101st … balabag ni parasapinga sa hacienda lusita ng aquino/cojuangco …

Long time ago, parasapinga played a round of golf with dindo, jojo,  ed and macky ennyu  in tarlac without really knowing that these lands have been one of the centers of oligarchy in the island of luzon, unaware of the fact the well-manicured lawns were toiled by the peasants for the glory and grandeur of the rich.

That was in Hacienda Luisita, a sugar plantation plantation in tarlac,  owned by the “Cojuangco” family.

The hacienda covers about 435 hectares of land  in several municipalities as large as “Makati City”  and  “Pasig City”

Previous owners, as allowed by the spaniards and its colonial government, was “Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas, Sociedad Anónima, better known as “Tabacalera” which was founded on 26 November 1880’s by colonialists from Santander, “Cantabria” and “Santiago de Cuba”, Don Antonio López y López.  

Lopez relative Ricardo Padilla, married Gloria Zóbel y Montojo (younger half sister of Mercedes Zóbel de Ayala de McMicking, largest Zóbel owner in the Ayala group of companies) and was an aide-de-camp of “Juan de Borbón”, Count of Barcelona, father of the King of Spain, His Majesty Don Juan Carlos de todos los Santos de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias. The estate was named after Antonio’s wife, Luisa Bru y Lassús.

Then, the american colonial government took over. Thus, the new owners claimed prosperous times for the hacienda and the american market. At one point,  Luisita supplied almost 20% of all sugar in the United States.

In the 1950s, the onset of the “Hukbalahap” rebellion led the  owners of  Tabacalera to sell Hacienda Luisita and the sugar mill “Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

Ramón Magsaysay, then president of the Philippines, blocked the sale of the plantation to the eager and wealthy López of Iloílo.

During those times the brothers Fernando López and Eugenio López as well as their cousins were one of the wealthiest in all of the Visayas Islands, save for a few Chinese Filipino families in Cebú, as well as the Familias Aliadas de Villegas, Teves, López, y Rodríguez, a family with origins from Santander, Galicia, Asturias; as well as China.  

Fearing the López might become too powerful after already owning “Meralco”, “Negros Navigation”, “Manila Chronicle”, “ABS-CBN”, various haciendas in Western Visayas and then the nearby PASUMIL consortium in del Carmen, Pampanga,  the President offered the property to José Cojuangco.

José Cojuangco, nicknamed “Pepe” through Magsaysay protégé and Cojuangco’s son-in-law, Benigno Aquino, Jr. Magsaysay also knew the Cojuangcos through his wife, Luz, of the prosperous Banzón, an old Chinese Filipino family.  

Unfortunately, Ramón Magsaysay died in Mount Manunggal, Cebú in 1957.

The sale was consummated in President Carlos P. García’s term, a close ally of then Senator Ferdinand Marcos and five years from the day President Magsaysay offered the land.

The José Cojuangcos were wealthy in land and bank holdings and in Philippine pesos, the source of such wealth was the katipunan funds and gold that were entrusted to antonio luna that landed in the hands of the cojuancos as claimed by supposedly some witnesses and historians.

José Cojuangcos acquired the property in 1958 through a loan from the Government Service Insurance System (Philippines) and a dollar loan from the Manufacturers´Trust Company, New York which was guaranteed by Central Bank of the Philippines with consent from Miguel Cuaderno, its governor.

Pepe also reduced his stake in the Paniqui Sugar Mills, though he and his cousins still managed it on behalf of his aunt, Ysidra Cojuangco, the matriarch and antonio luna’s sweetheart.  

Hacienda Luisita was the largest investment he ever made. With the ink barely dry, he appointed his eldest son-in-law Benigno Aquino Jr.  To sustain his losses in the hacienda,  he invested in the Bank of Commerce and First Manila Management which owned the Pantranco buses and the Mantrade group.

