CBCP-NASSA’s Statement on Hacienda Luisita
"The joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ." --(Opening line of The Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, of VC II).
The CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA JP), lobbying for the proper implementation of agrarian reform, expresses solidarity with the landless farmers and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita.
In exercising our prophetic ministry, we pursue the calls (1) to revoke the stock distribution option (SDO) - a scheme that runs contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, and (2) to lift the TRO on the compulsory acquisition of Hacienda Luisita.
Cries for justice reach the ears of the Lord; we are one with our small farmers. NASSA recognizes that the most fundamental pillar of agrarian reform is the enforcement of the “land to the tiller principle”. Land distribution, with sufficient support services, holds promise as a means to stem rural poverty and the wave of rural-urban migration. History shows that the redistribution of land to landless and poor farmers can be a very effective way to improve rural welfare. Thus, it is disappointing to note that the Cojuangcos have managed to evade agrarian reform for more than five decades, even as the legitimate beneficiaries of the land continue to live in grinding, abject poverty.
On behalf of our small farmers, we appeal for truth, equity, dignity and justice. The SDO not only allowed the HLI to retain its ownership of the land but also “legitimized” the giving out of paltry shares of stocks to the farmers. NASSA’s opposition to SDO is grounded on the social teachings of the Church, which explicitly condemn exploitation of human labor, especially when rewarded with wages or other forms of payment that are unworthy of human dignity, such as in the case of the farmers in Hacienda Luisita.
We rely on the integrity of the Supreme Court to exercise its intrinsic political independence and resolve the case according to the spirit of distributive justice of the Constitution. The High Court, we are certain, knows full well the fact that political “issues” impede the implementation of agrarian reform. Hence, we call on the Supreme Court to facilitate the birth of institutional reforms capable of activating all factors that
will seriously implement agrarian reform. This is best done through the speedy dispensation justice that is devoid of political color and solely based on the merits of the case.
We call on the government to activate an efficient agrarian reform program which is respectful of the people’s needs for justice and answers in an adequate way their needs for integral development. Both former President Cory Aquino and President Benigno Aquino III promised the distribution of the land during their election campaigns. But now, PNoy is taking a hands-off stance on the issue on the account of his owning only “insignificant” share in the HLI. If the so-called compromise agreements hold out, the farmers will end up, after five decades without land, without jobs and in deep poverty, with only 1,400 hectares out of the original 6,443, while the Cojuangcos get to keep 4,227 hectares (about 800 hectares having been sold or used by HLI). This, certainly, is not what agrarian justice is about.
As president of the people, PNoy can no longer stay neutral on this issue. We call upon him to intervene on the side of the farmers. Whatever decision he arrives at will have huge moral and political implications particularly on the current peace process with National Democratic Front (NDF) in which agrarian reform is a central issue, and on the poor’s reception of his affirmations that he is for the poor. As President, he “swore to preserve and defend (the) Constitution and execute its laws.” The Constitution categorically states that the farmers should get the land based on their “right to own directly or collectively the lands they till.”
The resolution of the Hacienda Luisita case is a test of the administration’s political will. It will send a strong signal for the successful, or failed, implementation of agrarian reform. The administration will have moral high ground in distributing the remaining 1 million hectares of agricultural lands if the President’s own landholding will be given back to its rightful beneficiaries.
Finally, we recognize the important role of the civil societies and lay faithful in the promotion and delivery of social justice. We call on the people to support the farmers and take up their campaign against SDO and the lifting of the TRO on compulsory acquisition of Hacienda Luista. We bid everyone to recognize the divine presence in each other, particularly in those who are without "voices or choices" in their lives. We continue to pray that there will be peaceful resolution to the issue of Hacienda Luisita and that the farmer may finally be able to enjoy the fruits of the land. Let us face the future bound together by the faith, hope and charity that is our legacy as children of God.
For the Social Action Network,
BRODERICK S. PABILLO, D.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
National Director of CBCP-NASSA
June 11, 2011