Before Corazon Aquino announced her candidacy to run for president, she promised the people that she will give the “land to the tiller.” This “land” is commonly known as the Hacienda Luisita which is a 6,435-hectare plantation estate located in Tarlac, Philippines, owned by the Cojuangco family.
Land reform was one of the pillars of her campaign. When she won the presidency, the people waited for that huge land to be divided and distributed to the farmers.
But when she stepped down from the presidency, their land in Tarlac was still intact and the Aquino-Cojuangco family still has full control of the plantation, until today.
When people protested on November 16, 2004, at least seven protesting farmers were killed in a clash with police and military personnel.
Today, the Hacienda has become a symbol of the failure of the Aquino’s to put substance to their words.
Now, the front-runner in the Philippine presidential election, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aguino III, is once again promising to transfer their land to the farmers if he becomes president. “It will be theirs clear and free,” Sen. Aquino said in one of his interviews.
In a recent article published by the New York times, Aquino’s cousin, Fernando Aquino said that the family will never give up the Hacienda to the farmers. Ever.
Mr. Aquino’s cousin, Fernando Cojuangco, the chief operating officer of the holding company that owns the plantation, said that the extended Cojuangco family, owners of this plantation since 1958, had no intention of giving up the land or the sugar business.
“No, we’re not going to,” Mr. Cojuangco, 47, said in an interview here. “I think it would be irresponsible because I feel that continuing what we have here is the way to go. Sugar farming has to be; it’s the kind of business that has to be done plantation-style.”
He dismissed the widely held view that Mrs. Aquino, his aunt, had made land reform a centerpiece of her government.
“Is there a document that it was a centerpiece? I always asked that question even to her ex-cabinet members. Was there a cabinet meeting where she said this is the centerpiece?” –The New York Times
Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III responded to the New York Times article written by Norimitsu Onishi by saying:
The New York Times unfairly misquoted my cousin by saying that the Cojuangco family had unanimously decided on drastic changes in the operation of Hacienda Luisita. – Philippine Daily Inquirer
At this point, who should we believe? A Presidential candidate who stated in a public forum a couple of months ago that he never lie, or an international Journalist who has nothing to gain from this election?
Yesterday, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a response from the New York times stating that the news giant will stand by their report, and they have the tape to prove it.
The New York Times (NYT) stood pat on the accuracy and fairness of its story quoting a cousin of Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III that the Cojuangcos had no intention of giving up Hacienda Luisita for distribution to the farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Carlos Conde, the NYT correspondent in the country, said that the paper was ready to release the tape recording of the interview with Fernando Cojuangco, Aquino's cousin that happened late last month at the sugar plantation.
"We stand by our story. The interview with Mr. Fernando Cojuangco was recorded. If he wants us to release the tape, we will be more than happy to do so," said Conde, who added that he had been authorized to speak on the matter. –The Philippine Daily Inquirer
I don’t know why Noynoy is leading this race. I don’t why people are clamoring for him to become president of the country. Is it because of his mother? Is it because of his father? I really don’t know.
The Cojuangco’s and the Aquino’s has been in the public arena for more than a hundred years. But still, they haven’t done anything to improve the lives of their constituencies. Their businesses continues to flourish, while the people under them continues to suffer.