Wednesday, August 18, 2010

HACIENDA LUISITA: Land Theft, Massacres, Assassinations, SDO

(Based on excerpts from the article "The Unprincipled Gall of Noynoy Aquino")

Updated November 10, 2011

HACIENDA Luisita well symbolizes the oppression of the Filipino masses both from white-skinned colonizers and local elites. The sprawling Hacienda measures 6, 435 hectares --only 158 hectares short of the combined size of the cities of Manila and Makati. It used to belong to the Spanish firm, Compaña General de Tabacos de Filipinas, or Tabacalera, which acquired it in 1882 from the Spanish colonial crown. While the Philippine Revolution against Spain virtually succeeded, United States imperialist conquest of the islands ensured not only American exploitation of the islands but, as well, that remnants of Spanish colonization remain. Tabacalera’s ownership of Hacienda Luisita was one of those remnants.

In the 1920s, the Spanish company shifted from tobacco to sugar plantation and built a sugar mill as the US sugar quota guaranteed a profitable market. Persisting labor problems and threats from the Hukbalahab rebellion later forced Tabacalera to sell Hacienda Luisita, along with the Central Azucarera de Tarlac sugar mill, in the 1950s. President Ramon Magsaysay is said to have offered the land to Don Jose “Pepe” Cojuangco, Sr., the father of future Philippine President Corazon "Cory" Aquino, in the bid to prevent the then-already very wealthy and powerful Lopezes from acquiring it. The deal was brokered by Don Pepe’s son-in-law, Ninoy Aquino who was then a rising politician.

Stephanie Dychiu of GMA News.TV writes that Don Pepe “received significant preferential treatment and assistance from the government to facilitate his takeover of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac in 1957.” While the Cojuangcos also had their small sugar plantation and had plenty of lands, bank holdings and Philippine pesos, they did not have enough dollars, which was then tightly regulated–to make the purchase. The Central Bank was the first government entity to help Cojuangco. So as to facilitate the foreign exchange flow needed to ensure acquisition of controlling interest in Tabacalera, the CB deposited a portion of the Philippines’ international reserves from a New York bank where Cojuangco took a 10-year loan of $2.1 million. The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) stepped in next, providing a 5.9 million loan to finance the purchase of Hacienda Luisita.

Assistance was extended by the Central Bank with the view that the Cojuangco acquisition would further the government’s land reform program. The 1957 Monetary Board Resolution No. 1240 stipulated that simultaneous with the accommodation for his foreign exchange needs, Cojuangco should purchase Hacienda Luisita but distribute it within ten years “to small farmers in line with the Administration’s social justice program.” That same year, GSIS Resolutions Nos. 1085 & 3202 essentially backed up the Central Bank ruling with different wordings by requiring the subdivision of the hacienda among the tenants who will shoulder the cost at terms and conditions that are reasonable. However, within only a little over two months, Cojuangco had a new GSIS resolution (No. 356) amended to limit it to “….shall be sold at cost to tenants, should there be any.”

Theft of Agrarian Land?

Beginning April 1958, Hacienda Luisita and the Tabacalera sugar mill became properties of Jose Cojuangco and his TADECO (Tarlac Development Corporation) company. Instead of Pedro or “Pete” Cojuangco who was Cory’s eldest brother, Ninoy Aquino was chosen as its administrator. Ten years passed but the Cojuangco-Aquino families did not keep their end of the contract. In reply to Land Authority Governor Conrado Estrella’s letter inquiring about the implementation of the loan condition, Cojuangco rather smugly wrote back that “it is doubtful whether the Central Bank had the power to impose that condition which was so alien to its function of stabilizing the country’s monetary system”. Don Pepe died in 1976 without fulfilling his promise to distribute land.

Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino II, TADECO administrator
In 1972 when Martial Law was declared, President Marcos imprisoned his political nemesis and presidential material Ninoy Aquino but did not forcibly compel his family and Cojuangco kin to abide by the land distributorship terms of the 1957-1958 loan and foreign exchange assistance agreements. The TADECO owners did continue to receive written communications seeking to follow up on the 1967 notice(s) but which they always dismissed by claiming that there were no “tenants” and, thus, Hacienda Luisita couldn’t possibly be distributed. Herein, Cory’s family has largely banked their claim to the hacienda on what could be a technicality–the different wordings of the Central Bank and GSIS resolutions–”small farmers” and “tenants,” respectively.

