Message to the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita
Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins the broad masses of peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita in their celebration of the Supreme Court’s 22 November decision revoking the stock distribution option (SDO) scheme of Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita Inc., and paving the way for the distribution of HLI’s remaining 4,900-hectare plantation. At the same time, the CPP calls on the peasants and farm workers to further strengthen their unity and brace for bigger struggles.
The Supreme Court decision which was made public yesterday marks a turning point in the legal struggle of the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita against the SDO, a scheme used by the Cojuangcos since the late 1980s to evade land reform. Besides revoking the SDO, the SC also compelled HLI to pay the peasants and farm workers the amount of P1.3 billion, corresponding to the area of land sold by HLI in the past years, including those which have been turned into a residential enclave and a portion of the Subic-Clark Expressway. While ordering the distribution of land, the SC also recognized the HLI’s “entitlement to just compensation.”
The peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita celebrate the SC decision because it boosts their century-long struggle to put an end to the land-monopoly ownership and achieve justice for the long decades of exploitation, oppression and fascist brutality by the Cojuangco landlord rule. They are, however, also fully aware that their struggle is far from over.
There is a keen observation that the decision of the Supreme Court is a counter-punch by the Arroyo camp against the Aquino regime for having filed criminal charges against former president Gloria Arroyo and effecting her arrest last week. This view is based on the fact that majority of the officals of the SC were appointed by Arroyo and are seen to be sympathetic to her. Indeed, there are deep fissures within the ruling classes, with Supreme Court decisions often reflecting the contradictions and accomodations among them and the power plays and political manueverings between those in and out of power.
However true, they do not diminish the significance of this latest legal victory of the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita. The peasants and farm workers have long demonstrated the justness of their legal and moral position against the SDO and for the distribution of the Hacienda Luisita lands. As a result, they have won widespread support from various sectors, from workers and students, lawyers and religious people. They have won this latest round in their legal battle not only through the sheer correctness of their opposition to the SDO, but also by having consistently demonstrated courage and determination to advance the cause of agrarian reform and fight for social justice.
We anticipate the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita to press for the immediate implementation of the SC decision. While their struggle has taken a significant turn, they are bound to encounter more obstacles along the way. After several decades of intransingence and opposition to land distribution, the Aquino and Cojuangco clans are not expected to easily give up their claim to the Hacienda Luisita land. HLI is expected to put up one legal fight after another in the Supreme Court and beyond.
With their scion in Malacañang, the Cojuangcos can still bring their machinations to the Department of Agrarian Reform, the agency tasked to carry out the distribution of land. The recognition of the HLI’s entitlement to “just compensation” for the agricultural land to be transferred to the DAR goes against the social justice aspect of agrarian reform which demand the expropriation of land which have been acquired through feudal oppression, corruption, deception and brutality by big landowners such as those of the Cojuangcos. It reduces land reform to a real estate transaction between the state and the big landlords.
This CARP provision for “just compensation” reaffirmed by the SC decision has often been used in the past by big landlords in collusion with the DAR to overburden the peasants with so-called land amortization payments, making them easy prey to landlord-backed usurers and merchants. They are eventually unable to hold on to their land titles. In not a few cases, peasants have been forced to sell their land back to the landlords or to corporations owned by these landlords.
Learning lessons from the past, the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita can achieve bigger victories in their struggle for land reform. They stand on a moral highground in their demand for the immediate and free distribution of land. They should vigorously oppose any scheme to compel them to amortize the land which had been unjustly taken away from them. They must oppose any scheme to “compensate” the Cojuangcos for the land which they have unjustly expropriated from the peasant masses.
They must also continue to stand united and pursue their campaign to collectively administer and till the land. In the past several months, they have harvested the fruits of their Bungkalan campaign, where the work of tilling the land, planting and harvesting is shared among the peasants and farm workers. Through their campaign, the Hacienda Luisita peasants and farm workers have succeeded in collectively producing vegetables and other food crops resulting in increased incomes and a better quality of life.
The struggle of the peasants and farm workers in Hacienda Luisita underscore the continuing widespread struggle of the Filipino peasant masses for genuine agrarian reform. Twenty-three years since the enactment of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), landlord power continues to prevail and dominate the countryside and national politics. The poor peasants and farm workers continue to be subjected to various forms of feudal and semifeudal exploitation and oppression. Landlords and big corporations continue to grab and expropriate land resulting in the widespread displacement of peasants and minority peoples, poverty, hunger and social unrest. The revolutionary armed struggle continue to rage in the countryside precisely because it addresses the peasants democratic outcry for land reform.
The struggle and recent victories of the peasants and farm workers in Hacienda Luisita inspire the peasant masses across the country to more vigorously pursue their struggle for land reform. While the blaze of agrarian struggles spread across the countryside, the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita are further emboldened to hold on firmly to their principles and demands, and together with the rest of the Filipino people, march along the path of social and national liberation.