Arroyo’s and Corona’s ordeal: It was always about Hacienda Luisita


In trying to explain the ordeal of impeachment that he and his family were subjected to by President Aquino and the administration, former chief justice Renato Corona bluntly declared that it was the Hacienda Luisita issue that was the principal reason for his impeachment and for the unusual maneuvers (fair and foul) taken by the President to secure his conviction by the Senate.

In the Supreme Court’s en banc decision on the Hacienda Luisita case, which was handed down on Nov. 22, 2011, and which associate justice Presbitero Velasco penned, the high court ordered the total distribution of the hacienda to 6,296 registered farm worker-beneficiaries. The tribunal ordered and pegged the just compensation to Hacienda Luisita, Inc. based on the hacienda’s market price in 1989. It also ordered that the P1.33 billion proceeds of the sale of some 500 hectares of the land be returned to the farmers.

Ten of the 14 justices who participated in the deliberations concurred with Velasco that the valuation of the lands should be computed according to the prevailing rates when Hacienda Luisita implemented the stock distribution option (SDO) on Nov. 21, 1989.

If Hacienda Luisita was indeed a major factor behind Aquino’s push to impeach Corona, it was arguably an even more compelling reason for Aquino’s relentless and non-stop campaign to indict President Arroyo on plunder and other charges, and to secure a conviction in court.

Luisita: A tangled, troubled and tragic history
Cases of this magnitude and importance, with high-profile personalities on the dock, do not materialize from nowhere. They have a history, and the beginning, without doubt, is Hacienda Luisita, the 6,453-hectare plantation and farmland in Tarlac, with its peculiar, tangled, troubled, and even tragic history.

At an elemental level, those battling for control over the land are the Cojuangco family clan of President Benigno Cojuangco-Aquino 3rd, who have farmed, managed and profited from the property since the 1950s, and aspire to keep the rights to the land, and the over 6,000 farmer beneficiaries and their families, who seek to assert their rights to the land, by virtue of the original deed and conditions for awarding the land to the Cojuangcos and in line with the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court in November 2011.

President Arroyo and former Chief Justice Corona are protagonists in this by virtue of the high offices they used to serve, and of their involvement in critical decisions by the government that bear heavily on the fate of the hacienda and the fate of land reform in the country.

It is a measure of Luisita’s significance that the cases and the tragic incidents associated with it have drawn considerable coverage from international and local media, including the New York Times, and most recently, the Al Jazeera international cable network.

GMA Network, in its popular website, has admirably put together a special report on Hacienda Luisita, that seems to me the most comprehensive, detailed and insightful overview on the Hacienda Luisita story and its attendant cases and controversies.

Written and reported by Stephanie Dychiu, it consists of five extensive parts, and it was first posted on January 18, 2010, to coincide with the presidential election campaign of 2010, in which one Cojuangco heir, Benigno Aquino 3rd, was a leading candidate.

Ms. Dychiu’s exceptional report admirably telescopes the key events, developments and dates in Luisita’s torturous story that help to explain the intense antagonisms that developed between Presidents Arroyo and Aquino, and between President Aquino and Justice Corona.

Part of this is due to the shifting of political alliances and objectives.

Part of this is also due to points of fact and law, and tragic incidents that clamor for justice and closure.

From allies to bitter enemies
From a careful reading of Ms. Dychiu’s report, particularly the timeline she provides, I am convinced that President Aquino’s hostility to President Arroyo is rooted in differences between them regarding the resolution of the ownership dispute between the Cojuangcos and the farmers, and certain unreasonable expectations that were not met.

How could two leaders, coming from the same region and erstwhile allies with each other, turn into bitter enemies?

At a media forum in Annabel’s Restaurant last year, I asked Arroyo counsel, Raul Lambino, what is the personal animus between Presidents Arroyo and Aquino that underlies the indictment of Arroyo on plunder and other charges, and the repeated filing of cases even after they have been dismissed or withdrawn.

Do Aquino’s actions and statements indicate a desire to exact revenge on GMA? If so, for what offense? I asked Lambino whether this had something to do with the decision of the Arroyo administration to revoke the stock distribution option (SDO) to implement land reform at Hacienda Luisita?

The timeline in Ms Dychiu’s special report is revealing and suggestive. Here are the most significant events and developments.

January 22, 1987—tragic shooting of 13 protesting farmers on Mendiola street, in front of Malacañan Palace.