Just before Ninoy and his family were allowed to leave for the United States for medical treatment, the Marcos government pursued the issue in court of the hacienda’s distributorship in court. Civil Case No. 131654 prospered and in December 1985, some two months before the 1986 snap presidential polls contended by the now-widowed Corazon C. Aquino and strongman Marcos, Branch XLIII of the Manila Regional Trial Court handed its decision for TADECO to yield Hacienda Luisita to the Agrarian Reform ministry. In response, the Cojuangco-Aquinos elevated the case to the Court of Appeals.

Post EDSA I future of Hacienda Luisita

Following the ouster of Marcos via the 1986 EDSA “People Power”  and the installation of Cory Cojuangco Aquino as President of the Philippines, the moves of the new government will define the future of Hacienda Luisita tilted in favor of the incumbent's family. The government itself, through Cory's appointive officials, moved to withdraw the case it had already won at the trial court level. Solicitor General Frank Chavez filed a motion dismissing the TADECO case before the Court of Appeals without objection from Agrarian Reform Secretary Philip Juico and GSIS chief Sonny Belmonte--the heads of other government entities with interest in the case. Neither did the Central Bank object to the motion, arguing that the distribution of Hacienda Luisita would already materialize under the new government's agrarian reform program.

Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation No. 131 outlining her agrarian reform program and  Executive Order No. 229, which provided the mechanisms for the implementation of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP (now the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law or CARL). What is notable is that the EO 229 issuance of Cory included the so-called SDO or Stock Distribution Option that is not only unprecedented in previous agrarian reform laws of the land but also regarded as an 'evasive' provision favoring big land owners.

Stock Distribution Option (SDO)

The 1987 Mendiola Massacre involving the death of farmers pressing for genuine agrarian reform seemed to have made Cory speed up the implementation of land reform but not without first inserting SDO into her CARP. The SDO gives farmer tenants shares in a plantation corporation without actually transferring land. Stock Distribution Option had been criticized not only as possibly unconstitutional but more so, as a way for landowners to keep control of the land and farmers–and for the Cojuangco-Aquinos to avoid distributing Hacienda Luisita. As well, the Cory administration had the Court of Appeals dismiss the government case filed against the TADECO owners, who were no less than the President’s own family and kin (she is said to have divested herself of personal shares in the company).

Hacienda Luisita: "development," not land reform?
  When CARP took effect in 1989, the family adopted the SDO option despite many criticisms that the option disadvantaged the farmers. Only less than 5,000 out of the nearly 6,500 hectares of the original Hacienda Luisita land were submitted to the Agrarian Reform department. The exclusion of the combined 386.6 hectares of residential, commercial, road and other land improvement portions of the hacienda markedly lowered the value of land earmarked for land reform to only P40,000 per hectare. The valuation process was also seen as irregular if not appropriate, with the standing crop not only being included but also being categorized as non-land asset. The result is that when the land was incorporated into what is now Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) as spin-off of TADECO, the farmers became nominal shareholders, getting only 33.296% versus the 66.704 percent shares of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
What is more, the SDO scheme was spread over 30 years, which meant that when a worker was fired, quit, or failed to complete require work hours, s/he was no longer eligible to receive the unreleased portion of his or her share, mandays or work hours being the basis of SDO distribution. It also meant that farmers’ entitlements were bound to shrink because new workers could be hired–which is what happened when the original 6,296 farm workers ballooned to almost double by 2005.

In June 2005, Noynoy Aquino’s family eventually distributed all the stock shares to the farmers in one fell swoop and ahead of the controversial 30th year schedule. However, this happened only following the November 16, 2004 Luisita massacre when some seven or so farmers were killed during a protest. The farmers decided to hold a strike amidst fears for their job security and dwindling wages following claims by management that the land was losing money. The Cojuangcos’ long-term land use plan for the HLI–which included NO agricultural area and which already included the controversial Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway or (SCTEx)–had been uncovered.* The farmers realized that the SDO had to go, subsequently petitioning for its revocation in 2003. Their frustration over always being outvoted 4-7 in the HLI board and the mass retrenchment of over 300 farmers in late 2004 also figured in.

