By Genalyn Kabiling
The deadly incident in Hacienda Luisita could have been avoided if the late President Corazon Aquino did not exclude her family’s vast sugar estate from the agrarian reform program, according to President Duterte.
The President claimed that he “never criticized” Aquino, but argued that she was “in control of everything” who could have fully implemented the land reform program.
“They would remind me of so many killings connected with Doña Luisita before it was actually given. How many killings took place there? Marami ang namatay doon so sana sinali niya ang Doña Luisita [How many killings took place? Many people died. She should have included Luisita],” Duterte said during the oath-taking of newly elected officers of the League of Provinces of the Philippines in Malacañang.
“More than 100 persons died there along the way in the implementation of the land reform. It could have been avoided kung pati ‘yung Doña Luisita sinali niya na noon [if she included Luisita then]. She was the president. She was in control of everything,” he said.
Seven farmers were killed when government forces tried to disperse a protest action by plantation and milling workers seeking land reform at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac on November 16, 2004.
The President earlier said Aquino made an incongruous decision of excluding the Cojuangco-owned land from the agrarian reform program, a landmark law she signed back in 1988. Duterte made the comment after saying Aquino only became popular “for losing the husband in the hands of Mr. Marcos.”
“But what is the fundamental reason why someday, 30 years from now, when we try to balance history? Because Aquino declared land reform for the entire Philippines, but exempted Doña Luisita, her own land,” he said during the Mindanao-wide ceremonial distribution of land certificates to agrarian reform beneficiaries in Davao City last August 2.
“Hindi niya sinali ‘yung sa kanya. She exempted her own so you call her what — the one who freed, emancipated. It’s an incongruity, they call it,” he said.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of Hacienda Luisita’s 4,915-hectare agricultural lands to the original 6,296 beneficiaries.
Early this year, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) committed to continue to distribute remaining portions of Hacienda Luisita to farmer beneficiaries.