MANILA, Philippines - Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Supreme Court's (SC) decision ordering the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmer-beneficiaries should not be made an issue between the executive and the high court.
In a press conference on Thursday, Lacierda said questions on the timing of the high court's ruling are premised on the 2 branches of government’s conflict over former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's petition to travel abroad.
Many observers believe the decision was in retaliation for Malacanang’s alleged defiance of the SC's order allowing Mrs. Arroyo to leave the country for medical treatment. Most of the justices of the SC are appointees of Mrs. Arroyo.
The SC ruling was promulgated on Tuesday (November 22) after the executive branch supposedly defied the high court's ruling last week.
Lacierda said Malacañang will respect the decision once it becomes final and executory.
The sugar estate is owned by the relatives of President Benigno Aquino III.
Asked if Aquino will order his relatives to respect the decision, Lacierda said he has not yet gotten a feel of the president’s reaction on the matter.
Nonetheless, he said, “that is not the question. This is a decision of the SC. If it becomes executory, it will be observed.”
He reiterated Aquino has already divested less than 1% of his share in the sugar estate in July 2010, days after he assumed office.
“He’s already divested, so he won’t be placed in a compromising situation,” he said.
He refused to comment further, noting the government has yet to receive a copy of the decision.
Abs-cbnNEWS.com obtained a copy of the ruling on Wednesday.
The high court ordered the distribution of 4,915.75 hectares to 6,296 farmer-beneficiaries. It modified a decision in July that allowed the beneficiaries to choose between ownership of agricultural land and shares of stock representing the value of the sugar estate.
"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 decision, penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., says.