Fight for Hacienda Luisita land distribution isn't over, farmers' lawyer

Farmer beneficiaries of the Hacienda Luisita welcomed the Supreme Court decision on their decades-old agrarian reform crusade, but fear, apprehension, and cynicism temper their hopes while they do not yet hold the titles to the land they till.   “Syempre, with caution pa rin ang celebration dahil hindi pa tapos ang laban dito. Magpapatuloy pa rin ang aming mga gawain hanggang tuluyang maipamigay sa ang lupa,” said Atty. Jobert Pahilga, counsel for some of the Luisita farmers, in a phone interview.   “Natutuwa kami sa naging desisyon. Hopefully, the government will respect the ruling of the SC dahil ito naman ay morally and legally correct,” Pahilga also said.   The Luisita farmers, through the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) — the federation of beneficiaries’ groups — launched the ‘Luisita Watch’, a campaign to “frustrate whatever legal maneuvers and sinister agenda the Cojuangco-Aquino clan has in mind to spoil the decision.”   A management spokesman for the sugar plantation said Hacienda Luisita Inc. “will respect the decision” but has to study the decision and its implications before deciding on their next move.   “We still have to look at all angles of the decision, pero ang maganda dito, positive naman itong decision. Walang aversion. We are not against the land distribution ruling,” HLI’s Atty. Antonio Ligon said in a phone interview.   The militant group Akbayan urged the farmer beneficiaries not to be complacent and remain vigilant.   "The landlords in Hacienda Luisita still have a few aces up their sleeves and they will not hesitate to use it to derail agrarian reform at all costs," Akbayan said in a statement. — With reports by Mark Merueñas, Andreo Calonzo and Amita Legaspi/LBG/KBK/ELR/VS, GMA News

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