Hacienda Luisita Farmworkers Shocked and Revolted on SC Ruling on Audit Report

Hacienda Luisita farmworkers under the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) were shocked and revolted at the Supreme Court ruling which upheld the auditor’s report that the 6,296 farm worker beneficiaries (FWBs) will not get a single centavo from their share of P1.33 billion for the sale of 580.51 hectares (has.) by the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI).

Renato Mendoza, secretary general of AMBALA, stated that this decision will surely get the ire of the FWBs especially that their preferred accounting firm, Ocampo Mendoza Leung and Lim (OMLL), was later removed by the SC supposedly for lack of interest. This is despite the fact that OMLL attended three meetings called by DAR from July –September, 2016 with the Audit panel created by the SC.

In effect, Mendoza added, the Audit Panel composed by the SC is lopsided as it is composed of two audit firms selected by HLI, namely Reyes Tacandong & Co. and Navarro Amper & Co. (Deloitte). Carisa May Pay Penson, the lone individual accountant chosen by the SC is a former employee of the KPMG firm which AMBALA had previously sought to disqualify for having had business ties with the Cojuangcos.

On the other hand, the thousands of FWBs were deprived of their right to be represented by their chosen audit firm.

The SC ruling of April 24, 2012 ordered the total land distribution of Luisita’s agricultural lands, the revocation of the SDO, and the audit of HLI and CHI “to determine if the P1,330,511,500 (Php 1.33 billion) proceeds of sale of three (3) lots were actually used or spent for legitimate corporate purposes.

Any unspent or unused balance and any disallowed expenditures as determined by the audit shall be distributed to the 6,296 original FWBs,”

But more than that, according to Mendoza, the SC decision lacks any sense of social justice given that one of the main reasons why it junked the SDO’s is that the FWBs would never have a chance to be majority shareholders in HLI. So why would the SC penalize them for not receiving a single centavo by a decision by the majority stockholders like the Cojuangcos and Aquinos in selling 580.51 has. of land for P5 billion?

There was also no explanation made by the SC when it said “that the legitimate corporate expenses of HLI for the years 1998 up to 2011, coupled with the taxes and expenses related to the sale of the 3% share already distributed to the FWBs, far exceeded the proceeds of the sale of the adverted 580.51-hectare lot. Thus, it said there is no more unused proceeds that should be given out to the FWBs.”

Mendoza stated that HLI is one of only several companies of the Cojuangco-Aquino families and it could have conveniently rechanneled the P1.33 billion share of the FWBs to said companies.

These include the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), CAT Resource and Assets Holdings, Inc (CRAHI), Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco), Luisita Realty Corp. (LRC) which is now Luisita Land Corp. (LLC) and Agrikulto Inc.

Fifty one percent of CAT was sold by the Cojuangcos-Aquinos to Martin Lorenzo. CAT also owns LLC and Agrikulto Inc. CAT’s sale in 2014 is seen as a push to further evade land distribution and scrutiny of the Aquino-Cojuangcos’ sullied assets.

The SC could have stated that these related companies should pay the FWBs what is rightfully theirs.

Other than that, Mendoza added that the SC now is controlled by President Duterte and the decision of the former only shows that the present regime is not sincere in genuine agrarian reform. The President even got rid of former DAR Secretary and KMP chairman emeritus Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, who is sincere in such a reform.

Among those that opposed his nomination as DAR secretary were the minions of the Cojuangcos-Aquinos-Lorenzos in Hacienda Luisita. Others include officials of Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC), which is owned by Martin Lorenzo’s family. Sara Duterte’s husband, Manases Carpio is one of LFC’s legal counsel and the President’s daughter also opposed Ka Paeng’s nomination.

Ka Paeng revoked an Aug. 14, 1996, DAR order to classify at least 500 hectares of Hacienda Luisita as an industrial area which would exempt these from land reform and ordered 384 hectares of these to be distributed to the FWBs.

Up to now, this has not yet been implemented. The Cojuangco-Aquino-Lorenzo feared that Ka Paeng would also put under CARP 330 hectares of CAT’s property which it claims is not used for business and operations.

Recently, however, CAT sold 338 hectares of its lands to Ayala Land to transform it intoits regional Ayala Center.

Mendoza added that there is no other choice then but to rally the FWBs against this unjust decision of the SC and the continued control of the Cojuangcos-Aquinos and even the Lorenzos of the lands in the Hacienda.

He concluded by saying that this is another blow to the credibility of the SC which is now controlled by President Duterte and predicted that many peasants and other democratic classes in Philippine society would defy it if it continues to issue unjust decisions against the people.

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