SC affirms lower Hacienda Luisita valuation

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 24 2012 03:05 PM | Updated as of Apr 25 2012 01:34 AM

BAGUIO CITY (4th UPDATE) - The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed its Nov. 22 ruling awarding Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita to the sugar estate’s original 6,296 farm worker beneficiaries --the number of farm hands at the time of the approval of Luisita’s stock distribution plan (SDP) in 1989 -- or their legitimate successors.

In an en banc decision promulgated today in Baguio City, voting unanimously, the high court ruled that Luisita’s over 4,900 hectares of agricultural lands should go to the tillers of the land, affirming its July 5, 2011 or first decision on the agrarian dispute, and Nov. 22, 2011 ruling. 

As to the issue of just compensation which was subject of a motion for reconsideration and clarification by Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI), the high court, voting 8-6, stood by its earlier ruling that the date of reckoning for the valuation of the lands should be from Nov. 21, 1989, the date of issuance of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council’s (PARC) Resolution approving HLI’s stock distribution plan.

This junks HLI’s plea for land valuation based on fair market value as of January 2, 2006, which is the date of issuance of the Notice of Coverage for the sugar estate’s compulsory land distribution.

Those who voted in favor of the 1989 valuation were Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama, Jr., Jose Perez, and Jose Mendoza.

Six justices voted to refer the land valuation for just compensation to HLI to a special agrarian court. These were Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano Del Castillo, and Pres. Aquino's 3 appointees: Maria Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Based on the Supreme Court’s decision, Luisita will be compensated for roughly P40,000 per hectare or P196.6 million. Luisita’s plea, meantime, placed the valuation of the land at over P5 billion. 

On July 5, 2011, the Supreme Court affirmed the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council’s (PARC) revocation of HLI’s stock distribution plan. The high court  held that HLI failed to meet its promises and obligations to farm worker beneficiaries under the plan. The stock distribution option was, however, retained even as farm workers were given the choice to opt for land. 

On Nov. 22, or 4 months later, the high court again stood pat on its ruling revoking HLI’s stock distribution plan. This time, the Corona-led Court ruled that all of Luisita’s agricultural lands should be awarded to the farm workers. The stock option was junked, this time. 

In its landmark ruling, the Supreme Court said retaining the stock option will not place control of the sugar estate on the farm workers since they possess a mere 33.296% of HLI’s capital stock. 118,391,976.85 HLI shares represent 33.296% of shares owned by the farmers; 295 million shares constitute a majority of Luisita’s stocks representing 50% plus 1 share.