|A young protester stouts slogans as he joins his elders from|
Hacienda Luisita during a rally in front of the Supreme Court
Chief Justice Renato Corona said Thursday that 14 justices voted in favor of giving the land to the farmers.
Associate Justice Antonio Carpio did not take part in the voting.
In its decision, the Court ordered the distribution of 4,915 hectares of the estate to the 6,296 farm worker-beneficiaries and for the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to pay them P1.3 billion.
"In line with our finding that control over agricultural lands must always be in the hands of the farmers, we reconsider our ruling that the qualified farmer workers-beneficiaries should be given an option to remain as stockholders of HLI, inasmuch as these qualified farmer workers-beneficiaries will never gain control given the present proportion of shareholdings in HLI," the 56-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. stated.
The stock distribution plan implemented before by the management, as stated in the High Court ruling, will never provide farmers the control of the land they tilled for decades.
With this, a farmers' group urged Aquino to respect and immediately implement the SC decision.
"We hope that Aquino will not use his position as president to get away with the SC ruling. He must immediately abide by the High Court's decision to distribute the land, direct his family to let go of the Hacienda, and pay the farmworkers what is due them," Unyon ng mga Manggagawa (UMA) [eng: Union of Workers] officer Jay Calaguing told Sun Star, a media group.
On Thursday, Malacañang declined to comment on the latest SC ruling on the massive Hacienda Luisita.
"Let me just beg your indulgence and say that we have not received a copy. We will hold comment, we will defer comment until we've seen it," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing.
Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac is owned by the Cojuangco clan, the family of the President's late mother, former President Corazon "Cory" Aquino.
But Lacierda insisted that the President already divested his shares from the contested land and that Aquino is not aware of the next step of the Cojuangcos on the matter.
The Palace spokesman, meanwhile, believed that the Cojuangcos will respect the decision of the SC if it is already final and executory.
He said the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is ready to implement whatever decision the SC will make.
According to the decision, the HLI should pay the farm workers P500 million it received from Luisita Realty Inc. for the sale of 200 hectares of land in 1996; P750 million for the sale of the Luisita Industrial Park; and P80,511,500 for the sale of the 80.51-hectare lot for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway road network.
Lawyer Jobert Pahilga, counsel for the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) [eng: Alliance of Mountain Workers for Hacienda Luisita], said the SC decision on Hacienda Luisita cas was long overdue but a welcome development.
"For sure, the Cojuangco-Aquino family will do everything under its power to prevent the execution of the recent SC decision. Given their influence, politically and economically... we could never be sure on what will happen to this recent SC decision until it attained finality," he said.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) [eng: May One Movement], for its part, said it is almost certain that the Cojuangco-Aquino clan would attempt to reverse the decision favoring the farmers.
And even if the expected move becomes successful, KMU secretary general Roger Saluta said the workers and farmers will forever hold-on to the said decision of the High Court.
He also called on the farmer-beneficiaries to remain united in anticipation of the counter-attacks by Aquino's family.
Saluta also assured that the workers' sector is fully behind them in continuing the fight for land and justice.
In the House of Representatives, a lawmaker called for vigilance until the High Court's decision on the contested Cojuangco estate is implemented.
"It is crucial that we remain vigilant until the lawful distribution of the bloodied Hacienda Luisita estate has been strictly implemented and completed," Kabataan party-list [eng: Youth party-list] Representative Raymond Palatino said.
Palatino added that with the SC ruling, the government should start going after other haciendas in the country for land distribution.
He said other vast tracts of agricultural land in the country that have been monopolized for decades to serve the interest of a very few total to 2,820,000 hectares combined.
Palatino noted that haciendas are concrete expressions of semi-feudalism, which thrive on cheap labor for the operation of vast agricultural estates whose raw materials and products are mainly exported to benefit capitalist countries like the United States.
Gabriela party-list Representative Emmi De Jesus, on the other hand, called on President Aquino to immediately direct the concerned government agencies to distribute the Luisita lands.
"Another day of delay in the distribution of land is another day of injustice for the farm workers. The President must also ensure that land distribution is coupled with production assistance so as to ensure that big corporate growers will not take advantage of cash-stripped farmers," De Jesus said.
Last July 5, the SC rendered a decision that ordered the farm workers to choose, through a secret voting, whether to remain as stockholders of HLI to opt for land distribution.
AMBALA filed a motion for reconsideration and argued, among others, that section 31 or the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) provision of Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law is unconstitutional.
It said section 31 does not give the farmers ownership of the land but the corporation and they will only be given shares of stocks equivalent to the value of the land.
AMBALA also argued that the decision, which orders the farm workers to choose whether to remain as stockholders of HLI or to opt for land distribution, would result in inequity and prejudice to the farm workers as they will remain the minority stockholders.