“HLI management has not learned its lessons in 1989, continues the crooked way of dealing with the farm workers”, says Atty. Jobert Ilarde Pahilga, Executive Trustee of Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA) and the lawyer of farm workers who petitioned for the revocation of the SDO in Hacienda Luisita.  The case is now pending in the Supreme Court.

Mallari et al had no authority to make the deal
According to Pahilga, the persons who signed the deal purportedly in behalf of the farm workers had no authority to enter into the settlement not to mention that the agreement is illegal as it violates the existing agrarian reform laws.

He volunteers the information that Noel Mallari, who claims to be the president of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), has never been president of Ambala and he had long been ousted from the organization for acts inimical to the farm workers.  He said that the records of the case pending before the Supreme Court would reveal that he claimed to represent FARM Luisita, not Ambala. “This Mallari is an impostor”, he said and continued, “He is biting on an HLI proposal that was already vehemently rejected by the farmworkers in 2006”.        

“Noel Mallari was the Vice-President of Ambala when its more than 6,000 members filed the petition to revoke the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) before the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2004.  When the case was pending with the DAR, however, Mallari was kicked out of Ambala as he secretly negotiated with the Luisita management without authority from the farm workers. Thus, even before the Hacienda Luisita massacre happened, Mallari is not anymore a member or officer of Ambala.  After the massacre, Mallari reappeared and represented himself as President of FARM Luisita.  In the case, before the Supreme Court, it was only Ambala as represented by its President Rene Galang, and the Supervisory Group of Hacienda Luisita, Inc. that were impleaded as private respondents.  But Mallari, through FARM Luisita filed a petition-in-intervention for and in behalf of FARM Luisita. Thus, he became party to the case. Clearly, Mallari has no personality to represent the 6,000 strong members of Ambala because he never was the president of Ambala but of FARM Luisita.  But, like Ambala, it appears that FARM Luisita is also not amenable to the deal entered into by Mallari. This is for which reason that we will file a petition to cite Mallari and HLI management in contempt of court.  Mallari misrepresented himself as the president of Ambala even when he did not hold such position and is not even a member of Ambala.  On the otherhand, the Luisita management, to muddle the issue, is equally guilty of contempt for negotiating the deal with Mallari when they also know that Mallari has no personality to represent Ambala.  They should know this because of the Supreme Court case that they filed where Mallari is a party as representative of FARM Luisita.  Records of the Supreme Court would also show that as early as January 2010, Felix Nakpil, as the president of Ambala filed a motion to cite HLI management in contempt as they were issuing statements through the Luisita Estate Management to confuse the farmers and muddle the issue at the Supreme Court, according to Pahilga.

“Jose Julio Zuniga and Windsor Aadaya, on the other hand, were the clients of SENTRA in the case before the Supreme Court.  They represented the Supervisory Group of Hacienda Luisita, which is composed of more or less 200 persons. However, after the Supreme Court issued the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that prevented the DAR to revoke the SDO and distribute the land to the farmers, they no longer communicated with SENTRA.  SENTRA learned that they were given vast tract of land by Luisita management to cultivate and planted with sugar cane.  Thus, while the farm workers were struggling daily to make a living, they lived affluent lives courtesy of the Luisita management.  Even then, SENTRA already learned that they were co-opted by the Luisita management.  Thus, we do not anymore wonder why they signed the deal.  However, we do not know whether in signing the agreement, they were given the green light by the rest of the members of the Supervisory Group” added Pahilga.

“The same is true with Edilberto Pingol.  He was the Vice-President of United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU).  But contrary to their assertion in the agreement, ULWU is not a party to the Supreme Court case.  HLI management very well knows this.  Moreover, Pingol could not represent ULWU as he was not given the authority to represent the farm workers’ union” according to Pahilga.

“We will definitely question in all forums available to us the standing of these individuals with whom HLI management negotiated and hold them accountable for their acts”, Pahilga asserted.

