Luisita farmers say 4 CJ nominees biased for PNoy

ANGELES CITY- The Hacienda Luisita-based Unyon ng mga Mangga-gawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) pinned yesterday at least four Chief Justice post nominees as being biased in favor of Pres. Aquino’s family in the case of the 4,915-hectares now up for land reform in the hacienda in Tarlac.

In a statement, UMA named the nominees as acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chief Kim Henares.

“We feel that if anyone of these four becomes Chief Justice, he or she would be instrumental in leading the Supreme Court towards the reversal of its 14-0 decision of the high court last year ordering the distribution of hacienda lands to farmworkers. That will be a payback to the President for the appointment,” UMA said.

UMA secretary-general Rodel Mesa noted, however, that “a debt of gratitude to the President would be there regardless of who among the more than 50 nominees makes it”, but stressed that Carpio, Sereno, Jardeleza and Henares are perceived as being more biased towards the President.

Ousted former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who presided over the verdict of the Supreme Court on Nov. 22 last year to distribute Hacienda Luisita lands to farmworkers.

He claimed that the impeachment case against him as the President’s retaliation for the high court’s decision to distribute hacienda lands which had been under the control of the Cojuangco-Aquino family since 1957.

Hacienda Luisita farm workers under UMA joined yesterday an all peasant-led protest in front of the Supreme Court calling for the next Chief Justice to be impartial in the case of the Hacienda Luisita which had ordered the hacienda distributed to 6,296 farmworker-beneficiaries.

The Cojuangco-controlled Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) has a pending motion for reconsideration before the high court in regard to land distribution amid a petition from farmworkers allegedly preferring stock distribution option, instead of land distribution in the estate formerly owned by the President’s family.

HLI had also petitioned for higher land valuation in case of land distribution, but this was junked recently by the high court. It has also questioned the order of the court to turn over to the farmworkers P1.3 billion as their share in the previous sale of some 500 hectares of hacienda lands to other parties.

“The next Chief Justice should not submit to the dictatorial tendency of the current administration, even he or she is handpicked by the president, as the interest of the people must come first,” Mesa said.

During yesterday’s rally, UMA members burned pictures of the President and the four nominees whom they referred to as “the fantastic four.”

“It would be easy for the President to put a subservient Chief Justice and put the case of Hacienda Luisita on a stand off on the issue just compensation,” Mesa said.

He noted a provision on Republic Act 9700 or the CARPER law obliging the government to first compensate landowners before land is distributed.

”We don’t think the Cojuangco-Aquinos are going to submit to DAR without first getting their demand for a P10-B compensation package,” Mesa added.

Mesa also warned that installing a chief justice biased for the President would also imperil other “sensitive cases such as the coco levy fund” involving presidential uncle businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.

“The Judicial and Bar Council must strongly consider these observations and should not allow the selection process to be bastardized by pro-Aquino elements,” Mesa said.

He said “the next chief justice must not be a repeat of the Arroyo-Corona alliance.”

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