The Supreme Court–in an 8-6 decision–decided to have the Cojuangcos paid only PhP 196.6 million as compensation for the distribution of a major portion of Hacienda Luisita. The minority opted for referring the matter to a special agrarian court. Those who voted for the majority postion are Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama, Jr., Jose Perez, and Jose Mendoza. Those who voted for the minority position are Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano Del Castillo, and Pres. Aquino’s 3 appointees: Maria Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
On its face, the farmers won this round. They will get the land and will pay a smaller amount to the government for it. However, there still several hurdles they need to overcome:
One, the probable motion for reconsideration by the Cojuangcos;
Two, the inevitable problem of developing the land; and
Three, the wherewithals to pay the government.
The situation is complicated because of the highly-charged politics around the issue. One thing that should be done is for the Aquino government to firmly exercise political will to execute the SC decision and help the farmers face the problems.
How it will handle this case will impact on its whole agrarian reform policy and program even as it will be a prism for judgment on Aquino’s promise to ensure that, under his term, the people will enjoy the full benefits of democracy.