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Post  Admin on Thu Mar 18, 2010 7:13 pm

New York Times stands by story on Hacienda

The New York Times on Wednesday said it is standing by its Hacienda Luisita story where it quoted a Cojuangco family member as saying that the clan will not let go of the 4,500-hectare plantation – a claim that runs contrary to the campaign promise of presidential aspirant Sen. Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III (Liberal Party).

Carlos Conde, New York Times’ correspondent in the Philippines, made the statement after Aquino said in an interview that his cousin, Fernando Cojuangco, was possibly misquoted in the article.

On his Web site, Conde said the interview with Cojuangco, chief operating officer of the holding company that owns Hacienda Luisita and Central Azucarera de Tarlac, was recorded on tape and could be made available to the public.

“We stand by our March 16, 2010, story on Hacienda Luisita. Our interview with Mr. Fernando Cojuangco . . . was recorded. If Mr. Cojuangco wishes the tape to be released to the public, we will gladly do so," he said.

Fernando is the son of Aquino’s uncle, Pedro Cojuangco.

Aquino, whose presidential bid is being hounded by the non-distribution of the Cojuangco-owned land to farmer-beneficiaries despite the existing Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), said the younger Cojuangco apologized to him in a text message and expressed doubts that he was quoted accurately in the article.

“Nag-apologize siya, sabi niya mukhang negative ang sense. He was wondering if he was quoted accurately (He apologized, he said his statements seemed to reflect a negative sense, he was wondering if he was quoted accurately)," Aquino told reporters in Naga City where he was campaigning at the time.

Regarding a part in the story where Fernando reportedly questioned whether the CARP is indeed the centerpiece of the administration of Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, the senator said he “cannot imagine" his cousin “talking that way about [my] mother."

“All of us were brought up to respect our elders. He as a lawyer should have studied the matter. I really am not sure if he was taken out of context," Aquino said, noting that the Cojuangcos had arrived at a “unanimous decision" that running the plantation in its “present scheme" is not a “sound venture."

Aquino had earlier vowed to ensure the distribution of the plantation's lands to farmer-beneficiaries by June 2014, the expiration of the extended CARP

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