“Giving Those Who Toil The Land Their Due” A Statement on the Ruling of the Supreme Court on Hacienda Luisita

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) joins the farmers and the people in celebration over the ruling of the Supreme Court En Banc on Hacienda Luisita ordering land distribution to the workers and pegging the just compensation on the fair market value of the land in November 1989.  The Supreme Court has “dealt wisely to execute justice and righteousness in the land”  (Jeremiah 23:5).  This landmark decision gives us hope that all those who toil the land are given their due as responsible stewards.  May this pave the way for the total emancipation of landless peasants and farmers to the bondage and slavery they endured for so long.

For too long the farmers struggled, never giving up hope.  The price of victory was high:  the massacre in November 16, 2004 at the Hacienda Luisita Compound (HLI) that left seven protesting farmers and supporters dead, including the son of a United Church of Christ pastor serving in the area; countless marches and protest actions in the region and Metro Manila to highlight the injustices in Hacienda Luisita; the intimidation and harassment of the farmers by HLI security elements and state security forces; the extrajudicial killing of church people who stood by them, like Rev. William Tadena and The Most Rev. Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente; and, farmers forging their unity amidst attempts to break it.  Would that free distribution was also accorded in recognition of their long suffering.  Nonetheless, we hope the land will be distributed with dispatch.
.
Indeed, while this landmark decision is to be celebrated, justice to those who have been slain has yet to lift off.  Killing is an equally grievous offense as the denial of the right to land.
.
Elsewhere, other farmers are still struggling for jurisdiction over the land they till.  There is no alternative for perseverance, vigilance and the solidarity of those committed to justice, in this struggle.
.
Christian teaching gives premium to human dignity and dignity of work.  Persons who injure others by what they eat do not walk in love, says Paul.  “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…  Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding”.  (cf. Romans 14:13-19)
.
.
The Most Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana
Chairperson
.
.
Rev. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr.
General Secretary