Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

P-Noy bats for “just compensation” for family on Luisita. What’s the truth about GMA’s condition?

from interaksyon.com

Since the Supreme Court’s recent stunning order to Hacienda Luisita to implement full distribution of the nearly 5,000 hectares remaining of its lands to its tenant farmers, many questions have since been raised.
For instance, President Aquino, reacting to the ruling, was quoted opining yesterday that his family would obey it, and this was lauded all around. But at the same time he stressed that even though he has minimal holdings in Luisita, he feels there should be “just compensation” to  Cojuangco family.
The problem observers can see on this issue is that the contract signed back in 1958 by the Cojuangcos to acquire this estate from its Tabacalera owners--- which was made possible through loans from the Manufacturers Hanover Trust that was backed by sovereign guarantee of the Republic of the Philippines, and from GSIS---stated that after ten years the Cojuangcos were to turn over the lands to the farmers.  No mention of compensation to them, as perhaps the assumption is that after ten years they would have worked the lands enough to reward themselves richly.


Indeed, after 53 years of having held the estate through a series of running battles with various courts since the late ‘60s and moves by the Cory Aquino administration’s various agencies such as the DOJ, the PARC, etc., the family is presumed to have already made a lot of money from Luisita---especially from the conversion of a large portion into commercial use, as evidenced by the P1.3 billion that the SC is now ordering the Cojuangcos to pay the farmers.
The resistance of the Cojuangcos and other landed families around the country to land reform doubtless stems from the fact that their huge tracts of land are of more immense value if fully converted into industrial estates. This is especially true for Luisita as it’s in the heart of Central Luzon. But the contract that this family signed with the Philippine government in 1958 stipulated that after ten years the lands would revert to the farmer-tenants. Today, 2011, after a 53-year history of earlier triumphs in large-scale operation and development, but also a series of bloody confrontations and socio-political agitations by militant elements, the High Court has stepped in with its unanimous decision---a rarity for a Court that lately has become famous for contentiousness among its members---to enforce that 1958 original contract on behalf of the tenant-farmers. It’s a much-delayed triumph of justice for them.


Luisita’s biggest problem is not having to carry out the SC’s full distribution order---it’s financial.  There’s the issue of the P2 billion loan to Luisita from San Miguel Corporation not too long ago that Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino referred to yesterday. The speculation is that SMC lent this sum even if there is the possibility that Luisita may not be able to pay, so that the Ph flagship corporation could take over the estate under certain terms.  Now, with the SC decision on full distribution of the lands there, how does the SMC expect to get paid?  It’s also being argued now that since the farmers had nothing to do with the loan of management, they should not be party to the repayment to SMC.
The Central Azucarera de Tarlac, a sister company of Luisita, is also for all practical purposes deep in financial woes. Its financial statements in recent years indicate P2 billion receivables from sister companies which are also in no position to pay. In addition, the Central’s machinery is old and obsolete in many parts.


As expected, the Supreme Court has been under immense criticism from Aquino partisans because of certain decisions it has been making lately, notably the TRO on the DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima’s and doubtless its recent Luisita ruling.  Critics of the High Court like to refer to its rulings that, in their view, reflect the majority magistrates’ gratitude to the appointing power---former President Macapagal Arroyo. Critics constantly begrudge the fact that she “packed the court” with her people. But what’s lost in this simplistic argument is the fact in nine years of rule, it was inevitable that GMA got to appoint the majority; in fact in P-Noy’s year and a half in office, he already has appointed three justices, namely, Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido Reyes and Estella Perlas-Bernabe (assuming all goes well, in his remaining four and a half years he will have just one more chance to appoint an SC justice).
Critics who see only SC rulings that seem to have favored GMA are being selective. They forget that the SC lifted its TRO on the prosecution of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, which, in turn, paved the way for the House Committee on Justice to push her impeachment in the House (she would have faced certain conviction by the Senate had she not resigned earlier).  Then there was the issue of the unconstitutionality of the postponement of the ARRM elections, which was well-argued in the SC; but its  final majority vote allowed that postponement to 2013 and gave P-Noy the prerogative to appoint OICs in the various regional posts after the Sept. 30, 2011 lapse of the elected officials' term.


from daylife.com

What do we make out of St. Luke’s Hospital orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mario Ver’s recent testimony before Pasay RTC Judge Jesus Mupas that GMA is on the way to recovery and can be allowed to be discharged from the hospital as an out-patient.  Dr. Ver admitted that among the things she’s suffering from is a “weak neck.” I must admit that I'm among those taken aback by this testimony, for like millions in this country and around the world, I saw how thin and emaciated she looked with her Minerva vest and neck and head support at the airport last Nov. 15, when she and her husband sought to leave for Singapore but were prevented by immigration. The TV film clips spoke a thousand words.
In days following that airport melee, GMA's attending physician, Dr. Juliet Cervantes, told media that she was put on IV fluids as she couldn’t eat even as she was suffering from diarrhea and was on antibiotics. Then last week I ran into a former GMA Cabinet member who related that when he visited GMA in her hospital suite, she was in a wheelchair, but when she tried to get up, she would have fallen to the floor had not someone caught her.


Now comes Dr. Ver saying she’s okay and on the way to recovery. Questions are being raised by citizens. For instance, how does Dr. Ver's statement jibe with those of his colleagues that GMA’s bone illness could reach a point of irreversibility if treatment is further delayed. Was he pressured by the hospital to give a bright prognosis so the prosecutors can now move with their plan to detain her at the Southern Police District jail?  This query assumes that the prestigious St. Luke’s Hospital is going along with the P-Noy administration---something I’m not ready to acquiesce to, despite the fact that a member of the fiercely-anti GMA “Hyatt 10” sits as director in the hospital’s board. There’s also talk going on that GMA's doctors apparently committed a mistake in one of her three spine operations, necessitating intervention by a US-based doctor to whom all her records had to be sent. 

A source in GMA's camp I talked to recently on this issue said that one factor that has not been inputed is the fact that renowned healer Fr. Fernando Suarez has repeatedly been to GMA's bedside in recent weeks. In addition, there's the huge prayer brigade mobilized by her friends. Could Fr. Suarez and heavenly intervention have done what the docs failed to do?

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