Activist party-list group Anakpawis yesterday slammed the grave abuse of power by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to dictate the ongoing process to audit Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI).
The group said the DAR is continuously pushing the two audit firms that have previous link to the Cojuangco’s HLI to participate in its de facto bidding procedure.
In a statement, Anakpawis party-list vice chairman Fernando Hicap said the DAR is extending its “power trip” up to the point that it is meddling on the ongoing process to choose an independent audit firm to look into HLI records.
Such records supposedly pertain to the P1.33 billion HLI owes to farm worker beneficiaries for the selling of more than 500 hectares of land parcel to Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) and North Luzon Expressway (Nlex) management.
“Despite the resounding and majority decision of parties involved in the auditing process namely the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa loob ng Asyenda Luisita, 1989 Original Farmer Beneficiaries, Farmers for Agrarian Reform Movement, Inc., Luisita Supervisory Union of Hacienda Luisita Inc., the United Luisita Workers Union, and by Mr. Noel Mallari to get the Ocampo, Mendoza, Leung, Lim and Co. service to look into HLI’s records.
DAR quickly rejected the groups’ position and maintained that the Reyes-Tacandong and Co and the KPMG with a local counterpart Manabat Sanagustin and Co. — two firms that previously audited HLI — can apply for the job” Hicap said.
Anakpawis said the move by the DAR to bypass the decision of the majority of the stakeholders is beyond its mandate and runs counter with the farm workers interest.
“It is not only DAR delaying the process but its also making the beneficiaries powerless. The DAR once again shows its brazen arrogance and contempt over their clients’ prerogative. It is an abuse of their mandate,” the group said.
But the activist party-list group expressed optimism the auditing process will be convincing and acceptable to involved parties if DAR should end its politicking and keep HLI out of the picture.
“Clearly, the Cojuangco-led HLI dictates the phase of the audit process. DAR was merely their instrument to legitimize its part on the auditing despite it is the one subjected for financial scrutiny. Just like their maneuvers on the distribution process. This is their gameplan to deliberately mislead the process to prolong the audit because the president and his relatives have no plans to open HLI books of records unless it is done by no other than their trusted cohorts inside the Reyes-Tacandong and KPMG to absolve them on paying the P1.33 billion they owed to the farm worker beneficiaries. HLI and its audit firm cohorts should be banned from the process,” Hicap said.
Meanwhile, braving the 37-degree summer heat, more than 200 Hacienda Luisita farmers and supporters started their caravan to Manila this morning, according to militant Web site bulatlat.com.
Dubbed as “Lakbayan para sa Libreng Pamamahagi ng Lupa sa Hacienda Luisita,” the activity marks the first year of the Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution of some 6,000-hectare sugar plantation controlled by the family of President Aquino.
Led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura UMA, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), the farmers started their march from Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province.
As of yesterday afternoon, the marchers have reached San Nicolas Church in Capas, Tarlac.
They were expected to arrive and spend the night in Angeles City in Pampanga.
“It has been a year since the Supreme Court decided to distribute the Hacienda and we are back on the streets to continue our fight for the free distribution of lands,” ULWU chairman Lito Bais said in a statement.
“We cannot trust the DAR to distribute the lands as it is clearly an instrument of the Cojuangco-Aquinos to perpetuate their control over our lands,” Bais said.
In the same vein, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said, “There is no truth to the Department of Agrarian Reform’s claim that the distribution of Hacienda Luisita is on track. Twelve months after the SC decision, farmworker-beneficiaries are still waiting in vain to own the lands that they have tilled for decades.”
The DAR is mandated to implement the high court decision, released in February, the final list of beneficiaries.
A week after, Agrarian Reform Sec.Virgilio delos Reyes said farm workers will not get any land if they will not sign a written commitment to pay for the land and to make it productive.
“As long as Aquino controls the DAR and the sham Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program remains, the farm workers should be ready for another protracted battle to reclaim Hacienda Luisita from the Cojuangcos,” KMP deputy sec. gen. Willy Marbella said.
The famers also challenged senatorial candidates to replace the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) with “a new and genuine agrarian reform law to realize the free distribution of Hacienda Luisita.”
“The bogus CARP is the biggest stumbling block to Hacienda Luisita’s distribution,” Marbella said.
He maintained that “the CARP was crafted by the Cojuangcos” to evade the distribution of the sugar plantation to its farm workers.
In 1989, during the administration of the late president Corazon Aquino, the Cojuangcos made use of the stock distribution option scheme of the CARP to evade actual land distribution.”
“Today, the Cojuangcos are making use of the provisions of the CARP to deny the farm workers of their hard-earned legal victory,” Marbella said.
Former President now Manila mayoralty candidate Joseph “Erap” Estrada yesterday said he would start the restoration of Manila back to its old glory and make it one of the best cities in the country for senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to live in.
And to prove that that he is putting his money where his mouth is, Estrada said he will donate his salary as mayor of Manila to senior citizens.
“Noong ako ay mayor sa San Juan, yung sweldo ko ibinibigay ko sa Erap Para Sa Mahirap Scholarship Foundation. Kaya sa Maynila naman, ibibigay ko ang aking sweldo para sa mga gamot at iba pang kailangan ng mga senior citizens,” Estrada said.
