Hacienda Luisita and Land Reform

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  • Topic: Corazon Aquino, Benigno Aquino, Jr., Noynoy Aquino
  • Pages : 8 (2794 words )
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  • Published : May 17, 2011
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Land reform is linked to social justice. When Spain colonized the Philippines by force beginning 1521, its land was already claimed by the conquistadors in the name of Spain. The natives who were already tilling the land were put under Spanish landlords, who were given royal grant to “own” the land and exact forced labor and taxes from the natives. After the Spaniards left, the Americans took over. When the Philippines became independent in 1946, history had set right by giving the lands back to the people whose ancestors have been tilling then for centuries. However, a new feudal system developed among Filipinos themselves, and once again drove a wedge between the tillers and their land.

This paper aims to give light the concerning controversies surrounding the Hacienda Luisita and analyze how these controversies preoccupy the present administration of Pres. Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III.

Before the Cojuangco family acquired Hacienda Luisita in the 1950s, the plantation belonged to the Spanish- owned Compaña General de Tabacos de Filipinas (Tabacalera). Tabacalera acquired the land in 1882 through a royal grant from the Spanish crown, which had a self-appointed claim on the lands as the Philippines’ colonial master. Luisita was named after Luisa Bru y Lassus, the wife of the top official of Tabacalera. Tobacco used to be the main crop planted in Luisita, but in the 1920s the Spanish owners shifted to sugar. Sugar production in the Philippines had become more profitable because demand was guaranteed by the US quota. In 1927, the Spaniards built the sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac to accompany their sugarcane plantation.

By the 1950s, aggravation over the Hukbalahap rebellion made the Spaniards decides to sell Hacienda Luisita and leave the Philippines. In 1957, President Ramon Magsaysay reportedly blocked the sale of the plantation o the wealthy Lopezes of Iloilo, fearing that they might become too powerful as they already owned Meralco, Negros navigation, Manila Chronicle, ABS-CBN and various hacienda in Western Visayas. So, President Ramon Magsaysay and Ninoy Aquino are said to have discussed the possibility of Ninoy’s-father-in-law, Jose Cojuangco, Sr. buying Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Hacienda Luisita from the Spaniards. Jose Cojuangco, Sr. received significant preferential treatment and assistance from the government to facilitate his takeover of Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac in 1957. To acquire a controlling interest in the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, Cojuangco had to pay the Spaniards in dollars. He turned to the Manufacturer’s Trust Company in New York for a 10-year, $ 2.1 million loan. Dollars were tightly regulated in those times. So, to ease the flow of foreign exchange for Cojuangco’s loan, the Central Bank of the Philippines deposited part of the country’s international reserves with the Manufacturer’s Trust Company in New York. The Central Bank did this on the condition that Cojuangco would simultaneously purchase the 6,443- hectare Hacienda Luisita, “with a view to distributing this hacienda to small farmers in line with the Administration’s social justice program.” (Central Bank Monetary Resolution No. 1240, August 27, 1957). To finance the purchase of Hacienda Luisita, Cojuangco turned to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). His application for a P7 million loan said that 4,000 hectares of the hacienda would be made available to bonafide sugar planters, while the balance 2,453 hectares would be distributed to barrio residents who will pay for them on instalment. The GSIS approved a P5.9 million loan, on the condition that Hacienda Luisita would be “subdivided among the tenants who shall pay the cost thereof under reasonable terms and conditions.” (GSIS Resolution No. 1085, May 7, 1957; GSIS Resolution No. 3202, November 25, 1957). However, four months later, Jose Cojuangco, Sr. requested that the phrase be amended to “… shall be sold at cost to...
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