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Mass action vs. SC ruling on Luisita By Ramon T. Ayco, Sr.

July 25, 2011

Both pro-CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reform) and proGARB (Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill) militant groups march together towards the Supreme Court in Taft Ave. corner Padre Paura St., Manila, to condemn the High Court’s ruling calling for another referendum in the disputed Hacienda Luisita.

The Project Development Institute (PDI) joins a mass action in front of the Supreme Court this July 22, 2011, condemning the High Court's ruling calling for another referendum in the disputed Hacienda Luisita - a 6,453-hectare sugar plantation in Tarlac owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino III. In a decision released The PDI group joining the march rally. July 5, 2011, the Supreme Court (SC) voted 6-4 remanding the land conflict case to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The High Court ordered the DAR to hold a "new referendum" on the issue. The SC affirmed the 2005 order of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) revoking the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) but called for a referendum to let the farmers decide whether to remain with the corporation and retain their shares or be given land. The dissenting justices argued that since the SDO has

been revoked, the land should be distributed to the 6,296 farm workerbeneficiaries (FWBs). While the management of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) welcomed the decision of the SC, farmers from the sugar estate expressed their dismay. They launched a series of protest mass actions supported and joined by both pro-CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) and pro-GARB (Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill) militant groups.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general, Danilo Ramos speaking at the rally in front of the Supreme Court on July 22, 2011.

Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general, said that the "new referendum is a license for the Cojuangcos and Aquinos to perpetuate their more than five decades of feudal exploitation in Hacienda Luisita." "This is judicial deception of the highest order. It (SC ruling) further strengthened the Cojuangcos and Aquinos' illegal and immoral stranglehold on Hacienda Luisita," he added. "For the past two decades until this very day, we remain poor and landless. Isn't that enough proof that the stock distribution option (SDO) did not alleviate and improve our economic situation? SDO was the legal machination which the Cojuangco-Aquino (clan) used and for a long period of time enriched themselves with all the glory and caprice that the farm workers had to offer through their blood and sweat," said Lito Bais, a member of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda. In another occassion, Manila Auxillary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) National Secretariat Social

Action, questioned why there is a need for another referendum when the SC has already ruled against the 1989 stock distribution option (SDO) deal of the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. "What we are asking from the Supreme Court is to uphold whether SDO is valid or not. If it's not valid, then why call for another referendum" Pabillo said. On their part, the Supreme Court has clarified that it did not order a "referendum" among farmworker-beneficiaries of hacienda Luisita when it revoked the stock distribution plan of the HLI. Jose Midas Marques, Supreme Court administrator and spokesperson, said that contrary to initial interpretations, the high court's July 5 ruling did not require the 6,296 farm workers to vote on a common mode by which to pursue their ownership claims over the hacienda under the government's agrarian reform program. According to Marquez, the order penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. allowed each farm worker-beneficiary (FWB) to choose whether they wanted to own actual land or remain a stockholder in Haciendal Luisita, Inc. (HLI). "A majority vote is not required since the choice of an FWB would not affect the choice of other FWBs," Marquez said. "This means that if some FWBs prefer to remain stockholders, the other FWBs could still get their portions of the agricultural land subject to the (agrarian reform program)," he explained. -o0o-