fear & loathing in/for hacienda luisita
so hacienda luisita inc. has started buying off, i mean, paying off, i mean, distributing initial financial aid to farmers ranging, acc to anc, from 500 to a few thousand bucks. grabe. can’t blame the farmers (for caving in) but can’t say the same for the cojuangcos who are clearly defying the law. mr. president? hello?
from The Politics of Fear in Hacienda Luisita by Lisandro “Leloy” Claudio:
“Takot ang mga tao dito kaya hindi namin sila ma-organize. Mahirap na pag presidente ang kalaban mo (The people here are afraid, so we can’t organize them. It’s difficult when you’re up against a president),” says Kuya Bembol (pseudonym). Earlier that month, Kuya Bembol tried to take fellow farmers to an apolitical seminar on farming techniques hosted by the Katarungan NGO of Ricardo Reyes, who ran as the LP’s mayoral candidate in Pasig. Nobody took up the offer. They were afraid of any action that could be considered “political.”
This fear is not unwarranted. As I mentioned in my previous piece “Prinsipyo o Caldero: Why Noynoy won in Luisita,” the Liberal Party has the allegiance of the hacienda’s barangay captains. Since formalwork stopped in 2005, farmer-residents have been dependent on the captains to allot them plots of land to independently farm. Residents are afraid to do anything that might antagonize their respective captains.
But the fear in Luisita is more deep-seated; it has its roots in a historical trauma. The last time a Cojuangco became president, the family was able to eliminate calls for land distribution through implementing a broken and illegal Stock Distribution Option (SDO). Luisita management (and even Cory) claimed this was a valid move because the farmers voted for it in a referendum. However, according to Danny Carranza, a community organizer in the hacienda during the late 80s, farmers voted for the SDO under duress. Management told them that their jobs would be at risk if they voted against it.
According to FARM leaders, Luisita residents are afraid that the SDO or something similar to it will be implemented now that Noynoy is president. Should this happen, the Cojuangcos will once again completely control who works and who doesn’t. Put yourself in the position of a farmer. Based on what happened in the past, you believe that a Cojuangco as president will likely enable the family to have control over your livelihood once more. Should this happen, you will want a job from that family because life is hard. In a situation like this, would you risk antagonizing your landlords?
. . . Of course, P-Noy should put pressure on his family to withdraw the temporary restraining order that prevents the distribution of Luisita. He should also investigate the atrocities of the Hacienda Luisita massacre and the current trend towards the hacienda’s remilitarization.
Unfortunately, however, agrarian reform does not seem to be a priority for our new president. It also isn’t likely that he will investigate crimes associated with his family. And with the residents of Luisita scared to death, I doubt there will be significant pressure from below.
Ironically, the beacon of hope for the Luisita workers is the heavily criticized Renato Corona who will lead the Supreme Court as it decides on the legality of the SDO. If the SC scraps the SDO, it will pave the way for the distribution of the hacienda’s land to those who till it. God save the Chief Justice. The fate of farmers living in a perpetual state of fear is in his hands.
from Farmers got short end of the stick by Solita Collas-Monsod:
Let’s face it: The Luisita farm workers — the 6,296 men and women who should have been the beneficiaries of the CARP that was passed during President Cory Aquino’s term — have been getting the short end of the stick since 1989. The so-called “Compromise Agreement” the last nail in that coffin of exploitation (pardon the mixed metaphors).
The first nail in that coffin of exploitation was when, in 1989, they were either encouraged or enticed or intimidated or manipulated — remember, most of them had worked there for all of their lives in a patriarchal setting — to opt to own shares of stock in the Hacienda Luisita corporation — the so-called Stock Distribution Option (SDO), rather than to get a share of the land. The argument that they bought, or was shoved down their throat at the time, was that if the land were divided, each farm worker would be getting at most 0.78 hectares (of the 6,443 hectares of Luisita at that time, only 4,916 hectares were classified as CARP-able); while if they were own shares in the corporation, the workers would not only be getting wages, but also a share of the profits. It sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, since then, the corporation never showed any profits, and claims it has become burdened with enormous debt (which then required selling land to help pay off some of it).
The second nail in the farmers’ coffin of exploitation was pounded in almost simultaneously: The farmers got only 33% of the corporation, while the Cojuangcos, through the Tarlac Development Corporation or TDC got 67%. Why only 33% for the farmers, when their contribution to this agricultural corporation was its principal resource, mainly the land? Three reasons: the amount of land included in the CARP was only 76% of Hacienda Luisita; that “CARPable” land was undervalued; and third, the TDC contribution was overvalued. . . .
from Portent of things to come? by Rene Azurin:
. . . Actually, all this ado about a “compromise” just continues to obscure the main issue about the whole Hacienda Luisita case. The main issue — lest we forget — is that Jose Cojuangco Sr. was provided a government loan of P5.9 million and given a government guarantee (for a foreign exchange loan of US$2.1 million) to allow him to acquire the sugar estate and the sugar mill in 1957, with the express condition that the agricultural land “would be distributed to the agricultural workers” after 10 years. Well, it wasn’t.
Ten years after the hacienda was acquired, the Cojuangcos — probably not wanting to give up the enormous wealth and power that the sugar business had given them (because of the preferential prices then enjoyed by Philippine sugar in the US market) — argued that they could not comply with the distribution condition because “the place did not have a single tenant.” They then cited a law, the Land Reform Code (R.A. 3844), that exempted from expropriation agricultural lands like the sugar hacienda “where large scale operations would result in greater production and more efficient use of the land.” The scamming, not just of the farmer-beneficiaries but also of the Filipino public, began then. Clearly, it continues to this day and the fact that the land distribution was a straightforward loan condition has now been all but forgotten.
Beyond the legalities, a great injustice has been perpetuated for almost half a century against the poor farmers who’ve worked for the Cojuangcos. Many have passed away without realizing their dream of owning the tiny parcels of land that should have been divided and distributed to them in 1967. Those who survive find themselves today “already too old to till the land.” What options are realistically left to them except to take whatever is offered?
Mr. Lacierda says that Mr. Aquino “welcomes the agreement because… ang mahalaga ay ang ninanais ng farmers [what’s important is what thefarmers want].” This shows incredible insensitivity to the actual aspirations of the poor who are, once again, being taken for a ride by members of a ruling class who seem bereft of any sort of social conscience. If this is a portent of things to come, the poor might just have to abandon their hopes for social justice in a Cojuangco-Aquino administration.