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There is simply no need to debate as to whether the compromise Luisita deal, which gave farmers the absurd choice to retain their shares in Hacienda Luisita Inc.(HLI) through stocks or to own land, constitute land reform or not. By all indications, the settlement was orchestrated with the help of fake union leaders to shield the vast sugar estate from distribution, contrary to what HLI claims as a sign of a “new beginning.” The president’s family has really no plans to leave Luisita – that is the bottom line of the spurious deal.
The same sugar barons – the Cojuangco-Aquino clan – have just consolidated their grip on the Hacienda Luisita, while the majority of farmers who chose to retain their shares remain landless at the end of the day. Perhaps this explains why HLI spokesman lawyer Tony Ligon insists that they are workers, not farmers. HLI really wants them to be landless stockholders with only fictitious paper to own.
Contrary to HLI’s claim that the compromise deal will uplift the lives of Luisita farmers, the signed agreement actually prolongs the impoverishment of farmers under the skewed Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme. The distribution of the initial P20-million aid to farmers gives us a glimpse: some received P347 while others received only P1, depending on their shares. These amounts are merely crumbs but are simply too attractive for farmers who receive P9.50 as weekly take-home pay in the previous years under the same SDO scheme.
On all sides, the deal was crafted in bad faith: it was meant to divide Luisita farmers on the question of stocks or land, and to further divide farmers who would choose stocks based on the amount of their shares in the corporation. It was purely a “divide and conquer” scheme all in the name of preserving the Cojuangcos’ interests in Luisita, a tactic no different from what Spanish colonizers used to gain control over the sugar land more than a century ago.
There is also no point in putting off judgments as to whether President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s heart goes to Luisita farmers or to his family in the face of the compromise Luisita deal. Why would the highest official of the land, who wielded executive powers against midnight appointments and wangwangs, suddenly become impotent in the face of the Luisita controversy? Why would the most powerful member of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan suddenly become an outsider in resolving an issue which he usually regards as a family affair?
When Aquino feigned a hands-off stance over the deal by arguing that he has already divested his shares in HLI, he was actually acting out his part in what is perhaps the biggest scam of the year.
Straight from the horse’s mouth, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda revealed the President’s position on the issue. In a press conference, he said “hopefully the Supreme Court will look with favor on the compromise agreement.”
It was no less than the high court which the Palace asked to approve the highly lopsided agreement. Aquino doesn’t care if neoliberal economist Winnie Monsod and lawyer Christian Monsod call the deal deceptive. What he and his family need is the SC’s approval of the settlement on Aug. 18 to invalidate the pending case against the SDO scheme.
Such tacit inclination by the Palace comes as no surpise. Since Day One in the presidency, Aquino has never hinted at pushing for the distribution of the vast estate. He made no mention of land reform in his inaugural address. When picketing Hacienda Luisita farmers were violently dispersed in Mendiola during his first week at the Palace, he simply kept his mouth shut. Amid calls to address the decades-old agrarian problem, he just skipped the topic in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
What about his promise during the campaign period to ensure the distribution of the sugar plantation to farmer-beneficiaries by 2014? A re-reading of his statement during that time will make it clear that the promise was really a shot in the dark, thanks to the yellow media for making it appear land reform will happen four years from now.
“Kinausap ko yung pamilya ko, ang habol namin yung kapakanan ng aming mga kasamahan po dun at ilipat yung mga asset sa kanila (I have already talked to my relatives, we are concerned about the welfare of the farmers there and we want to transfer the assets to the farmers).” Take note: it is the transfer of assets which he wants, not land distribution. In the first place, land distribution will not happen anyway in four years time under the same loophole-ridden CARPER law which his allies pushed in Congress.
And is he really concerned? Over the weekend, he sneaked to Luisita just to rest, according to Palace representatives, even as farmers continue lining up in HLI’s clubhouse for the crumbs promised in the compromise deal. Yes, he rested as his bosses line up for pennies worth of years of work in the hacienda.
Of course, he went there not just to rest. Apparently “resting” in Luisita with his family is another depoliticized Palace code, just like “private time,” especially in view of the high court’s oral arguments on the decades-old land set on Wednesday.