CL farmers decry ‘Cojuangco list’ of 4,000 hacienda ‘beneficiaries’

ANGELES CITY- Farmer-leaders in Central Luzon accused yesterday the Cojuangco-controlled Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) of conjuring up its own list of 4,000 purported land reform beneficiaries in an alleged move that could eventually pave the way for Pres. Aquino’s family to regain control over the vast estate in Tarlac.

The Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luson (AMGL), the mother unit of the Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid ng Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) cited the Cojuangco family’s alleged attempt to bloat the list of farmer-worker beneficiaries by coming out with a new list of 4,000 purported beneficiaries of land reform in the hacienda.

On Nov. 22 last year, the Supreme Court decided to distribute 4,915-hectares of the hacienda to 6,296 beneficiaries listed by Ambala.

But AMGL chairperson Joseph Canlas cited reports that HLI came out with its own list of “beneficiaries” to fill in some 4,000 names in the Ambala list which were reportedly to be stricken out as being non-qualified by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

“We are certain that the padded 4,000 list is composed of those lured by the Cojuangcos with measly quick money, for Pres. Aquino’s family to eventually again control lands that would be awarded through individual ownership,” Canlas said.

Ambala, in a statement, said this is the reason why it is backing collective ownership not only of the 4,915 hectares cited by the Supreme Court for land distribution, but also other parts of the hacienda previously sold by the Cojuangcos to other parties.

“Ambala is demanding collective ownership as the method of distribution in contrast to those pro-Cojuangco groups posing as farmworkers who are calling for individual ownership,” the statement said.

Canlas said that hacienda farmers have continued to cultivate some 184 hectares previously sold by HLI to the Rizal Commercial and Banking Corp. (RCBC) in Barangay Balite in the hacienda.

“Ambala organization is determined in pursuing the farmworkers’ rights on the RCBC claimed lands as they are obviously agricultural lands, thus, the 1996 conversion order of the DAR should be immediately revoked,” said Canlas.

The DAR is still on an information drive on the Supreme Court decision to distribute lands in the hacienda.

“Ambala which represents the 6,296 legitimate farmworkers is vigilant against moves to cloud its list with the Cojuangco’s proposal that could virtually bloat the number in the list to about 10,000,” said Canlas.

Canlas said that the ouster of former Chief Justice Renato Corona from the Supreme Court has boosted the fears of hacienda farmers amid their belief that the President’s family still wants to regain control over the hacienda.

“With Corona out of the way, we are vigilant against any Supreme Court alteration of the November 22, 2011 and April 24, 2012 decisions that favor farmers. We encourage the people from different sectors to guard against the setting up of an ‘Aquino Court’ as it would be no different from that of the much-hated Arroyo regime,” Canlas said.

He said the Aquino government’s recent leniency towards former Pres. Arroyo who has remained in hospital arrest despite the serious charges against her, indicated lack of sincerity of the President in pushing the cases.

“We believe that the Aquino government was never serious about prosecuting Arroyo. Her arrest was only fuelled by the broad protest demanding her to face trial,” Canlas said.

Canlas also said that these developments only indicated that the impeach move against Corona was motivated by the former magistrate’s support for land distribution in Hacienda Luisita.

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