDO was also approved by the President Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) on November 21, 1989. President Aquino sat as chairman of PARC.

However, this approval was revoked by PARC under Resolution No. 2005-32-01 dated December 22, 2005 and thus superseded the green light issued by Aquino.

Mariano has argued that the negotiations between the supposed Hacienda Luisita unions and the Cojuangco management run afoul of the freeze order on the SDO and the temporary restraining order (TRO) that made the wealthy clan hold on to the estate.

What complicates matters is that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who now represents the second district of Pampanga, did not revoke EO 229.

Ironically, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III will have to defend the PARC resolution that scrapped the SDO or convene the council to tackle the matter.

The current president holds a one percent stake in Hacienda Luisita, which has been the subject of land conversion, with more than 4,000 hectares of the estate transformed into residential, commercial and industrial areas to circumvent the provisions of CARP.

Mariano said President Aquino is mandated by law to defend the latest PARC decision but has said he would leave it to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to do what is right as regards Hacienda Luisita.

The Anakpawis solon said the CA being promoted by the Cojuangco management has been designed to continue the exploitative and oppressive conditions at the estate.

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