A most devious scheme: HLI retains control even over distributed land under compromise agreement

Posted: August 8, 2010 in Socio-Political
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The deal is devious through and through.

Under the so-called settlement between Hacienda Luisita’s management and the farm workers, those who will chose land distribution over stocks will be given land that is equivalent to their stock holdings. The actual equivalent of stocks to land area and how viable it would be is not clear in the agreement. The scope of land distribution is also questionable since lawyers have argued that it is the entire estate which should be subjected to land reform, not just 33% of the land that is devoted to agriculture.

What is most disturbing and downright onerous is that under the agreement, Hacienda Luisita Inc retains virtual control even over distributed land. In the agreement, HLI has the right of first refusal should farmers decide to “lease, sell, transfer or enter into joint-venture or any other mode of business relations or transaction that would involve the land given to them”. HLI is also given 360 days to match any offer from third-parties as regards the use of land.

Clearly, HLI would still be very much in control of land use even under this sham settlement agreement. HLI has a big say on the types of transactions entered into by the farmers. HLI can very well dictate the terms of land use. What we fear is that in the long run, given these conditions, farmers might be forced to sell their land back to HLI and thus HLI would be able to reconcentrate and monopolize land once more.

The settlement also sought to legitimize the ongoing land conversion of the HLI management which has impacted on the agricultural use of the estate. A provision in the settlement states that “farmers herein support and/or interpose no objection to the further development of HLI lands for non-agricultural use.”

Also that “the parties hereby respect and will no longer question the validity of the conversion of lands to non-agricultural use.”

Once farmers sign the settlement, they can no longer question the land-use conversion of Luisita. Huge tracts of land can be converted to commercial and industrial use and the farmer can no longer object, even if such conversion would be inimical to agricultural production and employment. Farmers are given the vague and token assurance that they will be given “preference in employment” after land has been converted.

The settlement is also a waiver on all past and future claims of farmers and farm workers versus management.

The parties in the agreement “waive and agree to withdraw any and all claims, including those arising from employer-employee relationship, complaints, petitions filed, or to be filed, with the DAR, PARC, administrative, quasi-judicial and/or judicial bodies, or any other matter arising from or incidental to the MOA, or any dispute between HLI and the farm workers, and hereby release and hold harmless each other from any and all other liabilities or claims, of any form and kind, which one may have against the other and its officers, or which may arise now or in the future between HLI and the farm workers, or as a result of or incidental to the implementation of the MO A.”

Simply put, with this agreement, farmers can no longer question any violation that may have happened in the past, or that may arise in the future.  The 1989 MOA on the stock-distribution option (SDO) will be considered unassailable.  Even past issues concerning employer-employee relationship can no longer be pursued. HLI wants to operate on a clean slate, as if none of the grave violations of the past ever happened, and that even if they do happen in the future, there is nothing you can do about it. The compromise agreement absolves HLI from any past and even future liability in relation to the 1989 SDO.

At the end of the day, the settlement only seeks to legitimize the discredited SDO, preempt the Supreme Court ruling, have HLI retain full control of land, implement a deceptive ‘land distribution’ scheme, and erase all the previous and future liabilities of management.

Ultimately, it would be the Luisita farmers and their struggle which would be the decisive factors in rejecting this patently onerous settlement in favor of real land distribution. One need not be a lawyer to understand why this deal is so one-sided. One only needs to know the half-century history of oppression in Luisita to know how these things will eventually play out. We’re confident that the farmers will see through this grand deception. ###

READ COMPROMISE AGREEMENT HERE.

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