THE Supreme Court (SC) has moved to August 18 the oral arguments on the land dispute case involving President Benigno Aquino III’s family ancestral sugar estate in Tarlac, pending the management’s submission of the required list of current stockholders.

Court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the decision to hold the oral arguments on August 18 was reached during the full-court session on Tuesday.

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“The court en banc has already accepted the case. Oral argument is set on Aug 8, subject to the submission of the list of current stockholders. The en banc is still waiting for that. Hopefully the court will be able to receive the list from petitioners before the oral arguments,” he said.

Guidelines on what issues would be propounded by the parties during the oral arguments as well as the time allotted the counsels to argue their cases would be released by the court before August 18.

Last week, a resolution was issued by the SC requiring petitioner Hacienda Luisita Inc. to submit within 15 days its list of shareholders and their corresponding shares of stock in the sugar estate.

The new requirement to submit the list prompted the Court to temporarily defer the oral arguments on the case originally scheduled on August 3.

Also last week, Chief Justice Renato Corona ordered that the case be referred to the en banc from the First Division after conducting an “informal survey” among other members of the court.

Marquez explained the transfer was due to importance of the case and the parties involved, though he was quick to say that the case will be treated as ordinary and would not be given priority over other cases.

He said the oral arguments will give the magistrates the chance to ask the parties “clarificatory questions which answers are not found in the pleadings.”

The distribution of shares at the Hacienda Luisita to farmers has been one of the issued being thrown at President Aquino, particularly the Cojuangco side of his family, even during the election campaign.

Close to 5,000 farm workers are asking that the 5,000-hectare sugar land be distributed to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

In June 2006, the SC issued a temporary restraining order stopping the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) from executing its Resolution no. 2005-32-01 dated December 22, 2005, which will subject Hacienda Luisita under the coverage of CARP.

To date, the SC has yet to revoke the TRO and the case remained pending before the tribunal. (JCV/Sunnex)