Supporters of striking Hacienda Luisita workers on Friday urged the peace panels of the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to tackle issues surrounding the 6, 453 hectare Hacienda Luisita currently embroiled in heated legal debate before the Supreme Court. 

In manifesto, leaders of the militant farmer group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the peasant women federation Amihan and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) asked Luis Jalandoni, chair of the NDF peace negotiating panel and Atty. Alexander Padilla, head of the GRP peace panel to discuss the fate of the sugar estate currently controlled by the family of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. 

Speaking in behalf of the group, KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said he is sure the NDF peace panel will bring the Luisita case as the talks proceeds with the second substantive agenda of the talks which is the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), but not in the case of GRP panel chief Atty. Padilla would bring the issue during the talks since Padilla’s principal is President Aquino, the man at the center of the political controversy regarding the Luisita land dispute. 

“Fr. Jalandoni is expected to bring this social justice issue in the name of landless farm workers of Hacienda Luisita, but in the case of Atty. Padilla, that remains to be seen,” Ramos said. The KMP leader said it would be hard for the GRP panel to evade the issue of Hacienda Luisita even if the case is still pending in court. 

“The case of Hacienda Luisita is a matter of social justice and a matter of life and death, especially to 10,000 farmer beneficiaries. It is a concrete issue that should be addressed by both panels. There is no problem with NDF since it is their interest to have Luisita sugar estate distributed for free to farm workers. The problem is on the part of the GRP who is representing Aquino, the big landlord of Luisita,” Ramos added. 

Ramos who is also the concurrent secretary general of the Asian wide peasant formation Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) said farmer groups from different countries in Asia like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Malaysia had also called for the free distribution of the Aquino-Cojuangco sugar estate to farm worker beneficiaries. 

The APC which going to stage its 3rd general assembly in Colombo, Sri Lanka next week will approve a resolution demanding the outright and free distribution of the 6,453 hectare sugar lands to 10,000 farm worker beneficiaries. 

Ramos said aside from Hacienda Luisita, other big cases of agrarian disputes like the case of Hacienda Yulo involving 7,100 hectares in Calamba, Laguna, the 10,000 hectare land dispute in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu, Batangas and other agrarian reform reversals in Cagayan and Isabela provinces, Eastern Visayas, Panay, Negros and Mindanao islands  should also be tackled during the talks. 

Last year, the Supreme Court began hearing the Luisita case. The Hacienda Luisita Incorporated (HLI) management pushed for a compromise deal but was rejected by farm worker beneficiaries. A referendum on Stock Distribution Option (SDO) was also proposed by HLI management but was also rejected by Luisita farm workers. 

The SC decided to form a mediation committee but was opposed and boycotted by farm workers. In November last year, Luisita farm workers led by United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) filed an omnibus motion urging the high tribunal to stop an alleged deal between HLI and the Wahaha group of company, a China owned softdrink giant. 

Next week, Luisita farmers will file a motion for the speedy resolution of the Hacienda Luisita case. KMP said a 20-vehicle caravan from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office to SC in Taft Avenue in Manila will be staged to press the high court to resolve the land dispute in favor of Luisita farm workers. # 

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