Palace hopes tensions on Hacienda Luisita will not worsen

MANILA, March 7 (PNA) — As tensions in the disputed Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac continue to run high, Malacanang on Friday expressed hope that will not worsen.

Reports showed that there have been bulldozing and fencing activities in the area which have gotten agrarian reform beneficiaries worried that there would be a repeat of the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004 where at least seven protesting farmers died in a clash with the police and military.

The Supreme Court has ruled for the redistribution of the contested landholding and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has started distribution of the 4,500 hectares Hacienda Luisita to qualified farmer beneficiaries in October last year.

Reports, however, said that farmers complained that there was alleged overpayment of P167 million for the land.

DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao has already belied such allegation saying there was no overpayment of interest whatsoever.

He stressed there is a legal basis for the payment of interest which is in Section 18 of Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) law itself.

Parungao said that in computing for the compensation for Hacienda Luisita, the Land Bank of the Philippines based its valuation on the date that the Supreme Court set as date for taking of the landholding.

“In its final and executory decision on the Hacienda Luisita case, the Supreme Court decided that 1989 would be the date of taking of the landholding,” he said, “therefore that should be the reckoning point of the determination of the land’s valuation and the amount of just compensation.”

There was also the problem in the process of identifying qualified beneficiaries because of the lapse of so much time.

“They (DAR) had to go back to the list and re-identify, take out the ones who were not supposed to be there, and they did ask for comments as well from farmer stakeholders when it comes to the list,” said Valte.

She, however, said that she will have yet to give updates specifically where the distribution of land is at now.

Meanwhile, the Palace official said that President Benigno S. Aquino III has mentioned that government intervention should not stop after land is distributed.

“Respective departments that have something to do with this…should continue to provide support for the farmers who can finally till the land on their own,” Valte said. (source: Philippine News Agency)