President Benigno Aquino III finally commented on the Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmers. While careful not to comment on the actual merits of the decision for he has not read the 57-page ruling, Aquino did say two things that struck me.
First he said that “Sa agrarian reform, ang hinahabol ay dalawang bagay: number one, i-empower mo ung magsasaka upang magkaroon siya ng sariling lupang sasakahin. Okay yung parteng iyon, Ang pangalawang bagay ay: ‘wag natin ubusin ang capital. Ibig sabihin, meron ding just compensation para naman yung dating nagmamay-ari ng lupa ay hindi mo inaagawan ng lupa, bayaran mo ng tama.”
Spoken like a true hacendero.
The proposition that the big landlords of Luisita should be justly compensated is patently unjust. Just look at the history of how the Cojuangco’s acquired the land through a government loan on condition that the land will eventually be distributed to the farmers. Look at how the Luisita landowners evaded land reform by foisting on the farmers the deceptive “stock distribution option” instead of actual land distribution. Just look at how the farm workers toiled on the land under the SDO while the owners reaped the gains and the farmers took home P9.50/day.
“Sana ma-meet yung two objectives. Hindi dapat yung may pinapaboran na isang sektor at isasakripisyo ang isa. Kailangan sabay-sabay ang lahat ng sector”, he added.
Well ain’t that sheer demagoguery?
To say that the interests of landlords are being sacrificed is like saying Gloria Arroyo is kawawa for being unjustly persecuted. For decades, there was only the interest of the landlord that was advanced. You can see that quite clearly in the economic state of the farm workers versus the affluent living of the majority stockholders of HLI. Now that farmers have a chance to get a small measure of social justice, the president is concerned that landlord interests are not getting the proper consideration that they deserve, that these interests would be sacrificed.
The farmers have earned the right to own the land, for free. The land has been paid for through decades of uncompensated hard work. In the first place, the acquisition of the land by the Cojuangco’s has been assailed as being anomalous.
The second thing he said that struck me was “I don’t think I am competent to comment, I haven’t read the decision… and there are other pressing matters before my table.”
The biggest agrarian dispute in years has been “resolved” by the SC and the president says he has “other pressing matters” before him. This statement should be taken as a sign by all that land reform is not a pressing concern for this administration. Never was, never will be. I pity the DAR and Sol-Gen who also appealed the decision of the SC along with the farmers. Seems they’re not getting much support from their Chief Executive. The least Aquino could have done was to publicly congratulate his own people, but then that would mean turning his back on his class.
Today we heard Benigno Aquino III speak not as president representing the people, but as a member of the landlord class. We are hardly surprised.
Just compensation? Try telling that to 80-year old Virginia Paligutan who’s son died a red fighter in 2005, six years before the SC ruling. Or to the families of the massacre victims and martyrs of Luisita.