Update on the SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME of OUR PETITION
(11/24/2011) Supreme Court Decision:
Background of our petition
The Central Bank Monetary Board resolution from 1957 required distribution of Hacienda Luisita’s land to small farmers within 10 years. When 1967 came and went with no land distribution taking place, the farm workers began to organize themselves to uphold their cause.
A case was filed on May 7, 1980 by the Marcos government against the Cojuangco company TADECO for the surrender of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, so land could be distributed to the farmers at cost, in accordance with the terms of the government loans given in 1957-1958 to the late Jose Cojuangco, Sr., who died in 1976. (Republic of the Philippines vs. TADECO, Civil Case No. 131654, Manila Regional Trial Court, Branch XLIII).
On January 16, 1986, (Cory) Aquino delivered her second major speech in Davao and said, "Land-to-the-tiller must become a reality, instead of an empty slogan." In the same speech, Aquino also said, "You will probably ask me: Will I also apply it to my family’s Hacienda Luisita? My answer is yes." The snap elections took place on February 7, 1986. Marcos was declared winner, but was ousted by the People Power revolution. Cory Aquino was sworn in as President on February 25, 1986.
On January 22, 1987, eleven months into the Aquino administration, the Mendiola massacre happened. Thousands of frustrated farmers marched to Malacañang demanding fulfillment of the promises made regarding land reform during the Aquino campaign, and distribution of lands at no cost to beneficiaries. At least a dozen protesters were killed in the violent dispersal. More were seriously injured. The Stock Distribution Option (SDO) was a clause in the 1988 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that allowed landowners to give farmers shares of stock in a corporation instead of land. The landlords then arranged to own majority share in the corporations, to stay in control. This went against the spirit of land reform, which is to give "land to the tiller".
On May 18, 1988, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case filed in 1980 by the Philippine government—under Marcos—against the Cojuangco company TADECO to compel the handover of Hacienda Luisita. It was the Philippine government itself—under Aquino—that filed the motion to dismiss its own case against TADECO, saying the lands of Hacienda Luisita were going to be distributed anyway through the new agrarian reform law.
A month after the case was dismissed, on June 10, 1988, Aquino signed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Soon after, Hacienda Luisita was put under the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) that Aquino included in the law. Through the SDO, landlords could comply with the land reform law without giving land to farmers.
On May 9, 1989, Luisita’s farm workers were asked to choose between stocks or land in a referendum. The SDO won 92.9% of the vote. A second referendum and information campaign were held on October 14, 1989, and again the SDO won, this time by a 96.75% vote. Luisita’s SDO agreement spelled out a 30-year schedule for transferring stock to the farm workers:
"At the end of each fiscal year, for a period of 30 years, the SECOND PARTY (HLI) shall arrange with the FIRST PARTY (TADECO) the acquisition and distribution to the THIRD PARTY (farm workers) on the basis of number of days worked and at no cost to them of one-thirtieth (1/30) of 118,391,976.85 shares of the capital stock of the SECOND PARTY (HLI) that are presently owned and held by the FIRST PARTY (TADECO), until such time as the entire block of 118,391,976.85 shares shall have been completely acquired and distributed to the THIRD PARTY (farm workers)."
About 5 years after the SDO was implemented, management began to claim that HLI was losing money. The farm workers’ wages plateaued and their work days were cut. Meanwhile, a mall and industrial park were sprouting on the portion of the hacienda closest to McArthur Highway. Losing money but building a mall? the farmers brooded. Something was up.
Conversion—the real plan
On September 1, 1995, the Sangguniang Bayan of Tarlac passed a resolution reclassifying 3,290 out of Luisita’s 4,915 hectares from agricultural to commercial, industrial, and residential. The governor of Tarlac province at that time was Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco, wife of Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, Jr. Out of the 3,290 reclassified hectares, 500 were approved for conversion by the DAR.
As land was being converted, the area left for farming grew smaller and smaller. More work days were cut, and wages were practically frozen. Mechanization also reduced the need for manual labor.
By 2003, the farm workers’ daily wage was down to P194.50 (P9.50 after deductions for salary loans and other items), and work days were down to 1 per week. They finally saw the futility of having four board seats against management’s seven (the SDO agreement allotted 4 board seats to the farm workers ahead of the 30-year waiting period for their stocks). They were always going to be outvoted. They also feared that their board representatives could easily be manipulated because they were not as well-versed as management in corporate matters.
The SDO had to go, they concluded.
The union leaders scrabbled together a petition to revoke the SDO and stop land conversion in Luisita. It was signed by 5,339 farm workers and filed at the Department of Agrarian Reform on December 4, 2003. In July 2004, the union tried to negotiate a wage increase to P225 per day. They also asked for an increase in work days to 2-3 days per week. Management said no, saying the company was losing money.
Management then issued notices retrenching 327 farm workers effective October 1, 2004. A month later came the workers’ strike, then the massacre. Under pressure from public outrage over the November 2004 massacre, the Arroyo administration, through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), formed Task Force Stock Distribution on November 25, 2004 to study the causes of the workers’ strike. The Task Force was later renamed Task Force Luisita. In March 2005, teams were sent by the DAR to Luisita’s 10 barangays to investigate the SDO... the DAR’s Task Force Luisita submitted the findings and recommendations of its investigation. This formed the basis for the government’s decision a few months later to revoke Luisita’s Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and order the distribution of the hacienda’s land to the farmers.On December 23, 2005, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) formally ordered Luisita’s SDO revoked, and its lands put under compulsory acquisition.
But the Cojuangco family would not give up the land without a fight. A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was obtained from the Supreme Court by June 2006 preventing PARC from revoking the SDO and distributing Hacienda Luisita’s land. This TRO has been in force for more than three years now...
Source: gmanews.tv/story/181877 published in four series
By STEPHANIE DYCHIU 01/18/2010
We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the United Luisita Workers' Union (ULWU), the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), and the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Gitang Luzon (AMGL) in appealing to the Honorable Chief Justice and to the other members of the Supreme Court of the Philippines to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued in June 2006 upon the petition of the Cojuangco family that prevented the government from distributing the 6,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.
We declare that in December 2005, Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) issued an order revoking the stock distribution option (SDO) agreement between Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) and the farm workers. The same directive ordered that the property be parceled out among the workers.
Therefore, we the undersigned, respectfully appeal to our justices' sense of truth, justice, and accountability to allow the government to distribute the Luisita land to the farmworker-beneficiaries.
Justice delayed is Justice denied.
The LIFT TRO HDA LUISITA petition to Supreme Court of the Philippines was written by Maria Elizabeth Embry and is in the category Justice at GoPetition.