The agreement is contrary to law
“The agreement stated that the farm workers have two options – to continue with the SDO scheme or to have the land actually distributed to them.  In the event that the farm workers opt for actual land distribution, they will be given the equivalent percentage of the size of the land from the remaining HLI land actually devoted to agriculture, with a total area of 4,102 hectares, approximately.  This means that the farm workers will only be given 33% of the 4,102 hectares, which in effect, will total only to 1,400 hectares.  This 1,400 will be divided to the farm workers who will opt for land distribution while the rest of the land will remain with HLI.  This is worst that the original SDO agreement of 1989.  Moreover, HLI has no right to retain the rest of the land because they should be covered by the existing agrarian reform program. Under the existing law, agricultural land in excess of 5 hectares shall be distributed to the farmers.  Clearly, HLI is subverting the law to maintain their control and ownership of hacienda Luisita.

The referendum is also illegal
The “referendum” conducted by the HLI management purportedly to make the farm workers choose whether they would continue under the SDO scheme or get a piece of HLI lands, is also illegal, according to Pahilga.   

“It is illegal because the PARC decision to cover the HLI lands for agrarian reform still stands and unless this decision is reversed, the lands are effectively under the jurisdiction of DAR”. Pahilga said. He explained that the TRO issued by the Supreme Court merely restrained the implementation of the Presidential Agrarian Reforms Council’s (PARC) decision but the decision is valid as things stand. He asserted that only DAR had the authority to decide on what to do with the HLI lands as they are already placed under the agrarian reform program.

Pahilga pointed out that the “referendum” was not supervised by DAR. He says that the HLI act of conducting a “referendum” has all the badges of maliciously defying the Department.  

In relation thereto, he recalled that the Supreme Court had already set this August 18 the oral argument on the HLI petition against the PARC’s decision. He then pointed out that it was HLI who went to the Supreme Court to question the validity of the PARC decision so that it ethically behooves of the HLI to wait for the Court to decide on the matter.

Bad landlords
“The Cojuangos-Aquinos are not only bad landlords, they are also bad drivers recklessly trying to beat the green light which is to come after the oral argument called by the Supreme Court”, Pahilga said, emphasizing that the HLI is trying to pre-empt  the Supreme Court  whose intervention they themselves sought.   

“What the HLI is doing is a repeat of the manufactured referendum in 1989 which mothered the protracted strife that now bedevils the farm workers community in Hacienda Luisita”, Pahilga further said noting that “it appears that, given the bloodshed the strife had caused, the Cojuangcos-Aquinos have not really learned their lessons in 1989”.

He also noted that the act makes up the third time that the Cojuangcos-Aquinos betrayed agrarian reform and the HLI farm workers, recalling that the first betrayal was in 1986, after Cory Aquino became president due to EDSA revolution, when her administration through the Solicitor General withdrawn the case filed by the government against the Cojuancos for the distribution of the land to the farm workers.

During the reign of Ferdinand Marcos, the government filed a case to compel the Cojuancos to give the land to the farm workers as it was the condition for the loan they obtained with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Central Bank.  The loan was used to purchase the sugar mill and the hacienda Luisita.  The Regional Trial Curt (RTC) of Manila then ordered the Cojuancos to fulfill the condition of the loan and to distribute the land to the farm workers.  They appealed the decision, however, to the Court of Appeals.  While pending appeal and Cory became president, her administration ordered the withdrawal of the case from the Court of Appeals, according to Pahilga.  

The second act of betrayal was in 1989 when they chose to implement stock distribution option (SDO) in HLI instead of having the lands actually distributed to the farmers.  This SDO is the root of all the misery and predicament of the farm workers.  This SDO led to the hacienda luisita massacre and the farm workers already rejected this scheme, said Pahilga.     

In negotiating with a Noel Mallari who claims he is the president of Ambala, Pahilga noted that the ingredients for the repeat of the 1989 deception are present. “This time, they are trying to manufacture consent by negotiating with individuals who do not have authority to represent the farm workers”.

“We will definitely question in the Supreme Court the validity of the deal and the standing of these individuals with whom HLI management negotiated and hold them in contempt of the court”, Pahilga asserted.

The agreement was intended to muddle the issue and pre-empt the outcome of the case now pending with the Supreme Court.  The HLI management very well knew that they will not win the battle in the Supreme Court. For one, PARC’s resolution to revoke the SDO, as it did not improve the lives of the farm workers but made them more miserable, was unanimous.  For another, HLI had violated several agrarian reform laws and the SDO scheme is clearly unconstitutional and unjust, ended Pahilga. #

Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA) Foundation
Reference: Atty. Jobert Ilarde Pahilga, 0929-7021549, AMBALA and ULWU Legal Counsel

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