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Hacienda Luisita has lost another agrarian reform case, this time involving its landholdings in Bayambang, Pangasinan.
Unlike the widely-disseminated April 2012 setback handed by the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals handed down the decision late last month without fanfare, dealing a similar blow on the agrarian empire controlled by P.Noy's aunts and uncles.
The latest case involves 386.8 hectares of agrarian land that ironically had been approved for commercial conversion by the Marcos government way back in 1975, when then opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., P.Noy's father, was a martial law detainee.
For still unclear reasons, CAT Realty, the real estate arm of Hacienda Luisita, failed to develop the Pangasinan property even up to 2004, when tenants aided by two non-government organizations filed a protest before the Department of Agrarian Reform to revoke the 29-year-old order.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, relying on the findings of a special task force, finally revoked the Marcos-era order in August 2008.
Undeterred, CAT Realty filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals, saying the tenants had failed to avail themselves of the one-year window to question the 1975 order.
But the court rejected the Cojuangco claim that the tenants had been guilty of laches.
"It appears from the letter-protest dated December 15, 2004 that (the tenants) have only recently became aware that the subject land is owned by the Cojuangcos and that a conversion order for the same had already been issued," the Court of Appeals said in its June 19, 2012 decision.
The appellate court's Second Division is headed by Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando, who was ironically appointed by P.Noy's mother, then President Cory Aquino, as chairman of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in 1987 and later as officer-in-charge of the Land Transportation Office.
The two other justices of the division are Ramon Bato Jr. and Florito Macalino, husband of Union Bank senior vice president and corporate secretary Fe Tengco Becina-Macalino.
Heard through the grapevine
Senator Manuel Villar and especially former Las Pinas congresswoman Cynthia Villar are so heartbroken that their only girl, Camille, has decided to move out of their home and live with her boyfriend Erwin Genuino, son of former Pagcor chairman Ephraim Genuino.