SC upholds ruling on total land distribution of Luisita-A A +A
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
BAGUIO CITY (Updated) -- Voting 14-0, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld Tuesday its earlier decision mandating the total distribution of a 4,915-hectare estate owned by relatives of President Benigno Aquino III to farmers.
The SC, in a separate vote of 8-6, also sustained its earlier position that the owners of the sprawling sugarcane estate, Hacienda Luisita, will be compensated based on the 1989 market price of P40,000.
The justices said the vast estate should be distributed to the 6,296 farm worker-beneficiaries, and the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), owned by the Cojuangco clan, should pay the farmers P1.3 billion as earlier ruled.
The High Court also ruled that the Cojuangcos are entitled to compensation of P40,000 per hectare based on the valuation made last November 21, 1989, the day the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) approved the stock distribution option (SDO).
"The Court will no longer entertain further pleadings. The resolution is already final and executory," said SC spokesman Midas Marquez.
The eight justices who voted in favor of the 1989 valuation are Chief Justice Renato Corona, Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Roberto Abad, Presbitero Velasco, and Martin Villarama Jr.
Those who opposed are Justices Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo and Aquino appointees Estela Bernabe, Bienvenido Reyes, and Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The decision sets aside the appeal by the HLI, which sought for P10 billion-compensation it based on the notice of coverage by the DAR on January 2, 2006, pursuant to the resolution of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) recalling the approval of the SDO.
The SDO was declared illegal by the justices in November 2011, paving the way for the total distribution of the 4,915-hectare estate to the 6,296 farm worker beneficiaries.
But the justices who opposed the majority decision said the determination of just compensation should be left to the special agrarian court of the DAR.
Sereno earlier said that the valuation of land should be based on the 2006 fair market value of P2.25 million per hectare, a hefty amount that farmers could not afford to shell out.
Outside the SC building Tuesday, farmers erupted in cheers after the announcement and hailed the justices for working for the benefit of the poor.
A thanksgiving mass was also officiated by Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon following the announcement by Marquez. He advised the farmers to take care and cultivate the land.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Jose Palma also hailed the SC decision, saying he is happy for all the farmers, who will now get what they’ve been waiting for all these years.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, for his part, said the SC ruling is an inspiration for other farmers fighting to also get their land.
"The management of Hacienda Luisita along with other landlord estates must now read the writing on the wall. We call on them to immediately and without any hesitation distribute the land to the HLI farmers," party-list group Akbayan said.
Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) echoed the same appeal, saying both the HLI management and the Aquino government should take immediate and concrete steps for land distribution.
"The farmers' struggle is not over yet and they deserve our support in all their efforts to make the land truly beneficial for the people. They deserve our support against other possible maneuvers of the HLI management and the Aquino regime," Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said.
Instead of giving its take on the decision, Malacañang tossed the ball to the DAR and the Office of the Solicitor General to come up with a statement.
"We have not read the decision itself," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a text message. (Virgil Lopez/Kathrina Alvarez/FT/Sunnex)