Massacre and Assassinations

On November 6, farm workers and Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union workers had launched a prolonged picket of the Gate 1 of the hacienda’s sugar mill. When Arroyo’s government declared an Assumption of Jurisdiction, the Philippine National Police (PNP) forces were called in. Even with the police operation on November 15, they still but failed to disperse the strikers with the usual tear gas, water cannons, and truncheons.

The following day, the union officers were told to proceed to Noynoy’s uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr. in Makati for negotiations: they did but nothing happened. While the union leaders returned, however, 2 tanks, 17 trucks of soldiers, 700 police, a payloader, 4 water cannon fire trucks, and snipers were already in position. Initially, the dispersal of protesters was attempted with the use of the usual stuff but they fought back by slingshooting with rocks and burying tear gas canisters. When the police and military forces ran out of tear gas and water from the fire trucks, they started firing. Based on the Senate investigation on the incident, no less than 1000 rounds of ammunitions were used to disperse the Hacienda Luisita strikers. Those who were caught were beaten, arrested, and dragged into the military trucks.

Seven people died while 121 were injured, including 32 who sustained gunshot wounds, during what is now commonly referred to as the Hacienda Luisita Massacre. The unfortunate victims who died directly from the protest actions were: Jhayvie Basilio, 20; Juancho Sanchez, 20; Jhune David, 27; Jesus Laza, 34; Jaime Fastidio, 46 Adriano Caballero, 23 Jesse Valdez, 30. Up to the present, no one has been caught or charged for the carnage.

Then Congressman Noynoy Aquino decried the violence but claimed that the police and military merely acted in self-defense. The investigation by doctors led by Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo of the Health Alliance for Democracy would reveal details showing Noynoy was either lying or did not know what he was talking about. Autopsies of the dead and medical examination of the wounded revealed that they were in running, lying, crouching positions when shot. Three bodies supposedly tested positive for gunpowder; however, the doctors, staff, and nurses of the Cojuangco-owned St. Martin de Porres Hospital where the bodies were brought had earlier been told to leave as the military and police took over.

The Hacienda Luisita-related killings did not stop on November 16, 2004, though. Aglipayan priest William Tadena was shot dead while traversing the La Paz, Tarlac provincial highway on the way to say his next mass; Fr. Tadena had mobilized his parishioners in support of the hacienda picket workers. Then there’s sexagenarian peasant leader Ben “Tatang” Conception who was shot dead inside the house of his daughter in Angeles City; he also supported the Luisita strikers.

Perhaps the most obvious kill in terms of association with the fateful picket strike is that of sugar mill union president Ricardo Ramos who was killed by a sniper bullet on the head on October 25, 2005, hours after he distributed what served as wage compensation to the sugar mill workers. He had earlier sought the help of the sheriff to inspect the Cojuangco warehouse when management claimed they had no money to pay wages. When the warehouse was found to be full of sugar, an agreement was made for the sale of the sugar by the Department of Labor and Employment, with the proceeds going to the workers. Management then tried to take charge of the money so they could make payroll deductions for the loans but Ramos refused and demanded the payroll list instead.

It should be noted that Noynoy Aquino did express shock at the murder, saying that Ramos had been always fair to him. The PNP claimed that the communists probably executed the killing because he had been on cooperative terms with management. Given the fact, however, that no police nor military personnel involved in the violent Hacienda Luisita dispersal has ever been charged, the PNP statement does not seem reliable.

There will be more murders of individuals connected with protest actions revolving around Hacienda Luisita. Tirso Cruz, a director of the United Luisita Workers’ Union, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men on March 18, 2006; Cruz, a member of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, had led actions demanding the withdrawal of the military in ten barangays of the hacienda and protesting against the constructions of the Hacienda Luisita portion of the SCTEx toll way. Another Aglipayan priest connected to the hacienda strikers would bite the dust. Fr. Alberto Ramento, no less than the Supreme Bishop of the church, was stabbed to death on October 3, 2006 while sleeping inside the church rectory: while it appeared to be a robbery, persons close to him strongly suspect his killing was related to the hacienda because he had taken the cause of Fr. Tadena by tending to the farm workers.

