MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday said the Cojuangco clan-owned Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) has fully complied with its July 2011 order to distribute to more than 6,000 farm worker beneficiaries (FWB) of the unused or unspent balance from the PHP1.33 billion sale of its three lots covered by the agrarian reform program but were sold to private and government entities in 1996.
In a 14-page resolution dated April 24, 2018 penned by SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., and was affirmed unanimously by the SC en banc, the High Court confirmed the distribution to the 6,296 FWBs as determined by the audit team formed by the high court.
“Wherefore, premises considered, the July 5, 2011 Decision and November 22, 2011 Resolution of the Court insofar as it directed that “any unspent or unused balance and any disallowed expenditures as determined by the audit shall be distributed to the 6,296 original FWBs” are considered Fully Complied With,” the resolution reads.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio took no part to the case due to his prior inhibition.
The SC’s designated three-member audit panel found that HLI’s legitimate corporate expenses for 1998-2011, taxes paid and expenses incurred related to the sale, and the 3 percent share already distributed to FWBs “far exceed the proceeds of the sale” of the subject lot,” thus there is no more unspent balance available for distribution.
The order for audit was incorporated in the SC’s decision in 2012 to distribute Luisita’s 4,915-hectare agricultural lands (a portion of the Cojuangco-owned Tarlac estate’s 6,443-hectare mixed agricultural/industrial/residential expanse) to the original 6,296 FWBs.
The members of the audit panel include the firms of Ocampo, Mendoza, Leong and Lim (OMLL) and Navarro Amper & Co. (Deloitte), and certified public accountant Carissa May Pay-Penson.
The panel was specifically tasked to determine if the PHP1.33 billion “was actually used or spent for legitimate corporate purposes.”
In its decision issued on July 5, 2011, the Court directed HLI to pay the original 6,296 Hacienda Luisita FWBs the PHP500 million it received from Luisita Realty, Inc. for the sale to the latter of 200 hectares out of the 500 hectares covered by the Aug. 14, 1996 Conversion Order; the amount of PHP750 million received by its owned subsidiary, Centennary Holdings, Inc., for the sale of the remaining 300 hectares of the said 500-hectare lot to Luisita.
Industrial Park Corporation; and the PHP80.5 million paid by the government through the Bases Conversion Development Authority for the sale of the 80.51-hectare lot used for the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
The Court also directed the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to tap the services of a reputable accounting firm approved by the parties to audit the books of HLI and Centennary Holdings, Inc. to determine if the PHP1,330,511,500 proceeds of the sale of the three (lots) were actually used or spent for legitimate corporate purposes.
Any unspent or unused balance and any disallowed expenditures as determined by the audit, according to the Court must be distributed to the 6,296 original FWBs.
“To sum up, all three members of the audit panel have determined that the legitimate corporate expenses of HLI for the years 1998 up to 2011, coupled with the taxes and expenses related to the sale of the 3% share already distributed to the FWBs, far exceeded the proceeds of the sale of the adverted 580.51-hectare lot,” the SC said.
Thus, it said there is no more unused proceeds that should be given out to the FWBs.
In its July 5, 2011 decision, the Court affirmed the validity of the order issued by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) which revoked the stock distribution option plan (SDO) that has been offered to the original 6,296 farmer beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita, in lieu of land distribution which is mandated under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
However, the affirmed with modification PARC’ Resolution 2005-32-01 issued on Dec. 22, 2005 by allowing the original farmer-beneficiaries to choose to remain as stockholders of HLI or get the land due them.
But, in a resolution issued on Nov. 22, 2011, the Court decided to modify its July 5, 2011 decision by directing the total distribution of the plantation to its farmer beneficiaries.
The Court granted the partial motions for reconsideration filed by PARC, DAR, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita, and the Farmworkers Agrarian Reform Movement, Inc. seeking to recall and set aside its decision with respect to the option granted to the farmworker-beneficiaries to remain with HLI through the stock distribution plan (SDP). PNA-northboundasia.com