May 18, 1988—the Court of Appeals dismisses the case filed in 1980 by the Philippine government—under Ferdinand Marcos—against the Cojuangco company TADECO to compel the handover of Hacienda Luisita. It was the Philippine government itself—under Cory Aquino—that filed the motion to dismiss its own case.

June 10, 1988—Cory Aquino signs the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Soon after, Hacienda Luisita is placed under the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) that Aquino included in the law. Through the SDO, landlords could comply with the land reform law without giving land to farmers.

June 8, 1988—Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate Minority Leader, delivers a privilege speech questioning Aquino’s insertion of the SDO in her outline for the land reform law, and the power she gave herself through Executive Order No. 229 to preside over the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), the body that would approve stock distribution programs, including the one for Hacienda Luisita. Enrile also questioned the Aquino administration’s withdrawal of the government’s case compelling land distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmers. All these, Enrile said, were indications that the Cojuangcos had taken advantage of the powers of the presidency to circumvent land reform and stay in control of Hacienda Luisita.

December 4, 2003—Luisita farm workers file petition with the department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to have Luisita’s SDO agreement revoked.

January 25, 2004—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo greets President Cory on her 71st birthday, and sends her a cake with the dedication, “To Tita Cory, from your number one fan, Gloria.”

In the May 2004 elections, Cory and family throw their support behind Arroyo. Arroyo beats Fernando Poe Jr. in the presidential balloting.

November 16, 2004—7 farmers are killed near the gate of the sugar mill of Hacienda Luisita.

May 24, 2005—President Arroyo signs the EVAT into law, two weeks before the existence of the Hello Garci tapes was announced to the media by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye on June 6, 2005.

June 30, 2005—Tarlac Representative Benigno Aquino 3rd votes against playing the Hello Garci tapes in Congress. The day before, the Philippine Star reported that Aquino called Arroyo’s televised apology (for calling an election official) a “good start” for her administration, and said Arroyo should be commended for admitting her mistake.

July 8, 2005—Cory and Noynoy Aquino withdraw their support for Arroyo and join calls for president Arroyo to resign. In 2005, GMA survives her crisis of survival, with the backing of former president Fidel V. Ramos and Speaker Jose de Venecia, and the support of the armed forces.

July 2005—Nasser Pangandaman is appointed as Agrarian Reform Secretary. He succeeded Rene Villa, who joined the Hyatt 10, and was busy lawyering for Janet Lim Napoles.

The Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) revokes the stock distribution option (SDO) of Hacienda Luisita, Inc (HLI) on the ground that the SDO failed to improve the farm workers’ lives within the 16 years of its operation. HLI must withdraw its petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court so the land can be distributed by the DAR to the farmer beneficiaries.

August 1, 2009—former president Corazon Aquino dies of colon cancer and is mourned by the nation.

August 2009—the SDO is formally abolished in the updated land reform law CARPER (CARP with Extensions and Revisions) that is passed in August 2009 by Congress and signed into law by President Arroyo.

February 9, 2010—Candidate Noynoy Aquino kicks off his presidential campaign in Concepcion, Tarlac and vows that his family would ensure the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmer-beneficiaries by June 2014—the extended deadline for agricultural lands to be turned over to qualified beneficiaries under CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extensions and Revisions).

Tomorrow. It will already be June 2014. The farmers will be ready to collect. But no one knows whether the agrarian reform department will deliver.

GMA earned CORY’s ire for not honoring SDO
Judging by this narrative of events, it seems highly likely that President Cory met her death, bitter and frustrated about Hacienda Luisita, and bitter toward President Arroyo.

Presidents after her, including Presidents Ramos and Estrada, sought to keep the goodwill of the Cojuancos by respecting the SDO at Luisita. Estrada, according to Mark Cojuangco, bestowed on Congressman Noynoy Aquino a whopping pork barrel of P1 billion.

Under President Gloria Arroyo, the tacit agreement was apparently unhinged.

What evidently changed the situation was the masasacre of seven farmers at Hacienda Luisita in November 2004.

Although Noynoy Aquino had been elected as deputy speaker for Central Luzon, the reform of CARP was inexorably moving forward. President Arroyo gave her support to CARPER, which decreed the elimination of the repugnant SDO. The amended law was passed by Congress in August 2009.

Noynoy Aquino was by then a senator, and he could not stop the bill from clearing the legislative mill.

Having failed to force Arroyo’s resignation in 2005, the clan took to blaming her for its looming reversal of fortunes in Hacienda Luisita.

