The Moral Imperative Facing Noynoy Aquino
No one can really question any prospective President’s sincere desire to serve, most especially if the candidate’s run is anchored on the legacy of heroic record of service of his parents.
Yes, I’m talking about Sen. Noynoy Aquino whose decision to seek the presidency was nowhere on the political radar until his mother, our well-loved icon of democracy,succumbed to cancer.
Was there really a groundswell?
We’ll never really know since the signature drive initiated by Ed Roces and his group was overtaken by the sliding ratings of Sen. Mar Roxas and his decision to step aside for Noynoy.
So the Aquino-Roxas ticket now has what their drumbeaters claim is a winning edge.
But opinion surveys are just that, surveys, which are volatile as to the methodology behind their numbers, and suffer from intense public perception that they massage voter perception.
So if Sen. Noynoy is indeed the overwhelming front-runner, he is in the cross-hairs of both well-meaning political analysts and black prop artists on the payroll of his electoral rivals.
The most vicious attack has come from the campaign manager of former President Estrada, the famed ex-senator (“so young yet so corrupt”) Ernie Maceda, who had the gall to give legitimacy to the cruel canard that the Liberal Party standard bearer “manifested signs of autism in his early years.”
The unadulterated hogwash that it is, the lie lasted only one day.
But now the issue that Mr. Aquino, and his family, must address resolutely are the documented claims of overpricing on the alleged overpricing of the right of way of the Cojuangco-Aquino-controlled Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), the construction of a private interchange leading to Hacienda Luisita, and the underpayment of dividends to HLI farm workers from the payment of the right of way
The other night on Strictly Politics this writer heard how Luiaita spokesman Antonio Ligon gamely tried toparry host Pia Hontivereos’ observation that the still-in-litigation stock disbursement option (SDO) effectively prevented the break-up of the 6, 000 hectare hacienda in 1989.
Here’s a chronology of he Hacienda Luisita case:
1956 – then Pres. Ramon Magsaysay informed his protégé, Mayor Benigno Aquino Jr. of Concepcion, Tarlac, that the Spanish owners of Tabacalera wanted to sell the sugar mill and refinery, and told Aquino that his father-in-law, Don Jose Cojuangco, who was also the president of the Philippine Bank of Commerce, a family-owned bank, might be interested in buying it.
1957—JOSE COJUANGCO SR. buys majority shares of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, including the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita from the Spanish company Compania General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera). The CAT and hacienda are transferred to Cojuangco’s Tarlac Development Corp., an agricultural corporation.
Aug. 27, 1957—Central Bank Monetary Board issues Resolution No. 1240 approving Cojuangco’s dollar loan application to pay Manufacturers Trust in New York, which in turn extended a loan to purchase Hacienda Luisita. The CB resolution says, “There shall be a simultaneous purchase of Hacienda Luisita with the purchase of the shares, with a view to distributing this hacienda to small farmers in line with administration’s social justice program.” The Central Bank provided the dollar cover by depositing part of the Philippines’ international reserves with the said US bank, and approved the remittance of US dollars to the Spanish sellers of Tabacalera.
Nov. 27, 1957— right after the presidential elections where Pres. Carlos P. Garcia, the successor of Magsaysay, got a fresh 4-year mandate, the government, through the Government Service Insurance System, approved in GSIS Resolution No. 1085, a loan for 7 million pesos, again subject to various conditions, including the provision that “the lots comprising the Hacienda Luisita shall be subdivided by the applicant corporation among the tenants who shall pay the cost thereof under reasonable terms and conditions” . Before this, Don Jose was able to negotiate financing to the tune of 2,128,480 US dollars from Manufacturers’ Trust of New York, with the Philippine government through the Central Bank, then headed by Gov. Miguel Cuaderno, guaranteeing the payment of the loan, in the nature of a “sovereign guarantee”, by depositing part of our dollar reserves in the said American bank.
It was Pres. Garcia who attached the condition that the Hacienda Luisita shall be subdivided and distributed among the tenants in line with government’s land tenurial and social amelioration program. The new corporation set up by Don Jose Cojuangco, Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) was given ten (10) years from the date of the loan agreement, to start transferring the land to their tenants.
Mar. 21, 1958 – Don Jose formally purchases the Tabaclera and the Central Azucarrera de Tarlac using loans from CB and GSIS, and takes over management and operations of the vast 6,453 hectare property, two and a half times bigger than Makati, almost double the size of the City of Manila, and one and a half times the size of Taguig.
1967 – Administrator Conrado Estrella of the now defunct Land Authority, the predecessor of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), inquired in writing with the Tadeco owner whether he has complied with the conditions set by the CB and GSIS, citing in particular the distribution of the land among its tillers. Don Jose answered that when his group took over the hacienda, they found no tenants and that they had to begin operating the hacienda by hiring farm workers.
1977—the CB and GSIS reviews and inquires on the Cojuangcos’ compliance with the land distribution condition set by President Garcia.
June 22, 1978—Demetria S. Cojuangco wrote then Ministry of Agrarian Reform Deputy Minister Ernesto Valdez, saying it was “extremely unwarranted to make us account for the fulfilment of a condition that cannot be enforced … there are no tenants in Hacienda Luisita … the Central Bank resolution does not indicate the small farmers … the hacienda is outside the scope of any land reform program of the government … there is no agrarian unrest in Hacienda Luisita.”
