MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino is being urged to ensure the speedy implementation of the Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of 4,915.7466 hectares (has.) of Hacienda Luisita, the sugar estate owned by his relatives.
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the mother federation of Luisita-based groups United Luisita Workers Union and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), on Thursday hailed the SC decision but also launched a "Luisita Watch" to make sure it will be implemented.
"The Luisita Watch campaign is the just the beginning of another episode in the continuing fight for free land distribution and social justice," the UMA official said in a press statement.
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael V. Mariano said the distribution of Hacienda Luisita is long overdue and urged the President to push for the immediate implementation of the SC decision.
"President Aquino and the Cojuangco-Aquino clan must respect and comply with the High Court's decision. Acquisition of lands from the Cojuangco-Aquinos and free land distribution of lands to farmer-beneficiaries must start now," Mariano said, in a statement.
Akbayan Party-List Rep. Arlene Bag-ao, an ally of Aquino, said the decision is a victory for land reform in the country, concurring with the court’s decision that it’s difficult to imagine farmers having control of lands as stockholders of a cooperative.
However, Bag-ao doesn’t want to think of the decision as the Court's "tit-for tat" with the Palace over its disagreement on the watchlist order on former President Arroyo. If the President’s family will have to be compensated for the distribution as part of the settlement, then so be it, she said.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino called for vigilance until the SC decision has been strictly implemented.
"The Supreme Court order is definitely a historic victory especially for the farmer beneficiaries. However, given the political dominance of the Aquino-Cojuangco family in the country, it is crucial that we remain vigilant until the lawful distribution of the bloodied Hacienda Luisita estate has been strictly implemented and completed," he said, in a statement.
Palatino, co-author of House Bill no. 371 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, said the existing land reform programs in the country including the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and its extended version have failed because "they are not designed as a social justice program, but a program to protect the supposed property rights of feudal landowners through the provisions of compensation, exclusion, exemption and retention."
'Not the end of the struggle'
The Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA), counsel for Ambala, was cautiously optimistic about the SC decision.
Jobert Ilarde Pahilga, a SENTRA lawyer said, the SC decision is not the end of the struggle of the farm workers since a motion for reconsideration can still be filed with the Supreme Court.
"We do not know how the Supreme Court will decide given its history of always changing its decision. For sure, the Cojuangco-Aquino family will do everything under its power to prevent the execution of the recent SC decision. Given their influence, politically and economically, and the fact that the President belongs to their clan, we could never be sure on what will happen to this recent SC decision until it attained finality. But what is important for now is that the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita could already start cultivating the whole 4,915 hectares without fear of retribution and harassment from the Cojuangco-Aquino family,” Pahilga said. - with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News