And then followed the deluge. The Supreme Court declaratively ruled in favor of the farmer-beneficiaries, and against the Cojuangcos, whose main tactic had been to avoid following the conditions for the deed of agreement

The enormity of this setback to the family no doubt fed into Noynoy’s feeling of vindictiveness toward President Arroyo and Chief Justice Corona—the one for being unwilling as president to stop the sword of Damocles from falling, and the other for being party to the principled decision of the Supreme Court.

The hunger for revenge fed into the psycho-profile of the young Benigno Aquino 3rd provided by the Jesuit psychologist Fr. Jaime Bulatao, who observed Pinoy’s evident obsession to punish all those who had done harm to his family.

From here, it is an easy jump to a policy of inflicting as much punishment and humiliation as possible on President Arroyo and Justice Corona. And to using all the powers of the executive to accomplish the purpose.


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  1. Julian Tulay on

    Everything is just waste of time, this cases, likes from the past just don’t go anywhere until it was forgotten and the culprit never punished and keep their loot. It is in most Filipinos DNA to cheat, lie and steal.

  2. Cancer at namatay na. nagdurusa sa pag -iisip,karma ang tawag diyan,mga dugo ng magsasaka ang itinago at pagdurusa ang pikit matang binali-wala nila,kulang pang parusa kung ihahabing sa tinamo ng maralitang magsasaka,iwan ko kung malangit na pueding puntahan ang mga ganitongganid sa kayaman,

  3. Talaga nman. May mga iilan fans ng Corrupt Gloria at Corona na humihirit pa rin. Magkano kaya binayad sa inyo? Palagay ko malaki. Kasi kung palabasin nyo parang mga Santo itong dalawa

  4. Pnoy and company will be measured by the same weight he had used againts those whom he’d exacted his revenge. “Alea iacta est.”

  5. There’s something very very wrong with you Mr. M for thinking that Corona was appointed as Justice/Chief Justice by Gloria contrary to Law and jurisprudence to do justice to every Filipino including you. Amazingly the same SC overwhelmingly voted for the legality of the appointment. Thus making it official that the new Antonym of Legal is Righteousness as far as the judiciary is concerned.

  6. What bothers me is that we have reverted back to the Hispanic days when the landlords controlled this country. The landed oligarchs are back with a vengeance. The control the basic public utilities… mass transport, water, power & energy. One top executive of a big Makati based real estate company when interviewed by a foreign newsman had the gall to blurt out that their company can freely and with extreme impunity acquire & develop large tracts of lands anywhere in the country, public or private because the govt has no regulatory body to stop them from doing so. Large tracts of agricultural lands devoted to rice production are turned into industrial and commercial centers. Just look at the areas in San Pedro, Binan and Sta. Rosa. Educational institutions, public hospitals and even the importation of rice is being controlled by big businessmen and their lackeys in govt. After all, the rural boy from Ilocos must have been on the right track.

  7. Karma. Noynoy’s family was suppose to give it to the farmers in 1967 but they squatted on it. When Cory called for the ouster of GMA, GMA run after Cory. Not only was Luisita the target, there was a move to oust Peping from the POC. And as history goes, the Leftists and GMA successfully took Luisita from the Aquinos.

    But the juicy facts dont end there. Cory never intended to sign CARP but was coerced by the situation and her own people. Cory took over the reigns government when Marcos was deposed in 1986. Her fledging government was rocked in Jan 1987 when her own police forces created the Mendiola Massacre. To appease the Left and avoid a civil war, a “win-win” proposal for both parties was made. The rallying Leftist farmers were only asking for government lands but because of the massacre, the agrarian reform(rice & corn only) of Marcos was expanded to included all agrilands regardless of the crop planted. In return, Cory would still retain Hda. Luisita through an unpublicized one-year loophole that they created.

    25 years after CARP or 42 years after PD 27 or 50 years after R.A.3844, our farmers and the entire philippine agriculture are in the eye of the storm. Agrarian reform became popular thanks to the Soviet model but its success was never verified. In fact, it had a terrible effect on its people. The powerful China that we know of today launched their agrarian reform program under Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” program that resulted in the death of 45 million citizens. Taiwan and Japan, that concentrated on rice lands, immediately replotted and consolidated their lands when their people migrated to the urban areas for better opportunities as a result of the uneconomic sizes of their plots. There are close to 40 countries that attempted agrarian reform and it resulted to a combination of the the following: mass starvation, death, mass migration, hyperinflation, loss of opportunities, etc.

