Solons, tillers push for Luisita’s “free distribution”

MILITANT lawmakers and farmers are pushing for the “free distribution” of Hacienda Luisita to farmworkers ahead of a long-delayed Supreme Court decision on the sugar estate owned by the family of President Benigno Cojuangco-Aquino III.

During the House committee on agrarian reform’s deliberations on House Bill 374 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano said that “only a radical and genuine agrarian reform program can break up big landlords’ control over vast landholdings, including Hacienda Luisita.”

“The state can exercise its power of eminent domain to take hold of and distribute haciendas and render social justice to millions of farmers who have long been denied of the land and fruits of their labor,” says Mariano adding: “The GARB will end the historical injustice against farmers.”

The Anakpawis lawmaker said that “as a general rule, under the GARB, all lands exceeding five hectares shall be subject to immediate acquisition and thoroughgoing distribution, and expropriation or with the provision of just compensation.”

“However, those lands that are proven to be sullied landholdings shall be confiscated,” he said.

The GARB defines sullied landholdings as those “acquired through fraud, deception, intimidation, or the use of force or violence, and landholdings whose landowners have maintained private armed groups which are known to farmers as having been involved in extra-judicial execution and abduction of farmers or have used such private armies against farmers and farmers’ organizations in connection with agrarian disputes.”

Aside from Mariano, the principal authors of the GARB are Bayan Muna Reps. Teddy Casino and Neri Colmenares, Gabriela Women’s Party Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmie de Jesus, Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino, and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio.

For his part, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) spokesperson Rodel Mesa said Luisita farmworkers “believes that the GARB, if enacted, would guarantee that the more than 6,000-hectare hacienda will be distributed to the farmworkers at no cost.”

“For more than half a century, the Cojuangco-Aquinos benefited and continuously benefit from Hacienda Luisita and our labour. It should be distributed for free,” Mesa said.

The Supreme Court, after holding a series of oral arguments in August last year, is yet to decide on the Hacienda Luisita dispute.

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