The Hacienda Luisita order as Aquino’s golden chance at greatness
SAN FRANCISCO—The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision ordering the distribution of land at Hacienda Luisita to about 6,000 tenants will naturally be seen as a blow to Noynoy Aquino’s family.
The more cynical observers may even paint it as payback from a body known to be aligned with a former president whom Aquino’s government has just charged with a serious crime.
But perhaps there’s another way for Aquino to look at this recent twist in Hacienda Luisita’s sordid history.
Maybe he can seize this opportunity to follow up on some of his recent surprisingly bold moves — and take a big step toward becoming a great president.
Aquino has just taken the courageous step of filing charges against a well-connected predecessor accused of some of the most brazen cases of vote rigging and corruption in the post-Marcos era.
He just slammed the door shut on the possibility of a state funeral for a brutal dictator, decisively rejecting the sick claims of the tyrant’s family and allies that Ferdinand Marcos should be considered a hero.
Why not make it three in a row?
Why not take on another injustice committed by another faction of the Philippine elite – his own family?
Imagine Noynoy Aquino courageously declaring that the Supreme Court is right in calling for the land to finally be given to the Luisita farmers. Imagine him calling on his own relatives to respect the court’s order.
He could even give a major speech that would go something like this:
“Now, it’s time to correct a historic injustice against these poor peasants. In our country, no individual, family or group should be above the law. I ask my own relatives to join me in taking this bold step forward…”
It’s probably a long shot, I know. Maybe it’s even crazy. After all, P-Noy has already tipped his hand many times on how he sees his power as it relates to his friends and allies. He’s loyal to his family. And his is a very powerful family.
But who knows?
Maybe his year and a half in power has changed Noynoy Aquino. Maybe he’s realized that he has only one shot at this. And that he better make the most of the opportunity to serve, to dedicate his presidency to an ideal greater than his family.
He can certainly play a critical role in helping the Luisita farmers recover from years of abuse. It won’t be easy. There will likely be resistance from his family.
We still remember P-Noy’s Cousin Fernando who told the New York Times last year that the family had no plan to give up the land or their sugar business. He apparently loves plantations, and being a hacendero. He’s not going to give that up that easily.
“No, we’re not going to,” Cousin Fernando was quoted as saying by the Times. “I think it would be irresponsible because I feel that continuing what we have here is the way to go. Sugar farming has to be; it’s the kind of business that has to be done plantation-style.”
It certainly put then-candidate Aquino in an awkward situation. For while Cousin Fernando was mouthing off to the New York Times reporter, Cousin Noynoy was also promising that his family would eventually transfer the land to the farmers.
“It will be theirs clear and free,” Aquino told the Times.
Maybe P-Noy truly believes that. Maybe he really wants to do the right thing.
Maybe he has found inspiration in another leader of a country where poor people have also struggled against injustice.
Brazil’s former President Luiz Inacio da Silva, simply known as Lula, recently stepped down after leading the South American nation through period of social reform and economic progress.
Lula, a former metal worker who also came from a poor family, shared the secret of his success in a recent 60 Minutes segment.
“The success of an elected official is in the art of doing what is obvious,” Lula said. “It is what everyone knows needs to be done but some insist on doing differently.”
Noynoy showed guts and vision in doing what’s right in connection with Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Arroyo.
Maybe, just maybe, he will also “do what is obvious” when it comes to a tragedy called Hacienda Luisita.
On Twitter @KuwentoPimentel. On Facebook at www.facebook.com/benjamin.pimentel