Voluminous land titles, documents unearthed by farmers and supporters
The Cojuangco-Aquino family has been swindling Luisita peasants and the Filipino people since Magsaysay time. As one of the most influential and politically-savvy of landlord clans in the country, they have used all their power to accrue profits, milking public funds dry while cunningly retaining control of the vast sugar plantation especially during the two Cojuangco-Aquino presidencies.
This is the statement made by Florida Sibayan, chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA.) AMBALA, the main petitioner favored by the Supreme Court (SC) in a landmark decision released two years ago, represents thousands of farmworkers fighting for genuine agrarian reform and social justice in Hacienda Luisita.
A voluminous sheaf of land titles and documents were presented today by AMBALA to the press, to prove that the Cojuangco-Aquino family had time and again swindled not only farmers but the whole Filipino people with its land reform posturings. AMBALA and its supporters uncovered the titles and documents as a result of extensive research on Cojuangco firms engaged in aggresive landgrabbing efforts, after the SC ruled to distribute land to farmers.
“P-Noy and his family owe their wealth and influence to every farmer and taxpayer that they have disenfranchised and swindled for generations, ” said Florida Sibayan, AMBALA Chairperson. The Cojuangco-Aquino firm Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) acquired the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) from its original Spanish owners in 1957, using money loaned from the GSIS and endorsed by Bangko Sentral. The rest of the 6,000 plus hectare estate went under their control via an understanding with the Magsaysay government that under its social justice program, these lands will be distributed to its original owners, the small farmers, after 10 years.
“Now the Aquino administration granted Presidential kin half a billion pesos as compensation for Hacienda Luisita. Public funds were once again used to enrich this scheming landlord clan when they in fact have never fulfilled their loan obligations to the Filipino public after 50 years.”
Josephine Cojuangco-Guingona, daughter of Luisita kingpin Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr. recently claimed that certain landholdings in Luisita were reclassified in 1985 and should not be covered by agrarian reform. “That’s a lie,” said Sibayan. “The only time Luisita was supposedly reclassified was in 1995, during the stint of her mother, Tingting Cojuangco, as governor of Tarlac. The DAR, however, approved only 500 hectares for actual conversion. Very opposite to their claims, what actually happened in 1985 was that the Manila Regional Trial Court ruled that TADECO must finally distribute Luisita to farmers. That breakthrough court decision was sabotaged by Cory’s CARP and SDO in 1989.”
“Now in 2012, the SC ruled to revoke the Stock Disribution Option (SDO) scheme, distribute land to farmworkers and pay us our share of the Php 1.33 B proceeds of land sale by the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) – precisely because of the grave injustices we endured under this SDO landlord scam legalized by Cory’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Today the CARP and its extension CARPER still serves as a milking cow for landlords. The Cojuangco-Aquinos do not deserve a single centavo for Hacienda Luisita” said Sibayan.
The SDO scheme in Tarlac brought extreme poverty and suffering to farmworkers and prompted thousands to rise up and strike against the HLI management. However, this same big landlord scam is still in effect in 10 Negros haciendas leaving thousands of hectares of agricultural land under the control of a handful of powerful and scheming landlords.
The original land area of Hacienda Luisita is widely known to be 6, 453 hectares, but only 4,915 were declared by the Cojuangcos to be agricultural in use when the SDO was implemented in 1989. Of these thousands of hectares, 500 hectares were approved land use conversion, thus the SC order to subtract this figure along with 80.5 hectares of the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) to come up with 4,335 hectares for land distribution in its 2012 ruling.
This land coverage swindleis aggravated by the new survey conducted by the DAR-hired firm FF Cruz, Co. which further reduced declared agricultural lands in Luisita by another 200 plus hectares, despite the SC order to place under land reform “other agricultural lands originally held by TADECO that were allegedly not transferred to HLI but were supposedly covered by RA 6657 (CARP)”.
In a letter dated April 10, AMBALA dared the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to cover more than a thousand hectares of agricultural land which the Cojuangco-Aquinos deliberately hid from agrarian reform. The titles and documents trace the transfer of land property to several Cojuangco-Aquino corporate avatars to deliberately hide these landholdings from the scrutiny of farmers and agrarian reform institutions.
Among landholdings without proper conversion orders are the Las Haciendas de Luisita, Don Pepe Cojuangco Homes and Park Homes subdivisions, the Luisita Industrial Park 1 Complex, the Luisita Golf & Country Club, the Aquino Museum and the Plaza Luisita mall complex or Robinsons Luisita. AMBALA reiterates that only 500 hectares of land were legally put under land use conversion and this was approved by the DAR only in 1996. Thus several lucrative transactions made before this year or covering landholdings aside from the 500-hectare area, undermine the Cojuangco-Aquino family’s primary obligation to the government and the public – to return these lands to its original owners, the farmers.
If properly accounted for, the HLI and the Cojuangco-Aquino family may be obligated to compensate farm workers not just with the Php 1.33 billion returns but with all other hefty revenues from its illegitimate transactions involving Hacienda Luisita property.
“The Cojuangco-Aquinos are now desperately ‘seeking support’ from local village officials and local government to justify its illegal and immoral Luisita Ecozone project. In Hacienda Lusita, P-Noy’s so-called ‘daang matuwid’ is a blood-stained path which reeks of brazen corruption, deceit, bribery and coercion.”
Luisita farmers will hold a solidarity cultural activity with supporters from different sectors in front of the DAR offices along Elliptical Road Quezon City tonight. Hundreds of Luisita farmers trooped to Manila to protest the hoax land distribution scheme implemented by the DAR, exactly two years after the landmark SC ruling. #