Posted on 06:38 PM, May 28, 2010 [ BusinessWorld Online ]
The Supreme Court affirmed its 2007 decision that subsequently upheld the inclusion of sugar lands in the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL).
In a minute resolution, the high court denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by groups whose members are large sugar producing firms, such as the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association Inc. (Confed), National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, Inc., United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, Inc., Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, Inc., First Farmers Holding Corp., National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines and the League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Negros Occidental Chapter.
The court said "no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision." Its decision last March 2007 reads "it is not within the power of the court to pass or look into the wisdom of the inclusion by Congress of the sugar lands in the coverage of RA 6657 (CARL). It is basic in our form of government that the judiciary cannot inquire into the wisdom or expediency of the acts of the executive or the legislative department..."
The sugar producers had asked the high court to stop the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Land Registration Authority (LRA) from considering their sugarcane farms as part of eminent domain. This means that the farms would be placed under compulsory acquisition without filing the necessary expropriation proceedings. They said it would be "unwise" and impractical" for Congress to include sugar lands, since these could be more efficiently operated by organized, mechanized, plantation-type agriculture than by small owner-cultivated farms.
RA 6657 was signed into law on June 10, 1988 by then President Corazon C. Aquino in an attempt to promote social justice and industrialization. Previously, it was only rice and corn lands that were covered by the government’s comprehensive agrarian reform program.
Incidentally, the family of Mrs. Aquino is the owner of the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. The latter is also a member of Confed. The sugar land is now the subject of a separate case with the high court.
Hacienda Luisita was previously exempted from CARP distribution by placing the estate under a non-land transfer scheme, called stock distribution option, for its farmers. In 2005 however, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council ruled to place the entire Hacienda Luisita under compulsory acquisition for distribution to farmers. The following year however, the high court issued a temporary restraining order. It has yet to issue a final decision on the matter. -- Ira P. Pedrasa