Palace: Aquino hands off on Hacienda Luisita deal

Posted at 08/09/2010 1:37 PM | Updated as of 08/09/2010 1:48 PM

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III did not, in any way, meddle into the affairs of Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI), which struck a deal with its farmer-beneficiaries last week.

In a press conference on Monday, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said: “Let me just state, he had no discussion or involvement in the compromise deal. He was just informed recently of the compromise…He does not know the details.”

Militant groups are supposedly gearing to launch massive protests against the supposed “sham” deal that the sugar estate managers allegedly forced the farmers to approve.

HLI representatives and 3 labor unions signed an agreement in Tarlac on Friday, giving farmers the choice to retain their shares via a stock distribution option (SDO) or own a parcel of land in the sugar estate.

Only around 1,400 hectares comprising a third of the 6,500-hectare hacienda will be put up for distribution.

The agreement also includes a P150 million financial assistance for the 12,000 farmer-beneficiaries of HLI.

The militant groups, despite being informed that most of the farmers have chosen the easy route, are pinning the blame on Aquino, whose relatives on the Cojuangco side own and control the sugar estate.

The groups claim Aquino had given his blessings by simply saying the case was one of “intra-corporate dispute.”

Already, several farmers have staged protests outside Aquino’s home on Times Street early on Monday.

Lacierda said Aquino does not know the details of the compromise deal.

“He was just given the broadstrokes…Other than that, hindi siya nakikialam…What I understand is that he’s already divested [his shares],” he said.

Malacañang will also not interfere in case Congress decides to look into the nuances of the deal, he said.

“[Aquino] welcomes the development (signing of deal) because it was peaceful…He understands there will be people who will not be happy with it, pero ang mahalaga ay ang ninanais ng farmers. It went through a referendum,” he said.

Lacierda asked the public to allow the Supreme Court to resolve the case.

The land distribution dispute is the subject of a case in the high court. The deal, which is technically not yet binding, will be submitted during the oral arguments on August 18. -- with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News