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US suspected Arroyo vendetta on Hacienda Luisita

/ 05:01 AM December 01, 2011

The US Embassy recognized the wide-ranging impact of the 2005 order to dismantle Hacienda Luisita and worried whether it was simply a result of a political vendetta, classified cables purportedly from the American mission in Manila released by WikiLeaks showed.

The whistle-blowing website has released thousands of diplomatic cables illegally hacked from US overseas missions, including analysis of events in the Philippines in 2005 sparked by calls led by democracy icon Corazon Aquino for the resignation of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for allegedly stealing the presidential election the previous year.

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Arroyo has denied any wrongdoing, but the revocation by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of the stock distribution option resorted to by the sugar plantation owned by the politically influential Aquino-Cojuangco clan sparked speculation that Arroyo was just getting back at her tormentor.

The DAR action was approved in December 2005 by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) then headed by Arroyo. The hacienda later went to the Supreme Court to stop the move, but the high tribunal last month unanimously supported the distribution of the 5,000-hectare estate to its 6,200 workers.

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The supposed US Embassy cables gave a factual account of the events of 2005.

‘Enmity’ suspected

A cable on Dec. 28, 2005, according to WikiLeaks, said that “among many observers, there is the strong suspicion” that the PARC’s decision “had more to do with enmity” toward Corazon Aquino “who turned against President Arroyo during the political turbulence earlier this year than any genuine support for general land reform.”

In an earlier cable, dated Oct. 17, 2005, the US Embassy reportedly said that the PARC ruling “could nonetheless have far-ranging implications for the large landholdings of other influential and wealthy families (in the Philippines) who have hitherto managed to exempt their estates from land reform initiatives.”

The same cable also observed that “chronic, festering tensions on estates have only helped extreme leftists in the Philippines garner support.”

“A dynamic (Philippine government) policy to press forward with land reform laws already on the books could possibly help ameliorate this problem, although it is not clear whether that is the intent of the Arroyo administration in pressing the Hacienda Luisita matter,” the embassy said.

In the same cable, reportedly sent by Charge d’Affaires Paul Jones, the mission speculated if the case involved political vendetta.

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DAR defense ‘accurate’

“There have been accusations from opposition figures that Malacañang pushed these recent developments forward because of former President Aquino’s support for the anti-Arroyo camp,” it pointed out.

The embassy noted that “in July, Aquino came out against Arroyo, urging her to resign immediately.”

The cable noted that then Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman had denied allegations that his department’s decision was politically motivated, averring that the investigation into the Luisita case was launched even before calls for Arroyo’s resignation were made.

The cable said Pangandaman’s claim was “accurate.”

The Arroyo administration’s action on the sugar plantation was prompted by a strike in the hacienda in the previous year in which seven people were killed.

The strikers said the stock distribution option under the agrarian reform program Corazon Aquino promulgated when she was President, contrary to its avowed objectives, did not improve their lives.

The United States has officially declined comment on the cables or confirm their veracity.

First posted 11:57 pm | Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

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TAGS: agrarian reform, DAR, Diplomacy, Espionage, Foreign affairs, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Hacienda Luisita, intelligence, Politics, US, US embassy, Wikileaks
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