Estrada cited a documentary at the popular YouTube channel entitled “Ten Worst Cities to Live In” which classified Manila as among the worst cities in the world to live in, even beating cities like Bangkok, Mogadishu of Somalia and Pyongyang of North Korea. Manila was considered as among the 10 worst cities to live in because it has the densest population in the world, with a population density of about 40,000 persons per square kilometer.
Estrada said being already the worst cities in the world to live in, it must be worse if you’re living in Manila and you’re a senior citizen.
This is why Estrada said if he is elected to become mayor of Manila, he would work to restore Manila’s old glory as the senior citizens remember it, and he would make the lives of senior citizens better in Manila, providing them with more benefits than those given by adjacent cities.
Among Estrada’s plans to improve the lives of senior citizens are more benefits for medicines and the more efficient distribution of benefits.
He said he would donate his salary for the programs that will benefit the senior citizens of Manila.
Estrada also said among the programs that will benefit senior citizens include the direct distribution of benefits due to the senior citizens through the barangays.
Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, Estrada’s running-mate, cited a case in which a senior citizen of Manila succumbed to heat stroke because he had to leave confinement at a hospital just to fall in line and personally receive medical assistance from city hall.
Moreno said Estrada would push an ordinance in the city council that will allow senior citizens to get their benefits directly from the barangays.
In response to Estrada’s call for support from the senior citizens of Manila, an association of senior citizens in Manila vowed support to Estrada’s candidacy.
The Citywide Manila Elderly Association Inc. said it supports Estrada and Moreno in the local elections in the City of Manila because they believe the two will fulfil their promises.
“Iluluklok naming kayo sa pwesto ngayong darating na eleksyon, sa isang kondisyon, na kapag nakaluklok na kayo sa pwesto ay tutuparin ninyo ang inyong mga pangako. At kapag nakalimutan ninyo ang mga ito, ay magkalimutan na tayo,” said Precy Bayaras, president of the Citywide Manila Elderly Association.
Sapagkat kaming mga senior citizens ay sawa na sa mga nakakalimot kaya dapat na ipakita namin sa mga nangangampanya na kahit kami ay matanda na ay hindi pa rin kami makakalimutin,” she added.
The Citywide Manila Elderly Association has about 2,000 members across the city of Manila.
The White Vote Movement yesterday deplored the spate of poll-related violence as well as the seeming inability of the country’s law enforcement agencies to stem the growing number of violent incidents involving electoral protagonists in the scheduled May 13 mid-term polls.
In this regard, the movement, composed of different Church-based organization, put up the Honest, Orderly, Peaceful Elections (HOPE) which it claims can help the Filipino people cross the threshold of poverty that can only be possible “if the Filipino electorate will use their right of suffrage wisely during the coming May 13 senatorial and local elections.”
This was stressed by lawyer Aurora Santiago, president of the Sangguniang Laiko ng Pilipinas which spearheaded the creation of the White Vote Movement to be a purely lay initiative that will get actively involved in Monday’s polls.
Santiago said the coming elections is doubly significant in that this will determine whether Filipinos have already achieved political maturity and also because this election is crucial to the country’s survival in the face of what he termed as threats to the sacredness of life and the sanctity of family.
It is for this reason, Santiago said that the White Vote Movement has endorsed the senatorial bids of Reps. Mitos Magsaysay and JV Ejercito, former Rep. Cynthia Villar, vice presidential daughter Nancy Binay, former Senators Dick Gordon and Migz Zubiri, Senators Gringo Honasan, Koko Pimentel and Antonio Trillanes IV, and lawyer Marwil Llasos, all of whom she said, have committed to defend life and the family.
Santiago said that the White Vote Movement was organized as a response to the challenges the country is experiencing in the spiritual, social and political life of the nation, as he stressed that the movement will strive to encourage measures that will promote the flourishing of individuals and the communities in which they live, and will act to challenge injustice whether it arises from government actions and or inaction, economic and business practices, in the education system, in religious institutions and, through the political exercise.
She said that with its endorsement, the lay faithful is merely complying with its mandate to actively participate in the life and mission of the Church in accord with our God-given gifts to promote subsidiarity, human development and true peace through the electoral exercise.
The White Vote Movement, said Santiago, is committed to promote programs that would alleviate poverty where it exists, housing for the poor, and advocacies for the protection of life from death bills, the preservation of the Filipino family, adherence to Christian values based on our belief that we who comprise the Filipino nation have equal worth and dignity without regard to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or class. The movement, he added, shall also promote the protection of the environment and, good governance through an active participation in the democratic processes such as public forums, social media, communications and democratic processes such as the ballot.
The White Vote Movement is composed of the biggest charismatic communities and established parish-mandated organizations in the Catholic Church who see the need to elect senators and congressmen with not only a high regard for law and order but a deep commitment to protect the sacredness of life and the sanctity of the Filipino family because there can be no environment for business to operate in order to create jobs if those who will lead this country will only make a mockery of democracy, the judicial system and Christian values.
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