As Ferdinand Marcos  was elected for a second term in 1969, the reverse happened to Pepe. At Bank of Commerce, where he and his brother Juan “Itoy” Cojuangco and nephews Ramon Cojuangco, later of PLDT”; son of brother Antonio Cojuangco.

Danding Cojuangco, the eldest other sons of deceased brother Eduardo Cojuangco Sr. each owned equitable stakes. The last three factions planned a coup d’ etat by toppling him from the presidency of the said bank. The three did not want Pepe’s first born, Pedro,  to be bank president.  

To avoid a scandal, Pepe Cojuangco sold his remaining shares in Bank of Commerce, almost equal to 28%, to his relatives. Thus Pepe lost his one of eventually three lifelines in nurturing the Hacienda Luisita.

As the 1970s crept in and immediately after Benigno Aquino Jr’s imprisonment on false charges, Pepe’s business empire began to wane. He was unable to purchase new machines and new technology for the aging sugar mill that stands in the middle of the estate because of the government’s refusal to Pantranco’s appeals for higher charges as compared to its competitors who have since been permitted so.

Business critics believed it was Marcos’s way of pressuring Pepe to influence his son-in-law from attacking him and his wife, First Lady Imelda Marcos.  

His close business associate, Manuel Lopa of First Manila Management of the Pantranco / Nissan Philippines / Mantrade fame, died in 1974, losing their immunity from the Marcoses.  Manuel was a close personal friend of Speaker Daniel Romuáldez, Imelda’s uncle.  

Ambassador Benjamin Romualdez, brother of Imelda, then coerced Pepe and his son-in-law, Ricardo “Baby” Lopa (Manuel’s son) into selling the collection of 38 companies under First Manila Management to him.

Baby and his wife Teresita Cojuangco, together with Pepe and the rest of the Lopa heirs, had no choice but to sell. The second lifeline disappeared with this extortion.

In 1976, First United Bank, the banking concern Pepe built on his own after his ouster from the family owned Bank of Commerce, was sold for an amicable amount to his nephew, Danding Cojuangco, who was then close to President Marcos, with both mothers being Ilocanas notwithstanding.

The poorest branch of the Cojuangcos, the Eduardo branch, has become the richest through the sheer genius of Danding.

Though this third lifeline disappeared in good terms, the José Cojuangcos were left with nothing but a half-rehabilitated and barely earning White elephant of a hacienda.

Pepe Cojuangco died on August 21, 1976, five years from the day of the Plaza Miranda bombing. His wife, Demetria Sumulong-Cojuangco, died due to colon cancer, the same disease that would eventually claim the life of daughter Cory Aquino. Both died disappointed and broken-hearted.

Their children and grandchildren zealously took key positions in the holding company to save the hacienda from the creditors, all of whom wanted to slice Luisita away, save for Chinabank, Binondo, who defied the anger of President and Mrs. Marcos by continuing to help them. 

Chinabank was partly owned by the Dee C. Chuan, Albino SyCip and Lim families. A Dee scion would end up marrying a daughter of then-President Corazon C. Aquino.

With Ninoy and his wife Cory Aquino in exile in Boston, the remaining children took drastic steps in ensuring that the hacienda continued to exist and operate. To maximize the productivity of sugar and therefore profitability, a certain level of economy must be reached.

Jose Cojuangcos tried their best to keep the Luisita in one piece. They refurbished and re-used old 1950s era farm machines and tools, doubled capacity production and maintained low expenses. There were a lot of reasons why Luisita remained in the hands of Jose Cojuangco’s children.

One, it helped that their cousin Danding Cojuangco was the de facto kingpin of Tarlac and his kind mother Josephine Murphy-Cojuangco was still cordial to them.

For Marcos to touch Hacienda Luisita he also would have to force Agrarian Reform into the Ysidra Cojuangco haciendas which were under the supervision of Danding Cojuangco.

Haciendas of De León, Escalers, Urquico, Arrastria, Quiasón, González were hacked to smaller pieces, but not those of the Cojuangcos.