May 7, 1980—Former DAR Director Jose Santos assists Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza in filing Civil Case No. 13164 against Jose Cojuangco Sr. and his heirs before the Manila Regional Trial Court
Dec. 2, 1985—Manila RTC, in a decision handed down by Judge Bernardo Pardo (later appointed Comelec Chairman by President Fidel Valdez Ramos and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by Pres. Joseph Estrada) ordered the Cojuangcos to transfer control of Hacienda Luisita to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, which will distribute the land to small farmers after compensating the landowners P3.988 million. The Cojuangcos elevate the case to the Court of Appeals.
February 1986—Slain Sen. Ninoy Aquino’s widow and one of Don Jose Cojuangco’s six heirs, Corazon C. Aquino, is installed as President of the Philippines through a “people power” revolt at Edsa.
Along with this, Cory appoints Sedfrey Ordonez as the Solicitor General. Ordonez was formerly the lawyer of the Cojuangco’s in the Hacienda Luisita hearings before the Manila RTC.
July 22, 1987—Aquino issues Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order No. 229 saying agrarian reform covers sugar lands. This prompts the CB and GSIS to believe that the sugar lands of Hacienda Luisita will soon be distributed.
March 17, 1988—The solicitor general, CB governor and the Department of Agrarian Reform filed a motion to dismiss the civil case against the Cojuangcos pending before the Court of Appeals on the ground that Hacienda Luisita would be covered by agrarian reform.
May 18, 1988—Court dismisses civil case against the Cojuangcos concerning Luisita.
June 10, 1988—Enactment of RA 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, which is grounded on the land-to-the-tiller principle. RA 6657 provides stock transfer scheme as an alternative to actual land acquisition and distribution.
Aug. 23, 1988—Tadeco creates Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) as a spin-off company and registers it with the Securities and Exchange Commission
May 9, 1989—Landowners, along with then DAR Secretary Philip Juico, Tarlac governor and the mayors of Tarlac City, Concepcion, and La Paz, the three municipalities covering the hacienda, hold a referendum among Luisita farm workers to present the stock distribution option. Juico, Tadeco and HLI sign memorandum of agreement on the SDO.
May 11, 1989—Tadeco, HLI, farmers sign SDO agreement to convert share in 4,915 hectares of agricultural land after 92.6 percent of farmers voted ’yes’ to SDO during referendum.
Oct. 14, 1989—Another referendum supervised by the Agrarian Reform secretary Miriam Defensor-Santiago is held at Hacienda Luisita, with 96 percent of farmers approving the SDO agreement.
Sept. 1, 1995—Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Tarlac approves rezoning plan that converts 3,290 hectares of hacienda Luisita from agricultural to commercial, industrial and residential purposes.
Aug. 14, 1996—DAR approves conversion of 500 hectares of the 3,290 hectares of reclassified Luisita land on the condition that it would not affect the benefits of farmers and they would get 3 percent of gross sale proceeds
Sept. 28, 2003—Farmers boycott elections of their representatives to the HLI board, saying the four board seats were useless against seven management seats. They expressed dismay with past farmer board members for siding with management.
Oct. 14, 2003—Supervisors of Hacienda Luisita file petition before the DAR to revoke SDO, saying the HLI was not giving them dividends, their one percent share in gross sales and 33 percent share in the proceeds from the conversion of 500 hectares of land.
Dec. 4, 2003—5,000 farmers through their group Ambala file a supplemental petition to seek revocation of the SDO and distribution of land to them, citing similar violations of the agreement and the unconstitutionality of the SDO policy.
Task Force Luisita
Nov. 16, 2004—Violent dispersal of striking workers leave 13 dead, scores injured, focusing national attention to the farmers’ situation in the hacienda
Nov. 25, 2004—DAR task force stock distribution, later renamed task force Luisita, convenes for the first time to discuss the petitions by Luisita supervisors and farmers
December 2004—House committee on agrarian reform holds hearings on the violent strike, touching on the alleged violations of the HLI management of the SDO provisions
March 15, 2005—DAR deploys 10 teams to 10 barangays within the hacienda to conduct focus group discussions with 453 farmers concerning their understanding of SDO, benefits, home lots, other provisions of the agreement, their recommendations on the SDO, etc.
June 2005—HLI writes DAR informing agency of the completion of the distribution of 118 million shares of stocks, way ahead of scheduled 30-year period for distribution of shares, or until 2019.
Special legal team
July 2005—Task Force Luisita submits report on findings and recommendations to DAR Secretary Nasser C. Pangandaman
August 2005—Pangandaman creates special legal team to review the “minor legal issues” in the task force’s report, says decision on Luisita should be out by end of September.
Sept. 23, 2005—DAR special legal team submits terminal report on the two petitions, recommending the revocation of the 16-year-old SDO agreement in Hacienda Luisita.
I pray the good Senator Noynoy, and his siblings, guardians of the legacy of Ninoy and Cory consider the following, harsh as it may it is:
The Hacienda Luisita Saga nakedly shows the duplicitous manner by which:
1) the ultra-rich and politically powerful use the “people’s money” to enrich themselves;
2) how they thwart government conditionalities intended to uplift the landless poor, from Magsaysay’s time through Garcia, to Macapagal, Marcos and then Cory Aquino herself.
My research has revealed further that in order to ensure that their newly-acquired Hacienda Luisita would not be “disturbed” by the president they did not support, Diosdado Macapagal of the Liberal Party, then Concepcion Mayor Ninoy Aquino was pressured by his in-laws to switch party loyalty from the NP (where his father was one of the founders) to the LP of Macapagal).
The landless ended up being denied their legally-provided land endowments up to the present, through manipulations by the powerful of the judiciary and the presidency itself.
If when the Supreme Court does resolve the SDO quarrel, I share the fear of not a few that that the legal battle will be won by the Aquino-Cojuangco clans.
But does anyone in the room understand the MORAL IMPERATIVE?