HLI ordered to pay farmer-beneficiaries P1.33 billion
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Saying farmer-beneficiaries will not benefit from distribution of shares of stock, the Supreme Court has ordered the distribution of 4,915.7466 hectares (has.) of Hacienda Luisita, the sugar estate owned by the relatives of President Benigno Aquino III.
|A copy of the Supreme Court en banc resolution on the Hacienda Luisita case.
In a 56-page resolution promulgated Tuesday and penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., the high court modified its decision in July that allowed 6,296 farmer-beneficiaries to choose between ownership of agricultural land or shares of stock representing the value of the sugar estate. A copy of the resolution was obtained by abs-cbnNEWS.com on Wednesday.
"In line with our finding that control over agricultural lands must always be in the hands of the farmers, we consider our ruling that the qualified FWBs [farmworker beneficiaries] should be given an option to remain as stockholders of (Hacienda Luisita Inc.), inasmuch as these qualified FWBs will never gain control given the present proportion of (the) shareholdings," the new decision says.
It was a unanimous decision, where 14 of 15 magistrates voted for the distribution of lands. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio did not take part.
Some of the magistrates, however, gave separate concurring and dissenting opinions that tackled several provisions including the valuation of the lands.
The decision explained that the stock distribution plan put forward by the management will never provide the control sought by the FWBs. Control, in this case, means 50% plus at least one share of the common shares.
Taking into account the P590,554,220 total assets of HLI, the value of the land in question is P196,630,000 or 33.296%.
"There is even no assurance that 100% of the 118,391,976.85 shares issued to the FWBs will all be voted in favor of staying in HLI, taking into account the previous referendum among the farmers where said shares were not voted unanimously in favor of retaining the (stock plan)," the decision says.
The high court noted that if the farmers choose stocks, they will be treated as common shareholders not protected by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.
HLI ordered to pay P1.33 billion to beneficiaries
The SC also reiterated its ruling in July ordering HLI to pay the 6,296 farmers a total of P1.33 billion broken down as follows:
- P500 million HLI 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 (SCTEX) road network.
The 3% of the proceeds of the transfers that were paid earlier to the farmers shall be deducted from the P1.33 billion.
The just compensation for the landowners, on the other hand, will be assessed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Land Bank of the Philippines.
The valuation compensation will be reckoned from November 21, 1989, the date of the issuance of the original resolution that was questioned by HLI.
DAR was ordered to submit a compliance report after 6 months from finality of judgment. It was also ordered to submit quarterly reports on the execution of the judgment.
HLI to respect decision
Antonio Ligon, counsel and spokesman for Hacienda Luisita, said they will abide by the decision of the Supreme Court, although they have yet to obtain a copy.
"What we are saying is that the distribution should benefit all the legitimate farm workers. There are 10,000 plus legitimate farmworkers and from the decision, although nobody has confirmed that this is the desicion, they are distributing the land to 6,296 legitimate farm workers," Ligon told ANC Mornings.
The concern of Hacienda Luisita is always for the benefit of all legitimate farm workers. As to the aspect as the just compensation for the landowners, it should be looked into."
President Aquino divested his shares from Hacienda Luisita Inc. following his victory in the May 2010 presidential elections. It is now owned mainly by his uncles and aunts.
During the 2010 election campaign, he promised to find ways and means to transfer the assets of Hacienda Luisita to farmer beneficiaries. He also said he had asked his "extended family" to support his position.