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SC final ruling pegs Hacienda Luisita value on 1989 prices, not 2006

(Updated 10:18 p.m.) The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld its November 2011 decision that just compensation for Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province should be pegged on the value of the estate in 1989, and not on a higher valuation based on 2006 prices sought by the Cojuangco family, owners of the sugar plantation.   The high court's final and executory ruling did not encompass an actual price for the sugar estate, but militants placed the 1989 value of the 4,335-hectare Hacienda Luisita at P173 million.   SC Administrator Justice Midas Marquez said the 8-6 vote settled the issue of which property valuation to use–1989 or 2006–in paying the Cojuangcos for distributing the plantation to its 6,000 tenant farmers.   It was not an open-ended decision that would have given the Department of Agrarian Reform or a special agrarian court the final say on the issue of just compensation for the Cojuangcos, he said.     In November 2011, the SC ordered the hacienda be distributed to its farmer tenants for a "just compensation" of P40,000 per hectare based on the sugar estate’s value in 1989.   The Cojuangcos filed last Dec. 12 a motion to clarify and reconsider the order, saying the 1989 land valuation was wrong.   The Cojuangcos wanted just compensation based on the 2006 valuation of the estate as property values have risen with the development of malls and residential enclaves near the plantation.   Should the value of the estate be based on "comparable sales" such as those transacted by Hacienda Luisita Inc.–the Cojuangcos’ corporate entity–with subsidiaries Luisita Realty Corp. and Centennary Holdings Inc. in 1997 and 1998, the farmland would fetch P2.5 million per hectare, the family claimed.   In other words, Hacienda Luisita would be worth P9.75 billion or 90 percent of a comparable price based on a Department of Agrarian Reform formula.     The 8-6 vote was led by Chief Justice Renato Corona, said Marquez.   Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonarda-de Castro, Roberto Abad, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Martin Villarama were part of the majority.   Voting in favor of Hacienda Luisita’s Cojuangcos were Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Bienvenido Reyes, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.   Justice Antonio Carpio inhibited from the case as the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco law offices, of which he is a founder, once represented the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. in an acquisition deal involving parcels of land inside the hacienda.   Farmers in the hacienda rejoiced on news of the SC decision, and those in Baguio City, where the high court was holding its summer session, applauded outside the SC.   The Cojuangco family includes the late President Corazon Aquino, mother of incumbent President Benigno Aquino III. —VVP/RSJ/VS, GMA News