Villar allies slam Aquino over Hacienda Luisita
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the Liberal Party standard-bearer, came under fire Tuesday after his cousin was quoted in The New York Times article published March 14 as saying that the Cojuangco family would not give up Hacienda Luisita.
The distribution of all agricultural lands to farmers—over 1 million hectares in the most productive areas of the country that had not been distributed under the agrarian reform program in the past two decades—is mandated under a new law extending the program for five years and appropriating P150 billion for its implementation.
Gilbert Remulla, spokesperson of Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Manny Villar, accused Aquino of “political double-speak” over the hacienda issue.
“Senator Aquino says in his latest political ads that he will continue the fight. I think he owes it to the Filipino people to first settle his family’s fight with the farmers and tenants of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac,” said Remulla, also an NP senatorial candidate.
“It is hypocrisy and double-speak, plain and simple,” Remulla said.
“He can no longer evade the issue as he did all these months. For a presidential candidate who is supposedly running on a platform of change, the appalling conditions that pervade in his family’s hacienda and the continuing plight of the farmers and tenants there should be explained and not swept under the rug,” Remulla said.
Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano accused Aquino of “sheer posturing” when he promised on the first day of the campaign to distribute Hacienda Luisita should he win in May.
Mariano said that the remarks made by Aquino’s cousin, Fernando Cojuangco, in The New York Times article showed that the Cojuangcos would “never let loose their stranglehold of the hacienda.”
Mariano warned that Aquino’s posturing would be “a portent of things to come” such as the revival of Kamag-anak Inc. which flourished during his mother’s term.
He also called Aquino “conceited” for “bragging” in a television interview that the Cojuangcos could have made P3 billion from selling the 4,500-ha Luisita for P4.5 billion if his family did not care about the farmers and was only worried about its interests.
License to massacre
“Noynoy wants to make it appear that if not for the self-proclaimed benevolence of the Cojuangco-Aquinos, Luisita farmers would have nothing. The Cojuangco-Aquinos cannot reverse the truth, that they have used this so-called ‘benevolence’ as a license to massacre farmers, exploit and deny them their right to the land,” Mariano said.
“The truth is Luisita farmers were forced, deceived and coerced into agreeing to the onerous and one-sided stock distribution option scheme. This is the ultimate reason why up to now the Cojuangco-Aquinos still control the hacienda.”
Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla, a Villar ally, said he was not surprised by the remarks of Aquino’s cousin.
“That has been expected. He cannot control his family and shows the weakness of a person masquerading as a leader. He cannot stand up to the family patriarch and proves he is not his own man,” Remulla said of Aquino in a text message.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo said Fernando Cojuangco’s statement “defines the basic stand of the clan to hold on to Hacienda Luisita.”