Tue. May 11th, 2021

The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that the Cojuangco family-owned Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) be given just compensation for the distribution of its 4,915.75-hectare sugar land plantation in Tarlac to 6,296 farm worker-beneficiaries (FWBs) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

In a resolution in December last year and released to the public on April 26, 2021, the SC en banc said the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and the Registry of Deeds should form a task force “for purposes of completing and collating the documentation required to validate the homelot awards.”

The SC also directed DAR to determine just compensation for HLI and for the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to release the payment of just compensation according to the result of DAR’s validation.

The High Court said the just compensation for HLI should be derived from the Agrarian Reform Fund.

The SC directed the creation of a task force after HLI claimed it does not have the original copies of the transfer documents, which have either been submitted to the Registry of Deeds or given to the FWBs.

Previously, in compliance with the Court’s directive to implement the main decision and subsequent resolutions on the case, DAR began the process of validating the list of home lot awardees.

It found out, among others, the total home lot area and the number of FWBs awarded with home lot titles.

However, the PARC/DAR noted that the certified true copies of the transfer documents evidencing the award of home lots to the individual recipients are necessary to complete validation process.

It directed HLI to furnish DAR with the needed documents.

“Significantly, the completion of the DAR’s validation procedures is a pre-condition to the payment of just compensation. Thus, it is in HLI’s best interest to fully cooperate with the DAR, which includes providing the necessary documents to the best of their ability. It is difficult to believe that HLI no longer possesses the originals/certified true copies of these documents,” the SC said.

“Certainly, as the transferor in the disposition of home lots, it must have retained copies of the documents evidencing those transfers,” it added.

However, the Court recognizes that the DAR’s request involves voluminous records, some of which may have already become unavailable, or difficult to locate, due to the passage of time.

It also acknowledged that producing the documents might be too costly and burdensome task if imposed on a single party or entity.HLI’s entitlement to just compensation, the Court said, has been settled in its previous decisions with finality, barring parties from raising arguments aimed at modifying the final rulings. SOVEREIGNPH

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