Manila: A convoy of 300 protesting farmers from a sugar plantation owned by the family of former president Corazon Aquino in central Luzon, held a night of vigil and protest outside the agrarian reform department in suburban Quezon City, which they reached three days after beginning a protest caravan on Wednesday.
On Saturday, they will to march to Times Street, in a subdivision where the house of president Benigno Aquino is located, to press for the implementation of the ruling of the Supreme Court in 2012, that owners of the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, should distribute 4,915 hectares of land to 6,000 farmers who have been identified as beneficiaries of the country’s land reform programme.
They will proceed to Manila’s Mendiola Street near Malacanang, the presidential palace, to express the same sentiment.
The non-distribution of land to farmers at the Hacienda Luisita will show that the country’s land reform programme, which was the centre-piece of Aquino, as stated in the 1987 Constitution, is a sham, said Willy Merbella, deputy secretary general of the militant Movement of Filipino Farmers.
The second Aquino administration might sit on the Supreme Court ruling, predicted Flor Sibayan, vice chairwoman of the Alliance of Farm Workers at Hacienda Luisita.
She referred to Aquino’s “broken promise” last February, when he vowed that lands at the Hacienda Luisita will be distributed.
“The truth is nothing has happened a year after the Supreme Court ordered Hacienda Luisita to be distributed to its beneficiaries,” said Lito Bais, chairman of Luisita Workers Union.
“We no longer trust the department of agrarian reform to implement the Supreme Court ruling.”
Farmers, in general, no longer trust that the government will implement the Supreme Court ruling, said Joseph Canlas, chairman of Alliance of Farmes in Central Luzon.
In response, the department of agrarian reform said it has identified 6,212 farmer-beneficiaries who will equally divide among themselves more than 4,000 hectares of the Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate.
The survey has been completed and the office is waiting for the land valuation of the Land Bank of the Philippines, the agrarian reform office said.
The farmers held a protest rally in Angeles City on Wednesday, hours after they left Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac central Luzon on the same day. They reached San Fernando City and Metro Manila’s northern suburban Bulacan on Thursday.
In November 2011, the Supreme Court affirmed the cancellation of the stock distribution option (SDO) that the owners and farmers of the Hacienda Luisita had agreed on in a referendum in 1989.
In 2005, the agrarian reform department approved the pleadings of farmers at the Hacienda Luisita who wanted lands and the SDO cancelled because their lives did not improve. In previous protest rallies at the Hacienda, seven people were killed
Former president Gloria Arroyo as head of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (Parc), upheld the agrarian reform department’s ruling on the farmers’ pleading. It paved the way for the elevation of the case to the Supreme Court.It also resulted in a rift between Aquino and Arroyo, with the latter joining an anti-Arroyo faction that called for her resignation. She finished her term in 2010.