President Benigno Aquino’s clan has managed to regain total ownership of the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita, reducing the farmer-beneficiaries who were supposed to own the land under the Supreme Court’s final decision on land distribution, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said.
UMA disclosed that Cojuangco-Aquino sold the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) to a businessman, Martin Lorenzo. However, the company remains under their total control led by President’s first cousin, Fernando Cojuangco.
‘Fake’ Land Distribution
UMA acting chairman John Milton Lozande said the sale was made to avoid paying back farmer-beneficiaries some P1.33 billion in proceeds from the sale of lands in Hacienda Luisita and to abort the distribution of land to farmers and farmworkers.
Using CAT, which is within the Hacienda Luisita estate, Cojuangco immediately acquired shares of other Aquino-Cojuangco firms such as the Luisita Realty Corp. and Luisita Industrial Park Co. through the CAT Resource and Asset Holdings Inc. This effectively made the Aquino-Cojuangco family the real owners of Hacienda Luisita, Lozande said.
In May, Lozande said, almost 700 workers of the CAT were retrenched and forced to sign “voluntary retirement” papers. Those to be rehired this milling season starting November will now work as contractual workers.
“Because of fake land distribution implemented in 2013, the supposed 6,212 farmer-beneficiaries who used to work for CAT and Hacienda Luisita Inc. are now back to being tenants,” Lozande said.
“It’s like killing people all over again just to revive a ‘zombie’,” Lozande said in describing the revival of CAT.
Lozande said Lorenzo’s excuse in undertaking the retrenchment was to give the Cojuangcos “a lesson or two in efficiency” after he acquired the sugar mill in 2014.
But UMA said the massive retrenchment and contractualization in the mill, coupled with land grabbing and the wholesale swindle of supposed agrarian reform beneficiaries—were tantamount to the slow death of farmers and laborers in Hacienda Luisita.
“They are still raking in profits primarily through the blood and sweat of workers and peasants, who are now doubly exploited through contractualization and the… leaseback scheme.”
SC’s Final Decision
Back in 2012, the Supreme Court (SC) has finally decided on Hacienta Luicita’s long overdue issue. Voting 14-0, SC reiterated its ruling ordering the total distribution of the land to about 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries.
In a unanimous decision on Nov 22, 2011, the SC ordered the distribution of the land to 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries. The verdict was a modification of an earlier decision penned by Justice Velasco, which allowed farmers to choose if they wanted to own the land or avail of the company’s stock distribution scheme.
As of August 2014, more than 700,000 hectares of agricultural land have yet to be awarded to farmer beneficiaries across the country, according to government data. In 2012, the Aquino administration promised to complete land distribution by 2014.
Hacienda Luisita is the most famous case study of the state of the country’s land reform. The country’s rich families maintain control over 107,639 landholdings, including the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita, where alleged multiple violations including Hacienda Luisita Massacre, were recorded by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
The issue of alleged reacquisition of Hacienda Luisita by Cojuangco-Aquino clan doesn’t surface in the mainstream media yet.