PNoy kin: Luisita raffle timed for SONA

 CLARK FREEPORT — President Benigno Aquino III’s uncle and Former Tarlac Congressman, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, Jr., on Friday said the raffling off of nearly 5,000 hectares of Hacienda Luisita land was rushed before the president will deliver his fourth State-of-the-Nation Address today, Monday.

“The Sona has become the reason for the land distribution, not the improvement of the lives of the Hacienda farm workers and their beneficiaries,” Cojuangco told that media during a breakfast forum with members of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (Cami) in Clark.

Cami is a group of Kapampangan veteran editors and journalists from Manila and Pampanga who hold the forum every Friday at the Bale Balita in Clark.

Cojuangco, elder brother of the former President Corazon C. Aquino, said it (raffle) was political in nature because of the timing of the decision.

He also said that they will insist the government will pay the Cojuangcos for expropriating the estate with a just price.

“It (the government) cannot pay us at acquisition price because that is absurd and it’s unfair,” he said.

Over and above the politics and financial factors involving the issue, Cojuangco also expressed worries about the future of some 6,200 workers of the hacienda who started receiving their shares of land in a raffle conducted by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) last Thursday in Barangay Cutcut in the vast sugar estate.

“How can they survive on one-sixteenth of a hectare of land that they will receive?” Cojuangco asked.

The land distribution, he said, will not benefit the people in the long term.

Cojuangco said the land distribution will only break up land into uneconomic parcels that, along with the varying characteristics of the land itself, may not be as productive and profitable for the beneficiaries.

“Some of it is clay, some sandy and some either get flooded or get no irrigation while some is fertile or barren and nobody knows which one a worker will receive,” he said.

Cojuango warned that these situations could lead to hunger and, eventually, to social unrest and unstable distribution of the land’s wealth and its eventual produce.

He said about 96 percent of the Luisita workers favored the stock option over land distribution but were pressured by militant groups into accepting the latter scheme.

Cojuangco said they decided to offer the workers the stock option upon the request of his late father, Jose Sr., to take care of the welfare of the farmers of Hacienda Luisita.

“Hacienda Luisita workers were better off then because they were given free benefits and hospitalization apart from being the highest paid farm workers compared to their counterparts outside the estate,” he said. (Jun Sula)

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