Current Status

In what could possibly be a politically motivated but not exactly unfair move, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) placed the Hacienda Luisita under forcible acquisition following its revocation of the SDO on December 23, 2005. The Cojuangco-Aquinos dubbed the development as Arroyo’s vendetta for the Aquino family’s call for her resignation. They appealed and obtained a TRO (temporary restraining order) from the Supreme Court. The case is pending while the TRO has been in effect for over three years now.

Further complicating any future distribution of the hacienda are the loans incurred by the Cojuangco-Aquino family using some portions of the land as mortgage with banks. Noynoy Aquino had changed his statements as to the position of his family with regards Hacienda Luisita and its distribution multiple times over time. In one of them, he defended the SDO option by saying that his family wanted to first make sure that the land that would eventually be distributed to the farmer-beneficiaries are cleared of debt. This one was made quite last February 9, 2010. That same day, he is reported to have stated that he has already talked with his family and relatives from his maternal side to find ways to implement the distribution of land to the approximately 10,000 farmer workers before the expiration of the agrarian reform law ends in 2014.

However, four days earlier while campaigning in Davao City, he is reported to have said that the question of Hacienda Luisita will be a difficult issue to resolve even if he wins as president because it is supposed to be a private corporation. Perhaps, Noynoy’s changing statements are not at all unexpected, given that he is in the midst of his presidential campaign and election periods are always the time for making promises.

2009 Rally during the 5th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre
What is troubling is the report of the New York Times that counters Sen. Aquino’s claim that his family has been cooperative with regards the issue of distributing Hacienda Luisita. In its March 16, 2010 issue, the American publication quotes Fernando Cojuangco, the chief operating officer of HLI and the sugar mill as having denied there would be land distribution. Responding to Times reporter Norimitsu Onishi’s query, Noynoy’s cousin reportedly said: “No, we’re not going to. I think it would be irresponsible because I feel that continuing what we have here is the way to go.”

Developments under Aquino III

Indeed, following the controversial ascension of Noynoy Aquino III into the presidency--dubbed by certain sectors as a HOCUS PCOS fraudulent win in the May 10, 2010 automated electoral polls--the Cojuangco family promptly moved towards a direction inimical to the distribution of the sprawling estate. On August 6 this year, Aquino III's family was able to forge another compromise deal

Indeed, following the controversial ascension of Noynoy Aquino III into the presidency--dubbed by certain sectors as a HOCUS PCOS fraudulent win in the May 10, 2010 automated electoral polls--the Cojuangco family promptly moved towards a direction inimical to the distribution of the sprawling estate. In the first week of August, this month, Aquino III's family was able to forge another compromise deal in which farmer beneficiaries were supporsedly given the option to either retain corporate stock shares or receive parcels of land from one-third of the Hacienda Luisita plantation.

However, leaders of the two groups included in the supposed settlement--the United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu) and the Alliance of Hacienda Luisita Farm Workers (Ambala)--expressed unawareness of the deal when it was first reported in the media. Ambala chairman Felix Nacpil and Ulwu's acting president Lito Bais claim that Noel Mallari and Ildefonso Pingol, who served as "signatories" in behalf of Ambala and Ulwu respectively, have been bought off by HLI management and did not have the authority to represent their union groups. Nacpil pointed out that Mallari was no longer part of Ambala as early as 2003 while Pingol never became chairman of Ulwu and has long been a collaborator with the Cojuangcos.


It also appears that militarization figured in the forging of the questionable compromise deal. Bulatlat reports that weeks before the Hacienda Luisita management announced the signing of the August 2010 'compromise agreement'--which would be around the time Congress had already declared Aquino III "President-elect"--the sugar plantation workers "were subjected to militarization, the kind that sowed fear among the residents, particularly those opposed to the stock distribution option."

Hacienda Luisita residents and plantation workers talk of how military harassment often targeted officials of the two groups whose 'impostor' union representatives were signatories to the recent compromise deal--the Alliance of Hacienda Luisita Farm Workers (Ambala) and United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu). In one case, a resident talked of how the eldest daughter of a former Ambala officer was forced to resign from her new job at a mall because soldiers had been trailing her and threatening to abduct her unless her father's head is served "on a platter."

