Twelve years after the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano remains determined to implement the 2012 Supreme Court ruling that ordered the Cojuangco clan to distribute the lands of the 4,335-hectare hacienda, along with a P1.3-billion payout, to 6,212 farmer beneficiaries.
Seven people were killed with dozens injured and 112 were arrested when farmers on strike were brutally dispersed at the hacienda on Nov. 16, 2004. Other claimants have died over the years, as the farmers continued their fight for genuine land reform.
Despite the four-year-old SC order and two agrarian reform laws since 1989, the Cojuangco clan continues to have firm control over the expansive Tarlac estate, the Department of Agrarian Reform noted in a statement.
The farmworkers’ strike was at the height of protest actions against the move of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. to keep its workers’ wages to a low of P9.50 weekly. Over the years, “state forces and goons” have demolished homes and destroyed crops in order to evict long-time tillers of the disputed area, DAR said.
Despite efforts of the HLI to delay implementation of the High Court’s decision, the DAR is pushing forward with the audit of the P1.3 billion worth of proceeds from previous deals made by HLI.
The DAR has coordinated with three auditing firms and has threatened legal action against HLI should the corporation plan to purposely delay the proceedings again.
Delaying tactics and corporate maneuvering of the Cojuanco clan have prolonged the suffering of HLI workers, according to Mariano, who was an activist and party-list representative before assuming the DAR post.
Last October, the DAR chief announced that he would not allow the disqualification of farmworker-beneficiaries rendered under the “tambiolo” or raffle system, pending a complete review and investigation of land reform implementation in the hacienda.
Instead of a free and unconditional distribution of land titles to more than 6,000 farmworkers, the previous DAR administration raffled the farming lots by randomly assigning the parcels of land to each beneficiary.
“The narrative of the Hacienda Luisita has been one of pain and struggle for decades. We shall end it now,” Mariano declared.