The Supreme Court (SC) has rejected a plea for suspension of audit of the controversial Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd and the Cojuangcos.
The ex-leader’s mother is late former president Corazon Cojuangco, a landed family from Tarlac, where the hacienda is located.
In a seven-page resolution, the SC en banc denied the prayer of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) for the halting of the audit of the sugar estate.
HLI had sought the suspension of the audit for 90 days.
“Anent HLI’s prayer for the suspension of the 90-day period for the audit, the same is hereby denied in view of the instant resolution,” the document read.
The Hacienda Luisita case became controversial as the SC, led by then-Chief Justice Renato Corona, ruled to distribute back to farmers the lands that they are tilling.
Corona claimed that Aquino pushed for his impeachment and ouster after he ruled to give the lands back to the farmers.
With a unanimous vote of 14 against 0, the SC en banc affirmed its earlier voting on July 5, 2011 and November 23, 2011 for the distribution of the lands to the farmers.
In the ruling, which covers 4,915.hectares, it ordered HLI to pay the farmers P1.3 billion less the amount they have already received.
The 15-man SC affirmed its November 23, 2011 ruling by stating that
agricultural lands must always be in the control of land tillers.
On the issue of just compensation to the Aquino and Cojuangco families, the SC en banc voting 8-6 affirmed its verdict to pay the landowners based on 1989 valuation or P40,000 per hectare instead of 2006 rate of about P1 million per hectare.
In the resolution at present, the High Court revoked the appointment of Ocampo Mendoza Leung and the Lim accounting firm as member of the audit panel and shall be replaced by Reyes Tacandong & Co.
“Wherefore, premises considered, the instant incidents are resolved in accordance with the foregoing pronouncements. The appointment of Ocampo Mendoza Leung and Lim as member of the audit panel is hereby revoked. In its place, Reyes Tacandong & Co. is hereby appointed as the third member of the audit panel, effective from receipt of this resolution,” it said.
The SC also ruled that “the panel is ordered to submit a monthly report of their audit and a Final Report on or before the lapse of the 90-day period.”
The panel was ordered to audit particularly the P1.33-billion proceeds from sales of three lots in 1996.
It was also instructed to determine if the P1.33 billion “was actually used or spent for legitimate corporate purposes.”