PNS — THE Nacionalista Party and its leftist allies on Wednesday dismissed a campaign promise by Liberal Party presidential candidate Senator Benigno Aquino III to transfer Hacienda Luisita to farmers in five years, and dared him to immediately withdraw his family’s opposition to the land distribution before the Supreme Court.
“If he is really sincere in his promise to transfer the ownership of the lands, why wait for five years?” said Nacionalista spokesman and Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla.
“Noynoy [Aquino] is just buying time and is trying to prolong the agony of the farmer-beneficiaries. He should first withdraw the petition for a TRO [temporary restraining order] with the Supreme Court.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza, leftist lawmakers running for the Senate under the Nacionalista banner, said the Aquinos and Cojuangcos managed to block the land distribution by seeking a court order to stop it when the government ordered them to transfer ownership of the 4,915-hectare estate in 2005.
“The land, for the longest time, was already up for distribution,” Ocampo said.
“It was not as if Noynoy was all out for the farmers when he made the campaign promise. Noynoy has no choice but to comply [with the government order]… But Noynoy and his family refused to comply and ran to the Supreme Court. They were the ones who blocked the transfer.”
The acting chairman of the Hacienda Luisita Workers’ Union, Lito Bais, was not moved by Aquino’s announcement.
“Noynoy had better stop insulting our intelligence,” Bais said.
“We may just be ordinary farm workers, but he is being unjust to us because he is trying to mislead the public for what he truly is.”
He reminded the public that seven farmers had already been killed following the so-called Hacienda Luisita massacre in November 2004.
Bais disputed Aquino’s claim that some 10,000 farmers would benefit from the land distribution, saying the number was about 5,700.
“Why is he bloating… the figures? Because he included his drivers, gardeners, labandera and nannies to be given lands at the expense of legitimate farmer-beneficiaries,” Bais said.
Bais said the the pieces of land were acquired in 1957 through a $2-million loan that was guaranteed by the government under the late President Ramon Magsaysay.
“The Hacienda Luisita lands were acquired using government funds and were originally meant for us,’’ Bais said.
“The Aquinos and Cojuangcos grabbed them from us. They are were also behind the massacre of seven farmers.’’
Remulla said Magsaysay, whose centerpiece was land to the landless, wanted to distribute the land distributed to end the insurgency in Central Luzon.
About half of the original 12,000 hectares was eventually distributedm but clan patriarch Pedro Cojuangco withheld the distribution of 6,500 hectares.
“The Cojuangcos also failed to pay for the loans, and when Cory Aquino became President, the criminal and administrative cases that stemmed from the non-payment of the loans and non-distribution of the lands were all dismissed,” said Remulla, citing the findings of a House investigation.
He also dismissed Aquino’s claim that his family wanted to rescue Hacienda Luisita from bankruptcy before turning it over to the farmers within five years.
“Contrary to Noynoy’s fantastic claim, the farmers would not inherit Luisita’s debts,” he said.
“The banks will go after Noynoy’s family for debt payment because it was not the farmers who benefitted from the loans, but the Cojuangcos.”
“I dare him to put the land titles on the table right now,” Remulla said.
“Why wait for 2015? They just have to submit the titles to the Department of Agrarian Reform and the farmers can have the land that truly belongs to them in just two months.”
Of the original 6,500 hectares, Aquino said, only 4,100 hectares would be included in the transfer plan. A spokesman for the hacienda said the plan would not cover land that had been converted into commercial, residential and industrial areas and been sold to investors, or land that had been expropriated and converted into roads linking the estate to the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway.