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Give up your haciendas, Aquino, Roxas told

February 12, 2010

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA, GUEST CANDIDATE FOR VICE PRESIDENT OF THE NACIONALISTA PARTY (NP), ON THURSDAY CHALLENGED LIBERAL PARTY (LP) STANDARD-BEARER SEN. BENIGNO “NOYNOY” AQUINO III AND HIS RUNNING MATE, SEN. MAR ROXAS, TO DISTRIBUTE THE HACIENDAS OWNED BY THEIR WEALTHY FAMILIES TO THEIR TENANTS NOW.
Legarda was reacting to Aquino’s promise to distribute Hacienda Luisita, his family’s 6,419-hectare sugar estate in Tarlac, to its tenants in five years.
“What do you mean feed the poor five years from now? They will be long-dead when that time comes. The poor farmers who need land to till should have been given land yesterday, not tomorrow,” said Legarda, running mate of Sen. Manuel Villar who is Aquino’s most formidable rival for the presidency.
She told reporters at a press conference in Pasay City that she was not advocating government confiscation of the vast tracts of land owned by the Cojuangco clan, of which Aquino is a member, and the Araneta clan, which counts Roxas as a scion.
Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, dared Aquino and Roxas to end poverty and hunger by instituting genuine agrarian reform.
“If they really care for the poor and understand agrarian reform, the lands under their ownership should have been redistributed a long time ago in accordance with the agrarian reform law enacted under the Aquino administration,” she said, referring to the term of President Cory Aquino, Senator Aquino’s late mother.
“How can you prove you are pro-poor if you cannot even show transparency in the Hacienda Luisita and Araneta-Roxas records? How can you take care of the poor when you don’t know what they need?
“These herederos (heirs) didn’t have to work a day in their life. They do not know how it is to rise from poverty in Tondo or Malabon. They do not understand the value of hard work and perseverance,” she said.
Villar hails from the impoverished Tondo district of Manila, while Legarda comes from nearby flood-prone Malabon.
“Manny and I come from the working class. I have been working since I was 15. Manny sold shrimp as a boy. We know how it is to work. Those who promise change in five years are those who obviously do not understand poverty,” she said.
Legarda also called on all candidates to provide institutionalized long-term reforms instead of Band-Aid solutions to the problems of the country.
“They should not make promises for the purpose of campaigning. People are starving. The plight of farmers continues up to this day. Farmers are killed, hurt and harassed. The landless must be given land. This is what the law says,” she said.