Farm workers of the controversial estate regard the the supposed deal as a sham and suspect that it is meant to influence the decision of the High Court, which began hearing oral arguments on the Hacienda Luisita dispute on August 18, 2010. Among the issues the Supreme Court will tackle are whether or not:
  • the SDO conforms to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, Section 31;
  • PARC has the jurisdiction, authority or power in its 2005 revocation of the SDO, and if so, whether there is legal basis for revoking the SDO agreement;
  • the petitioners before the DAR-PARC are genuine parties-in-interest; and
  • the SDO revocation and resulting agricultural land distribution will cause the dissolution of HLI.

August 18, 2010 National Day of Outrage March Rally to the Supreme Court

The recent compromise deal has been criticized for its insidious provision allocating only a mere 30 percent of land--equivalent to 33 percent of stock shares--because the rest of the land is supposedly not 'devoted to agriculture.' Thus, aside from the fact that the very SDO option is a breach of the spirit of land reform under which the Hacienda Luisita should be subjected to under the 1957 agreement, the settlement immediately deprives the farmers of 70 percent of the hacienda land.


Based on:

Bernardo, Jesusa. The Unprincipled Gall of Noynoy Aquino. Newsvine. 26 March 2010.


 Arkibong Bayan archived webpages: The Hacienda Luisita Massacre. 10 November 2009.

"DAR confirms Hacienda's RoW overprice." Charlie V. Manalo. The Daily Tribune.

Dychiu, Stephanie. After Luisita massacre, more killings linked to protest. GMANews.TV.

Dychiu, Stephanie. "Cory's land reform legacy to test Noynoy's political will." GMANews.TV. 01/22/2010 .

Dychiu, Stephanie. "Hacienda Luisita's past haunts Noynoy's future." GMANews.TV.

Dychiu, Stephanie. "How a workers' strike became the Luisita Massacre." GMANews.TV. 01/26/2010.


"How Hacienda Luisita Stock Scheme Led to Farmers' Misery." November 16, 2009.'-misery/

Manalo, Charlie. "Reopen SDO scheme probe, Luisita farmers dare Senate." The Daily Tribune. 31 January 2010. 

"Noynoy cries unfair, but NY Times stands by Luisita story." GMANews.TV. 03/17/2010.

Noynoy: Hacienda Luisita distributed to farmers by 2014. 9 February 2010.

Olea, Ronalyn. ‘Breakthrough Deal’ Is a Lie Meant to Sway Supreme Court Decision on Hacienda Luisita, Say Farmers. 5 August 2010.

Olea, Ronalyn. In Crafting ‘Sham’ Deal, Cojuangco-Aquinos Turned to Leaders Who Had Earlier Betrayed Farm Workers. 13 August 2010.

Oliveros, Benjie. With the ‘Compromise Agreement’, Hacienda Luisita Farmers Are Back to Where They Started.

Pulta, Benjamin. SC to hear oral arguments on HLI conflict. The Daily Tribune. 18 August 2010. 

Salamat, Marya. Militarization, Harassment Intensified in Luisita in Run-Up to Signing of 'Sham Deal.' 10 August 2010.

Ramirez, Mon. The Math of the Hacienda Luisita Issue.


Republic of the Philippines. PROCLAMATION NO. 131.

Photo credits:

Caravan to Luisita album. Kilusang Mayo Uno account.
Noynoy Hacienda Luisita- The Real Story-Part 1. Youtube.



Jesusa Bernardo said...

agrarian reform is not only part of the laws of our land--it is also a moral imperative.

the land grabbers and those who refuse to distribute land, particularly if that was stipulated under the agreement that enabled the acquisition of the land, they could be termed wicked anti.patriots.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

at least start with agrarian reform. agri support/post-harvest facility, etc. about are nothing without land distribution. land distribution at HL is the main problem. particularly since the Cojuangcos have been eager to "develop" it--as in bye agriculture.

the importance or gravity of HL land distribution is such that the Cojuangcos, or whoever close to them, were willing to massacre 7 or 8 farmers just to prevent land distribution which, in the first place, is stipulated under the 1957 agreement.

government and cooperatives/unions the farm workers have formed should help in the agri/market support. first things first. land distribution first.

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