MANILA, Philippines - Ten of the Supreme Court magistrates voted to compensate President Aquino's relatives who own Hacienda Luisita based on a 1989 valuation, contrary to news that the government and the farmers may have to cough up billions of pesos to own a chunk of the sugar estate.
Based on the decision issued on November 22, the ten magistrates said the compensation be reckoned from November 21, 1989, when an original stock distribution plan was offered to the 6,296 farmer beneficiaries.
Only one magistrate, Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno, wanted the management to receive compensation “which shall be based on their fair market value as of 02 January 2006, to be determined by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).”
Three magistrates, on the other hand, said DAR should be the entity to determine the compensation for the farmers.
Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) management will reportedly file a motion reconsideration on the land distribution decision of the high court. It will ask the high court, in particular, to clarify the provision on just compensation.
Some quarters said, however, the compensation could reach billions of pesos, fueling fears from farmers that they would not be able to own a part of 4,915.75 hectares in the end.
In a statement, farmworkers' group Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) said the managers of the sugar estate do not have the right to just compensation.
AMBALA lawyer Jobert Pahilga said a different case should be applied even if the Constitution mandates the payment of just compensation. He said the loan history of HLI dictates that the land should have been distributed to the farmers years ago.
Nonetheless, Pahilga said they will respect the decision of the court.
However, “it is our contention that the Cojuangcos, pursuant to the decision of the Supreme Court, should be paid only forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00) per hectare of the property. It should not be more than that,” he said.
DAR will have to survey the area before coming out with a formula on the computation of the compensation. Some portions are near roads, while some are near waterways.