Sereno appointment to drag Luisita distribution, says peasant group

THE appointment of Maria Lourdes Sereno as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court could derail the distribution of Hacienda Luisita, the more than 6,000-hectare sugar estate owned by the family of President Aquino, to farm worker beneficiaries.

The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) expressed apprehension that “With Sereno at the helm of the Supreme Court for 18 years, Hacienda Luisita’s distribution could drag for another two decades at the very least.”

In the Hacienda Luisita case, Sereno voted in favor of the multi-billion-peso compensation package demanded by the Cojuangcos for the sugar estate they controlled for more than five decades.

Randall Echanis, KMP deputy secretary general, said the Supreme Court’s April 24 SC decision stating that “as regards the issue of interest on just compensation, We also leave this matter to the Department of Agrarian Reform and the LandBank of the Philippines, subject to review by the RTC (Regional Trial Court) acting as SAC (Special Agrarian Court)” provided the Cojuangcos “the opportunity to further derail and even evade land distribution.”

“The Cojuangcos will surely exploit Hacienda Luisita’s valuation issue and once again run to the courts all the way to the Aquino-Sereno Supreme Court to evade land distribution,” the peasant leader said.

Echanis also said the SC order also states that “farm worker beneficiaries should pay for the interest of just compensation when, in fact, the Cojuangcos and not the farm workers have benefited from the Hacienda for more than half a century now.”

“Even the 240 sq. m. homelots that was long been distributed to farmworkers for free was ordered by the SC to be paid by the farmworkers. The homelots would also increase the computation of the just compensation,” the peasant leader said.

The SC also ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform to compute the just compensation of the homelots in accordance with existing laws, rules and regulations.

“The Cojuangcos, in conspiracy with a Cojuangco-Aquino president and a politically indebted Chief Justice, are all set to prolong the agony of Luisita farmworkers,” says Echanis.

The KMP reiterated demands for the immediate cancellation of the Cojuangco’s Luisita land titles and the free distribution of the lands to farm workers.

“The President’s family already profited and continuously profit from Hacienda Luisita for more than five decades now and the farm workers have long paid for the land with their sweat and blood. The free distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farm workers is just and legitimate,” Echanis said.

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