Villar ally bares Luisita land ‘scam’

im having second thoughts about voting Noynoy… (sigh, sigh, sigh)

Villar ally bares Luisita land ‘scam’

November 12, 2009 04:23:00

Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla has exposed a supposed “sweetheart deal” between the Arroyo administration and the Aquino-Cojuangco clan of Tarlac province involving the allegedly “overpriced” purchase of land from the 6,400-hectare Hacienda Luisita for the right of way for the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

At a House oversight committee hearing Wednesday, Remulla said the government paid P83 million for the purchase of the right-of-way and invested another P170 million to build a road interchange in the middle of the vast sugar estate.

Remulla alleged that the government agreed to buy 83 ha of Luisita land at P100 per square meter which he claimed was more than 10 times the going rate of P6 to P8 per sq. m. for similar raw sugar lands in Concepcion and San Miguel, Tarlac.

“This is undoubtedly the most expensive sugar land in the country because based on DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) records, the highest price it paid for sugar land was only P14,” the congressman said.

Unnecessary purchase

The Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway project is meant to promote the expansion of businesses and logistic facilities in Central Luzon. It links the seaport and airport facilities of the economic zones of Subic in Zambales and Clark in Angeles, Pampanga, to the industrial hub of Tarlac, Tarlac.

Remulla claimed that the right-of-way purchase was unnecessary and impractical as the SCTEx was originally designed to pass through the commercialized portion of Luisita and not in the middle of “raw” land.

“There was no need to pass through the middle of Luisita, much less build a P170 million road interchange in the middle of nowhere. That interchange leads directly to a private road owned by the Aquino-Cojuangco family, which as of now, is still in their possession and they can demand anything from the government before they hand it over,” said Remulla.

He claimed that Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III had lobbied for the alleged “diversion” of the SCTEx to Luisita when he was the representative for Tarlac and House deputy speaker in 2004.

Alliance over

Remulla noted that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the late former President Corazon Aquino, Noynoy’s mother, were still political allies at the time and that Aquino had campaigned for Ms Arroyo in the 2004 presidential election.

Their alliance ended when Cory Aquino joined the Hyatt 10 group of Arroyo Cabinet officials that demanded the President’s resignation in the wake of the “Hello Garci” scandal in 2005.

What makes the deal worse, according to Remulla, was the alleged failure of the Aquino-Cojuangco family to pay the farmers their “just” share from the P83 million.

“The farmers own 33.8 percent of Hacienda Luisita Inc. and yet each farmer was given dividends of only 50 centavos and P1 which is spare change to the outrageous gift from Arroyo,” he said.

Remulla said the purchase of the Luisita right-of-way was partly the reason why the budget for the 94-kilometer SCTEx ballooned from the original estimate of P21.39 billion to P32.8 billion.

Also at the hearing, Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz said the P250-million bonanza for Luisita explained why Noynoy has refused to participate in the Senate probe of the C-5 double insertion investigation of Sen. Manuel Villar.

Villar rival

Villar and Aquino are rival aspirants for president in the 2010 elections. Remulla’s brother is the spokesperson of Villar’s Nacionalista Party.

Villar has been accused of diverting the C-5 road extension project to benefit his firm’s subdivisions in Las Piñas and Parañaque cities and of lobbying to get a P200-million budget for its construction. Villar has denied the charges.

In a related development, the military Wednesday said there is nothing unusual in the presence of government troops in Hacienda Luisita.

An Army company, consisting of about 120 soldiers, has been deployed in the sugar estate even before the Nov. 16 anniversary of the so-called 2004 “Luisita massacre,” said Capt. Enrico Ileto of the Armed Forces public information office.

Army command post

He said the command post of the 31st mechanized infantry company is stationed at Barangay Balete to ensure peace and order in the estate and to conduct community development programs for the farmers and their families.

Anak Pawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano has claimed that soldiers have been arriving in two barangays of the sugar estate.

He said the hacienda farmers were worried that this might be related to the Nov. 15 deadline that the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) gave them to register. The HLI is seeking the registration in order to weed out those who are not proper beneficiaries of the hacienda. The farmers are refusing to register.

Mariano said the farmers are also concerned that the presence of the soldiers may be related to the fifth anniversary of the “massacre,” in which seven people were killed during a clash between striking hacienda workers and the police and soldiers. With Leila B. Salaverria


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