The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) challenged president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino (NA) to move decisively in favor of the farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita and put the interests of poor Filipinos ahead of his family, the powerful and influential landlord clan Cojuangco-Aquinos.

“We challenge NA, to act decisively in favor of the farmworkers, put his presidential mandate to serve the people afront his blood relation to the haciendero Cojuangco-Aquinos.  We want his promise of change and “matuwid na daan” to be concretize on the Hacienda Luisita dispute,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General.

The group said that NA’s silence on land reform is unacceptable as it is a legitimate fundamental issue in the country until now.  KMP is criticizing about Aquino’s exclusion of land reform on his inaugural speech and state-of-the-nation address (SONA).  At present when Hacienda Luisita dispute is put to national scene, Aquino continues to keep mum of the issue.

“What good is a president if he could not act on significant issues such as Hacienda Luisita?  He is a Cojuangco-Aquino, and his family is on the offensive of swindling the farmworkers just what they did in 1989 and still Noynoy keeps quiet?  We need genuine land reform and we need him to fight for it, not to zip his lips on the side and watch like a spectator,” Ramos said.

The group also condemned the recent move of the Cojuangco-Aquinos through its controlled Hacienda Luisita, Inc., claiming this is a scam intended to lure farmworkers into approving Stock Distribution Option (SDO) with promises of lump sums of money.  The group also likened the fake referendum to problem-stricken elections in our country dominated by warlords who use money and violence to coerce helpless voters to consent.  The Cojuangco-Aquinos also deliberately kept in the dark those who opposed SDO and their legal counsels.

“The referendum is nothing but a scam, a one-sided process serving the Cojuangco-Aquinos, promising farmworkers of money if they vote in favor of SDO.  It is no different to vote-buying during elections.  In addition, Luisita is highly militarized, the military is threatening those who oppose the SDO and Cojuangco-Aquinos,” said Ramos.

“It is also non-democratic as those who oppose were not informed, they were not given an opportunity to educate the people about the proposed deal and SDO, only those who collaborated with the Cojuangco-Aquinos were projected as representatives of the farmworkers,” he added.

“The Hacienda Luisita issue is beyond legality, it is a question of morality, social justice and emancipation of poor farmers from the shackles of landlordism of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.  We see the legitimacy of the farmworkers’ claim from its history when the Cojuangco-Aquinos used public money to acquire Hacienda Luisita during the Magsaysay administration on a pre-condition that it would be distributed in 10-years time as part of the government’s social justice program,” Ramos said.

The group urged the Aquino administration to intervene and order the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to void the Cojuangco-Aquino-dominated referendum in Hacienda Luisita.  The group said that DAR led the revocation of the SDO in 2005 until the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) approved with finality to revoke it.  The Cojuangco-Aquinos only petitioned for a Temporary Restration Order (TRO) from the Supreme Court to block its implementation.  DAR should be act immediately as the Cojuangco-Aquinos shows its non-recognition of their authority by commencing the referendum without DAR officials and full contempt of the high court by pre-empting their oral arguments set on August 18.

“If NA could not do anything about Hacienda Luisita, given that he is the president and a party to the case, the future of land reform in the country is sealed and would continue to be dominated by landlord-hacienderos, the very fuel to the peasant unrest,” Ramos added.

The group said that Aquino should reconsider his attitude on the Luisita issue as it is his litmus paper and ‘achilles’ heel.’  The group believes that he is being ill-advised to stay silent and flaccid on the issue.

“It is either that NA does not know what he is doing right now, or he is consciously a part of the Cojuangco-Aquinos’ renewed efforts to scam the farmworkers.  Either way, he is not serving the people and contradicting his repetitive promises of change and ‘matuwid na daan,’” said Ramos.

“In order to help him decide on the issue, peasants nationwide under KMP would hold protest actions coinciding the oral arguments of the Supreme Court in August 18.  We want him to see that Filipino peasants are clamoring for genuine land reform and distributing the lands of Hacienda Luisita is a concrete start,” Ramos said.  #

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