MANILA, July 12, 2011—Luisita farmers questioned the sincerity of President Aquino’s instruction to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision over the disputed 6,453 hectare sugar estate of the Cojuangcos in Tarlac.

“It’s a Trojan horse! A mere press release,” said Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) secretary-general Rodel Mesa, on President Benigno C. Aquino III directive to appeal the SC decision to conduct a referendum in order to arrive at a decision of what to do in the disputed hacienda.

UMA, together with other farmers’ and farm-workers’ groups, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) had staged a walkout during the dialogue with DAR officials July 11, saying they sensed a dose of insincerity with the filing of the motion for reconsideration (MR) against the controversial decision by the High Tribunal last July 5th.

“It contains nothing concrete. It is just a press release and what President Benigno Simeon Aquino III really wants is a victory courtesy of a referendum accompanied by guns, goons and gold,” Mesa said in a statement.

The farm-workers’ leader said it is “unsafe” to rely with an MR penned by Malacañang for it is only a ‘cover-up’.

“The MR only means one thing: it is to convince the public that Mr. Aquino has nothing to do with the latest decision of the Supreme Court and the hard line stance of his family on [the issue of] Luisita,” Mesa explained.

Mesa said that the farm-workers and their supporters would continue their struggle for the equal and free distribution of the disputed hacienda.

Meanwhile, the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) assails Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr.’s statement that it was the Leftists and “outsiders” who made the situation worse.

“Actually, the Cojuangco-Aquinos are the real outsiders of Hacienda Luisita as they have never stepped on the mud, dropped sweat and labored on the land. Felix Nacpil, the late Federico Laza, Boy Dizon, the Laderas, the ancestors of Rene Galang, Lito Bais, Rodel Mesa and many others are the original developers of the land. The Cojuangco-Aquinos are also the ones who deploy forces of the military such as the army’s 70th Infantry Battalion to terrorize the farm-workers. They are the troublemakers, menace against the farm-workers who developed the hacienda,” said AMGL president Jose Canlas in an email sent to this reporter.

Canlas stressed that it is their “right and duty to support the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, as their struggle for genuine land reform is also ours.”

“They [AMBALA members] are our members and we have the responsibility to reinforce their struggle [for the equal distribution of Luisita lands],” he said.

Canlas also reiterated that the 6,000-hectare disputed lands are acquired using public funds, under an agreement that it has to be distributed after 10 years, thereby making the farm-workers the legitimate owners of the controversial hacienda.

“It is very clear that the Cojuangcos used public funds to acquire Hacienda Luisita in 1957 with the condition that it would be distributed to the farm-workers in 10 years. But they are now claiming the lands their own, clinging on control and repressing farmers’ struggle for genuine land reform. Peping Cojuangco sounded like a cold-blooded landlord, blaming others for the mess; he could not hide his backward mentality and opposition of land reform. The Cojuangcos are always in amnesia about how they acquired the land,” Canlas explained.

“And if you’re going further back, in history, the hacienda is used to be owned by the Spanish agro-corporation Tabacaleras [and] should have been distributed to the farmworkers as they were compelled by the presence of the Hukbalahap in the 1950s. Then president Ramon Magsaysay facilitated the transfer of control to the Cojuangcos, represented by president Aquino’s grandfather Jose “Don Pepe” Cojuangco,” he added. (Noel Sales Barcelona)