There would be more questions raised against the use of funds allocated under the Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP) on uneconomical activity that did not in fact generate employment opportunities. Will the government, for instance, go after the Cojuangco-owned HLI to recover the DAP money when President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco 3rd is himself a member of the family that owns the company? Being one of the heirs to HLI’s vast landholdings, Aquino is not expected to willingly lose his own inheritance.
As far as the Department of Agrarian Reform is concerned, DAP’s P471.5 million went to HLI. Here is a quote from a press release issued by DAR on the issue: “We must also remember that the Supreme Court had not yet decided with finality the Hacienda Luisita case when the acceleration of the cash release for landowners compensation was approved in 2011,” said DAR Undersecretary Anthony Paruñgao.
But on top of all these questions is this: If HLI has been paid P471.5 million as “just compensation”, what for was the money. Due Diligencer has already raised this issue in a piece on July 11 which was titled, “DAP money for Hacienda Luisita? What for?” but it has yet to find the answers.
If the Cojuangco-Aquinos, who are in power now, don’t talk about their claims on the hacienda, it is because somebody else is doing the talking for them. They could count on the DAR and its top officials to fight for their right over HLI lands, forgetting that the DAR is the government’s agrarian reform arm just as the Land Bank is the financing arm.
At this point, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes deserves the benefit of the doubt. But unless he comes out with a more credible statement, he won’t be able to justify the payment made by Land Bank of P471.5 million to HLI as “just compensation”. Right now, his defense of Hacienda Luisita and its owners could be interpreted simply as an expression of loyalty to the family of President Aquino, to whom alone he owes his allegiance.
De los Reyes could have clearly explained the use of P471.5 million in paying the Cojuangcos what his department has defined as “just compensation” had he supported his statements with statistics such as the number of hectares that the family gave up in favor of their tenant farmers. He also should have done some computations of his own to find out the truth behind the P471.5 million payment.
Was the amount legally justifiable when the payment was made after the Supreme Court had already rejected distribution of shares of stock as full compliance with the agrarian reform law?
De los Reyes may not worry much over the legality of the payment or about the source of funds. Rather, if X stands for the unknown, then there would be a few Xs that the agrarian reform chief has to properly identify.
For instance, since the payment to the president’s family is a known number, will De los Reyes identify the farm lands, which in De los Reyes’s computation should be represented by an X, that were distributed by the Cojuangcos to their tenants? How many hectares has HLI already lost to its 4,900 tenants that it should be compensated for?
Where then did the money go? Was it to pay for the shares of stock HLI gave to the farmers?
De los Reyes, with his statements limited to defending his political patrons, may want to review HLI documents before opening his mouth. The truth, which has probably escaped him and his fellow DAR officials, is that the recipients of HLI shares of stock were to pay for them. Here is what Due Diligencer discovered in reviewing HLI’s financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Acquisition cost of the shares which amounted to P3.9 million yearly,” a footnote to HLI’s financial statement audited by SGV and Co. shows, “is charged to salaries, wages and employees’ benefits . . . .”
If the farmers were to shoulder the payments for their participation in the ownership of HLI, then the question that begs for an answer from De los Reyes is: Haven’t HLI and its owners been wrongly compensated P471.5 million for farm lands they did not lose?.