    Why? All these seem so simple but is actually a bit more complicated than it appears. Our farmers have an educational attainment of only grade 4. They have no business experience. They receive very little or no support from government. Under CARP-CARPer, they cannot borrow over their land; banks consider them “high risk”. They cannot sell them or acquire more land to decrease their costs either. While costs of inputs such as fertilizer, taxes, labor, electricity, food, etc keep on increasing, the prices of their produce is capped by government under the government’s Cheap Food Policy. When the prices turn south, they are left in the cold. Then comes the BIR who only is concerned with their targets. Then there is the influx of cheap imported alternatives competing with our farmers produce.

    Nobody talks about the effects of CARP because of the effective propaganda of the Left and the opportunists within government who have been using this program as their cash cow for several decades. Just ask DAR’s Pangandaman, Narciso Nieto, Panlilio, and possibly present DAR chief De Los Reyes who are mentioned in the Napoles P10-billion Scam. If not them then maybe Taskforce Mapalad’s clandestine Chairman Christian Monsod who heads the NGO(PARFUND) that is the main recepient of international funding for this program for a long time already. How much is you salary and what are your benefits mr. chairman? Where does the CARP money go? We hear about the money, but we dont see the positive results.

    In fact, according to DAR, by the end of june next month, CARP would have covered 99% of agrilands. Again, for whose benefit? For foreign interests? Thats the only conclusion I end up with.

    How can a farmer who is an 57 year old, educated to only grade 4, knows nothing about business, etc be expected to succeed? The obvious answer is he cannot. And along with that answer is the serious threat to our food security because once they are gone, we wont be seeing them for several decades or possibly for good.

    • Sir, sorry to tell you that there are so many inaccuracies in the facts of your article today. Please give more time for yourself to make and honest-to-goodness research before any contributions. Thanks and hope you wont mind this comment.

  8. Gloria M. Kuizon on

    You make it sound, Mr. Makabenta, that President Aquino is a terribly vindictive person.

    The peasants of Hacienda Luisita are also saying so about the whole Cojuangco family.

  9. Andres R. Samson on

    Personal gains and aggrandizement of all the family interests he swore himself to pursue and uphold. The reason why BSA 3 does not even wear the Seal of the Republic but instead a yellow ribbon of rabid devotion to those purposes.

  10. I will tell you when i 1st saw juan ponce enrile was a thief, when i think it was the world bank or whatever bank that said for the philippines to remain a member they had to implement these new banking laws or procedures or they wouldnt be allowed to remain a member. He said & i quote ” who are they to tell us how to run our banking system “. Now these procedures were to help eliminate corrupt money & stolen money being made legal. But i didnt see a sing reporter here mention that or anything like that. I spoke of it to all my pinoy friends & they didnt have a clue & one of them is a bank manager.

  11. Lets say you are right that coronas impeachment was all about that. Do you now after seeing how much illegal money he had in his dollar account that he is a fit & proper person to be the supreme court chief justice. Now surely before he was selected to that post by gloria shouldnt he have been checked out from top to bottom to show he was sqeaky clean. But it seems he was selected to possibly take glorias side on this. I will never really understand the hacienda case but i have no problems with corona being impeached as didnt he sack a woman with a low paying job in government because she didnt include her market stall in her saln. You have heard it said before what goes around comes around. He got what he deserved. Now if gloria is also squeaky clean she will be found not guilty or are you saying still your courts are dishonest & if so then jail the judges & start again.
    I have nnever seen such a country with such rag tag & bob tail people in all forms of control. You are all so devious from top to bottom & i know personaly i would never believe a word of what a pinoy said to me without proof as lying comes so easy to you people & those who lie are always backed up by all around them. These things are unheard of in my country, yes you get the odd scumbag there but here it seems its everyy single one of you.

    • Ahhh Dustin, what wonderful place, somewhere over the rainbow do you come from, where politicians are honest and public servants are efficient? All countries suffer from the same malaise. ” The louder they spoke about honor, the faster we counted our spoons”

    • you correct maybe but, I hate to see that the people who convicted Corona for the said offenses were all crooks!
      What is the difference between Corona and the president? The president’s family specially Cojuancos were cronies to the dictator Marcos and I’m sure they were part of all the conspiracies to take all advantages in the Marcos regime! They convicted Corona for crimes that all of the congressmen/women were also committed the same as Corona’s crime! weren’t they? What I am trying to say is that they cast the first stone not knowing that their hands were also dirty of the crimes!

    • dustin,

      1. No proof offered nor found that Corona’s money was “illegally” gotten. It was not declared and not without basis in law –the absolute confidentiality of dollar deposits
      2. The woman sacked you’re mentioning was not sacked for not declaration in SALN but because she was getting double compensations for 2 government posts.

