Luisita farmers favor stock distribution deal

08/10/2010 - MORE than 70 percent of the total 10,502 farmworker-shareholders of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) have chosen the stock distribution option (SDO), the HLI reported Monday.

The result of the census from August 6 to 10 revealed that 7,441 signed the compromise agreement representing 70.85 percent. Out of this number, 7,302 (98.13 percent) of which voted for SDO, while 139 (1.87 percent) voted for land distribution.

At this time, 3,061 have not voted. Around two thirds of this, or roughly 2,000 persons, are now reported to be leaving outside Luisita while the other 1,000 plus were reported to be unaccounted for, which means either they are not in favor of the compromise or was just unable to vote.

The milestone agreement was signed Friday between HLI and the three farmer-leaders of Alyansang ng mga Mangagagawang Bukid ng Hacienda Luisita (Ambala), United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu) and Supervisory Group of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (Supervisory Group).

The lands that will be distributed to farmworker beneficiaries, for free, are productive agricultural lands, which will also be given away clean of any and all lien or encumbrances.

“Lahat ng ito ay ayon sa layunin na maging maunlad at makatarungan ang kalagayan ng mga taga Luisita,” said lawyer Fernando Cojuangco.

HLI will also provide financial assistance to all farmer-beneficiaries in the amount of P150 million, which shall be released on a staggered basis upon the Supreme Court’s (SC) approval of the compromise agreement.

According to lawyer Tony Ligon, spokesperson of HLI, the parties signed the agreement “freely and voluntarily” and “agreed to cooperate with each other in good faith” in implementing the provisions of the agreement.

Meanwhile, Ulwu's vice president Eldifonso Pingol disowns its president Lito Bais who earlier contested the agreement saying the farmers were unaware of any settlement.

“Una, hindi siya ang elected president. Magpapatunay ang mga tao do’n. Pero hindi na ako masyado pa magsasalita tungkol diyan dahil makakapagpatunay talaga ang mga tao. At hindi ko rin alam kung saan niya nakuha ’yan,” Pingol said in a statement.

Pro-people Aquino

On related development, the Hacienda Luisita land dispute is going to test the pro-people stand of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

“This will test his sincerity. I hope this is where he will show what leadership by example is all about,” said Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

Although, he noted that the President have already divested his interests in the Hacienda Luisita, it cannot be used as an excuse not to take a position on the matter.

“Even if he does not have shares there that is still his relatives. He should prove to the people that there is no kamag-anak Inc, “said the official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA)

“Likewise, he said that should serve a challenge for Aquino to prove the sincerity of his administration by not favoring anyone,” the prelate said.

With this, Pabillo expressed support to the call of militant peasant groups to the Senate and the House of Representatives to look into the compromise settlement reached by the Cojuangcos, who are the owners of the Haciena Luisita Inc. (HLI) and its farmer-beneficiaries.

‘They should look into this. We also call on the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) not to allow this. It’s one way of skirting land reform. If they allow this, it could be a precedent which other land owners might copy,” he said.

Last weekend, an agreement was forged giving 10,000 farmers the option to retain their stocks in HLI or get their free land in the disputed 6,453-hectare sugar estate in Tarlac. (Sun Star)

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