Two, it helped that the price of sugar spiraled so high because of President Marcos and Roberto Benedicto manipulating the sugar prices primarily in Negros Occidental.

Third, Ninoy Aquino was not in the Philippines lambasting Marcos in the underground movements. For as long as the Marcoses heard less of Don Pepe’s son-in-law, the less government pressure there was on the José Cojuangcos.

Most importantly, it helped that most of the farm workers who remember Pepe understood the frugality measures his children had to implement.

On Pepe’s death anniversary and that of the bombing of Plaza Miranda, Ninoy Aquino was gunned down in broad daylight, 21 August 1983.

Upon the installation of Cory as president,  the property was folded into the Hacienda Luisita .  

In compliance with the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program  which at this time around did not exempt anyone whether or not they were close to President Marcos before, nearly 5000 hectares of Hacienda Luisita were placed under a distribution agreement between the landowners and farm workers.

President Aquino wanted to make sure that all farmers’ rights are recognised. If the farmers agreed for a stock distribution agreement then the plantations would also remain intact.

Many haciendas, including those assembled by Ysidra Cojuangco a century before, did not qualify or the farm hands there refused the offer.

Thus, the majority of all Cojuangco lands disappeared while a  Cojuangco was President of the Philippines. This caused a silent rift within the Cojuangco clan.

All the lands where sugarcane and molasses were derived to feed the Paniqui Sugar Mills were hocked to appease the government program and those of the angry farm workers.  

However, development and new technology did not arrive in Cory Aquino’s term. She barred any relative from starting any new businesses.

Furthermore, she forbade many among her siblings and cousins from retaking the family businesses lost in the 1970s unless it was sold back to them like in the case between Romuáldez selling back First Manila Management to the Lopa clan,  or was awarded to them by the PCGG or Presidential Commission on Good Government.

Cory Aquino” stepped down from the Philippine presidency after 1992 that signalled the entry of  elder brother Pedro “Pete”,  sons Melecio “Mel” and Fernando “Nando” in the hacienda hoping to make it profitable.

Mindful of the farm workers, they instituted very slowly the fiscal reforms to achieve this goal. This partly explains why every year from 1988 until 2008 the Hacienda Luisita and its Central Azucarera de Tarlac posted hundreds of millions of losses.

Only in 2009, buoyed by the huge demand for sugar and the unpredicted fluctuating prices of Brazilian sugar, did the family corporation post a profit.  

Sadly, when profit arrived so did the workers’ strikes. The unrest was blamed on the allies of current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who were shocked to see Cory Aquino joining anti-Arroyo rallies.

Some blamed Danding Cojuangco since owning the hacienda would complement San Miguel and Ginebra’s ethyl, molasses and sugar needs. This was refuted by Danding himself and his cousins supported him.

In 2005, the Department of Agrarian Reform  canceled the stock distribution agreement, citing that it had failed to improve the lives of more than 5,000 farmer beneficiaries.

Hacienda Luisita Incorporated appealed this decision.  However, in May 2006, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council rejected with finality the motion of Hacienda Luisita Incorporated to reconsider the revocation of the stock distribution agreement.  

Then, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a Temporary restraining order, stopping the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council from parceling out the land to the workers.

On 6 November 2004, twelve picketing (protest)farmers and two children were killed and hundreds were injured when police and soldiers dispatched by then Labour Secretary Patricia Santo Tomás,  stormed a blockade by plantation workers.

The protesters were pushing  a greater commitment for genuine national land reform. The leftists have always pictured the Cojuangcos  as the prime symbol of the country’s Oligarchy, together with some of the country’s most powerful figures.  

The incorporators  of Hacienda Luisita are Pedro Cojuangco, the children of Josephine C. Reyes, Teresita C. Lopa’s heirs, José Cojuangco, Jr. and María Paz C. Teopaco, all siblings of the late former President Corazón C. Aquino.

After decades of unrest, turmoil, massacres and deaths,  only the remaining 30 percent of the stock shares was given to farm workers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s stock distribution option scheme.

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