    • better for you to investigate, what really happened to that case of that woman. Many don’t know exactly what happened

    • but there’s nothing illegal about Corona’s money in the bank. All was accounted for EXCEPT TO THOSE PAINTED HIM BLACK.

      Compare Corona’s millions to the millions of the current politicians seating in the high positions of the Government. … Corona must be the smallest crook among the BIGGEST YELLOW CROOKS in the land.

    • bobby Ulili on

      the whole impeachment process was simply illegal, from the speed reading of the complaint to the opening of the bank accounts.

    • @Dustin , don’t tell me that the country where you come from is squeaky clean and free of corruption, it is not so.

    • Dring the Renato Corona impeachment trial, no less than Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile mentioned that the impeachment court found no evidence that Mr. Corona’s wealth was made illegally. It was all about the SALN that those thieves from the Senate based their guilty verdict, a SALN which according to law can be rectified and not an impeachable one. But the millions of bribe money for each of them, but 3, was too tempting to refuse and they were like Judas who sold Jesus Christ for the money. Expect that Kim Henares and the Sandigan is or will rewarded by PNoy for towing the ampao line all the way to vilify Corona.

  12. Samuel Santos on

    (With apologies to Madame Roland): “O Hacienda Luisita! What crimes are committed in thy name!”

  13. Bravo, Yen. Your comment are very revealing and well presented. They are really the facts that you presented.

    It shows that who ever is in power can do what is wrong and what is right with the cooperation of the legislative and the judiciary.

    Democracy does not exist in the Philippines. I have seen in your column the difference between the rich and the poor. Greed, power, justice and the result of revenge.

    The whole thing that happened emanated on one main thing. By not following the deed by the Cojuangco’s.

  14. amen to you mr makabenta.the choronology of events pointed to one direction.keep hasyenda luisita at all costs to the matter who was on their way,they will all go down at the premise of daang matuwid.too bad,these two(arroyo and corona were against the wishes of the cojuancos.)

  15. ..and the filipino people allows him to do so…how about ninoy himself, his ordeal and followed by his death, was there any dot connected to this to get back at marcos? before arroyo there was marcos…the truth is always out there under layers of lies, deceptions, etc….

    thanks for sharing this.

    • Former Pres Marcos was the first one who has brought the issue of the Cojuangco’s illegal holding of Hacienda Luisita , for not following the deed (provision that after 10 yrs the legal beneficiary of Hacienda Luisita are the poor farmers -tilling the land )

  16. Alouette4342 on

    Quite an eye opener! It has provided a better understanding of whys and wherefores of the on goings at HL. Interesting!

    • Errr.. no. Like most of the senators said, impeachment was a political process. Nothing legal about it. Luisita issue is more political than legal.

      If its about corruption, nasaan na ang mga kaso?

    • They are all corrupt. So when Corrupt Official of the Governemnt is destroying another corrupt politician… THAT’S CALLED POLITICS, i.e., poltiics to hide a hideous motive to protect one’s own self interest .. in this case Hacienda Luisita.

      In America, they know that the greatest evil in the society is not CRIME OR POVERTY OR IMMORALITY OR CORRUPTION. IT’S HYPOCRISY. Rizal’s novels and Bonifacio’s tragedy are attestation to the greatest injustice that can be brought by hypocritical politicians and civil leaders.

      Sadly, the current yellow government is the most HYPOCRITICAL OF THEM ALL.

    • Yes, it is Hacienda Luisita and many form of corruption they employed towards the poor farmers ,and so they can hold unto it forever at the expense of the supposed legal beneficiaries, the poor farmers

  17. I believe the Filipino people can not be deceived by all these negative publicity to the President and his cabinet. I can understand the issues on Hacienda Luisita. There are failures with the Arroyos and Aquinos.But what matters to the Filipino people now is not about the past but the improvement of our economy, creating jobs, investing on infrustructures, industries that are sustainable and support further development of all industries, cleaning up the government, charging the legislatures who have rob the government and common people, etc. .

    • All Presidents of the Philippines has contributed many ideas and vision for our country, there maybe flaws and imperfection but who are not Thru education, cultural exchanges and professional accomplishments of many Filipinos all over the world , all if it derived from how our past Presidents who intelligently represent our interest as a democratic country to the rest of the world.

  18. what’s new? that’s exactly what P-noy intended to do from the very start. vengeance was his from day one of his presidency. i wonder though if it would have been different if mar roxas did not give way to P-noy.