MANILA (Updated 12:48 p.m.) -- THE management of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) on Thursday has started distributing an initial P20 million in financial aid to farmer-beneficiaries as part of the compromise agreement it reached last August 6.
The distribution was done at the hacienda's clubhouse in Tarlac.
Both farmer-beneficiaries who sign and did not sign the settlement deal will receive their share of the package but those who sign will first receive the aid.
Around 3,000 farmers already received assistance. The management expects more than 7,000 farmers.
HLI plans to distribute another P130 million to farmer-beneficiaries if the Supreme Court (SC) will approve the settlement agreement.
On Wednesday, the management asked the SC to approve the compromise agreement it reached with farmer-beneficiaries last August 6.
The submission of the deal to the SC was seen as a move to recall the 2006 HLI petition, stopping the government from subjecting the sugar estate under the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).
The oral argument was earlier set by the SC on August 18, pending the submission of the list of HLI's current stockholders and their respective holdings in the company.
"After three years of negotiations, the parties have finally entered into a compromise agreement, amicably settling their differences. The parties sincerely believed that this agreement will further improve the quality of lives of the farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita," the manifestation stated.
Because of this, the HLI, through lawyer Magdangal Elma, "respectfully prayed that the compromise agreement be approved and judgment rendered in accordance therewith."
A copy of the accord was attached to the five-page "Joint Submission and Motion for Approval of Compromise Agreement" submitted by the HLI management and farmer leaders at the SC.
HLI, which has been criticized by militant farmers' groups and lawmakers for allegedly initiating the deal with hacienda farmers, said the agreement was "the will of the people at Luisita."
"We hope to end the long-standing dispute between the management and the farm workers so we could all move forward to more productive and peaceful years at Luisita," said HLI spokesman Anthony Ligon.
The signatories in the agreement were the management of HLI, represented by its corporate secretary Eufrocino dela Merced Jr., and three farmer-leaders, namely: Noel Mallari, president of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid ng Hacienda Luisita (Ambala); Eldifonso Pingol, vice president of the United Luisita Workers Union (Ulwu); and Julio Suniga and Windsor Andaya of the HLI Supervisory Group.
Under the accord, farmer-beneficiaries are given the option to stay with the stock distribution option (SDO) contained in the 1989 memorandum of agreement or choose productive agricultural lands, which will be given for free, as their mode of compliance with the Carp.
Also, a financial assistance amounting to P150 million will be distributed among the beneficiaries, which will be released on a staggered basis upon the SC's approval of the compromise agreement.
According to HLI, the result of the census conducted from August 6 to 10 revealed that more than 70 percent or 7,441 of the 10,502 farmer-beneficiaries signed the compromise agreement.
Out of this number, 7,302 or 98.13 percent of which voted for SDO, while 139 or 1.88 percent voted for land distribution.
Ambala group, however, earlier said no consultation was made before the signing of the agreement, which it believes does not really intend to distribute lands to farmer-beneficiaries.
The group also said that those who signed the deal were not legitimate members of Ambala.
Former spokesman Mallari, one of the signatories in the deal, had misrepresented the group, as he was already ousted long ago for entering into secret negotiations with the Cojuangco family, Ambala said.
Lito Bais, acting president of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), which is the main labor group in the plantation, said he was also unaware of the deal.
Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano, who chairs the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, called the deal "deceptive, unjust, and immoral."
But the Luisita management is hoping the SC will approve the deal as Court Administrator and SC Spokesman Jose Midas Marquez noted that the agreement will still require final approval from the tribunal.
"The dispute is under the jurisdiction of the court and therefore all concerns, including the compromised agreement will be reviewed," Marquez said in an earlier interview.
The HLI management, in compliance with the Court's order, submitted over the weekend the complete list of the 10,502 farmer-beneficiaries, who are holders of "Class A" shares in HLI, together with their corresponding shares of stock.
It also submitted the list of holders of "Class B" shares, which include Pedro Cojuangco, Josephine C. Reyes, estate of Teresita C. Lopa, Jose Cojuangco Jr., Paz C. Teopaco and Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco).
The Cojuangco siblings, relatives of President Benigno Aquino III, each hold 70,000 direct shares, while Tadeco holds 235,181,459 shares in HLI.
The lists were submitted in compliance with the order of the SC's First Division requiring HLI to submit a certified list of all its stockholders and their corresponding shares of stock. Dela Merced, HLI's corporate secretary, issued the certifications.
Dela Merced said the par value per share for Class A and B shares is one peso per share.
He also certified that HLI holds 12,099,995 shares in Centenary Holdings Inc., while it holds 134,999 shares in Luisita Industrial Park.
The HLI official said the corporation has no shareholdings in Luisita Realty Corp. (JCV/Sunnex)