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Legislator blasts Department of Agrarian Reform for overpaying President’s kin in Hacienda Luisita acquisition deal

25 September 2013 No Comment

PRESS RELEASE
September 25, 2013

Reference: ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (0920-9220817)

A party-list representative denounced the Department of Agrarian Reform for overpaying the landowners of Hacienda Luisita in acquiring the lands of the vast sugar estate for distribution.

“There has been an overpayment of over P167 million to the Cojuangcos,” said ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio. “Public funds have been used to further enrich the President’s kin.” Hacienda Luisita is owned by the Cojuangco clan of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

In his interpellation during the House deliberation on the DAR budget, Tinio denounced the decision of DAR Secretary Gil De Los Reyes to pay interest on top of the land valuation of the 4,500.7978 hectares of land acquired from Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated.

Responding to questioning by Tinio, Committee on Appropriations Vice-Chairperson Rep. Henry Pryde Teves revealed that DAR paid HLI a total of P471,501,417.98, broken down as follows: P304,033,138.20 million as the actual cost of land and an additional P167,468,278.78 million as interest. The figures were provided by Sec. Gil De Los Reyes and Land Bank First Vice-President for Agrarian Services Alex Lorayes.

The solon questioned the payment of interest on top of the actual cost of the land based on the 1998 valuation, as mandated by the Supreme Court. His questioning revealed that the P167.46 million interest represented the cash equivalent of matured 10-year Land Bank bonds computed using the prevailing 91-day T-Bill rates from 1989 to 1999.

Tinio noted that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law allows the payment of 25% in cash and the remainder in 10-year Land Bank bonds as a mode of payment of just compensation to landowners. “It appears that the DAR used this as a basis for computing the compensation they paid to the Cojuangcos,” he said.

“However, such a formula is grossly disadvantageous to government and the taxpayers,” said Tinio. “Compensation should have been for the actual land value of P304 million only, since DAR will not be paying them over a a ten-year period as contemplated in the law. Why did DAR pay the Cojuangcos extra for the 10-year cost of money when they were paid outright and in full?”

Tinio noted that the DAR was perpetrating a further injustice against the farmers who have been deprived of ownership of the Hacienda Luisita lands. “The Supreme Court ruled that the Cojuangcos have unlawfully retained ownership and control of Luisita lands since 1989. This deprived farmers of lands and its economic benefits, prolonged their exploitation and oppression, including the massacre of 2004. Now the DAR has used taxpayer funds to further enrich the Cojuangcos on top of such oppression. This is all the more outrageous considering that it is the President’s own family that benefits.”

Tinio pressed the issue further by pointing out that despite the overpayment, the Cojuangcos are still questioning the compensation already paid to them and demanding that government pay them much more. The Cojuangco complaint is currently being heard by the DAR Adjudication Board.

It was further revealed during the interpellation that unofficial computations could see the Cojuangcos claim anywhere from P784 million to as much as P1.5 billion in compensation.

“The greed of the Cojuangco clan must be exposed. Up to the last moment when they have already relinquished ownership, they still to extract their pound of flesh. With the aid of compliant DAR and Land Bank officials, they might just get away with it.”

Tinio notes that DAR overpayment reveals the government’s pro-landlord bias in the implementation of the CARL. Furthermore, it exposes how the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program serves as a mechanism for enriching landowners at the taxpayers’ expense.

“Land reform is supposed to be a mechanism for redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor. With this overpayment to the President’s kin using public funds, what we’re seeing is a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the Cojuangcos.”

Tinio vowed to that he would continue to hold DAR accountable for the overpayment. “I will call for a Congressional investigation and explore possible legal action as well. The excess payment must be recovered from the Cojuangcos in the name of justice and for the sake of all taxpayers.” #

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