Computer code name for the Cojuangco-Aquino "Financial Assistance"

to Hacienda Luisita farmers



Posted: August 21, 2010




A scanned copy of a receipt for P2.70 financial assistance under the TRASH Project



Scanned images of receipts courtesy of Tanggol Magsasaka and AMBALA.


An unending quest for social justice?
AT GROUND LEVEL By Satur C. Ocampo
(The Philippine Star) August 21, 2010

As I listened for five hours last Wednesday to the oral arguments of the Hacienda Luisita lawyers, followed by sharp questioning by the Supreme Court justices probing into the controversial stock distribution option, my mind kept racing back to the long historic struggle of the Filipino peasants to own the lands they till.

The core element of agrarian reform, as we know, is social justice. Yet throughout the four centuries of Philippine colonial and neocolonial history, which is up to the present, the quest for social justice as regards the ownership of agricultural land has remained elusive.

The first social justice decree issued by the First Philippine Republic in 1899, promulgated by Apolinario Mabini, placed all lands held by the Spanish friars under administration by the government pending their distribution among the Filipino tenants through a process that had yet to be defined.

That social justice intent, however, was truncated by the outbreak of the Philippine-American war. It was frustrated altogether by the defeat of the poorly-armed Filipino forces and the imposition of US colonial rule.

Under the American colonial administration, the friar lands were given back to the Catholic Church. As a “benevolent” gesture of enabling Filipinos to own lands, the US colonial government under Governor-General William Howard Taft, bought 550,000 hectares of friar lands from the Vatican and offered these for sale to Filipinos. Of course, only the very rich families were able to afford it. The project led to the establishment of the big landed estates in the hands of these few families.

The Commonwealth government did not initiate an agrarian reform program. But President Manuel L. Quezon enunciated social justice as a vital aspect of governance. By way of setting an example, Quezon voluntarily gave to the tenants some of his agricultural landholdings in Central Luzon. That gesture did not provoke the landed elites to imitate him.

During the Japanese occupation, agrarian unrest was a powerful motivation for the peasantry especially in Central Luzon to take matters into their hands and drive out their abusive landlords while waging armed resistance against the hated foreign invaders. After the war, the landlords returned and, backed by the Americans, were able to “restore peace and order.”

In 1957, loans from a foreign bank and the Government Service Insurance System financed the purchase by the family of Jose Cojuangco Sr. (father of Cory Aquino) of 6,000 hectares of farmlands from Tabacalera. Social justice was invoked by President Carlos P. Garcia in imposing the condition for a national government guarantee for these loans. After 10 years (or in 1967), he said, the land — the Hacienda Luisita estate today — must be turned over to the farmworkers. This never happened.
Twenty-eight years later, in 1985, the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos tried to compel the Cojuangcos to comply with the Garcia conditionality through the Manila regional trial court. The court ruled in favor of the government, and the Cojuangcos elevated the issue to the Court of Appeals. Then came the ouster of Marcos and the installation of Cory Aquino through People Power. Declaring agrarian reform to be the “centerpiece” of her administration, the new president caused the enactment of RA 6657 (the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) in 1988. The following year, the Cojuangcos asked the Court of Appeals to set aside the Manila court ruling, on the ground that the disputed lands had been placed under the CARP. They got what they wanted. The case was dismissed.

In its declaration of principles and policies, the CARP law states: “The welfare of the landless farmers and farmworkers will receive highest consideration to promote social justice and to move the nation towards sound rural development and industrialization, and the establishment of owner-cultivatorship of economic-sized farms as the basis of Philippine agriculture.” Further, the law sets as objective “to provide farmers and farmworkers with the opportunity to enhance their dignity and improve the quality of their lives through greater productivity of agricultural lands”.

To the great disappointment of the majority of farmers and farmworkers all over the country, the CARP has failed to realize its declared policies and attain its objective. This was because multiple loopholes were provided in the law, as well as exemptions and alternative modes of implementation instead of outright land distribution.

One of these alternative modes is the stock distribution option (SDO) preferred by the management of Hacienda Luisita. Upon petition by the farmworkers in 2005 the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) revoked the SDO that it had approved in 1989. After 16 years, the PARC said, SDO had not caused any improvement at all in the lives of the farmworkers. It ordered the land to be distributed to the farmworkers as originally envisioned by President Garcia. However, the “compromise agreement” entered into recently between the hacienda and the farmworkers apparently intends to counter before the Supreme Court the conclusion that SDO has failed to benefit the farmers.

This is the case that the Supreme Court is now hearing. How will the outcome affect the men and women who have toiled the land, grown old, in Hacienda Luisita? How will it affect the millions of Filipinos who today remain “bowed by the weight of centuries” of struggle to own their piece of soil? Is this really just a dream, an impossible dream?


Double click on image to view bigger picture

The faces of our brothers we saw:

Hacienda Luisita farm workers at the Aug. 18 rally in front of the Supreme Court

Photos courtesy of KMP and Thess Dollaga as indicated by the filenames

  Dr. Gani Tapang of AGHAM LFS Chair Terry Riddon


Excerpts from:

(Speech delivered by Jose Maria Sison in Pilipino before the first Central Luzon Regional Conference of Kabataang Makabayan, at Republic Central Colleges, Angeles City, on October 31, 1965; and in English at the College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines, Los Ba¤os, Laguna on March 23, 1966.)

In Dr. Jose Rizal's El Filibusterismo, you will note how the story of Cabesang Tales cries out for a nation-state capable of protecting its own citizens against foreign exploiters. The story of Cabesang Tales is no different from the lives of our peasant brothers today. He is a victim of excessive land rent, usury, servitude, extortion, insecurity from both lawless elements and legal authorities, ignorance of laws made by landlords for their own benefit, and even of his own industry which only attracts more exploitation from the exploiters. His daughter, Huli, is sacrificed to the unjust circumstances that afflict her father's goodwill as she falls prey to the pious hypocrisies of usurious do gooders and the local curate who would even violate her virginal virtues as she seeks his fatherly assistance. On the other hand, while her family suffers all these difficulties, her brother is conscripted into the colonial army - in the same way that our youth today are conscripted into the U.S. controlled military machinery - to fight peasants that are in revolt in other islands and in neighboring countries. As the unkindest cut of all to her family, Tano her brother - now called Carolino after his share of fighting for Spanish colonialism against the rebellions natives in the Carolines - would find himself in his own country to hunt down a so-called bandit called Matanglawin, his own father who has turned into a peasant rebel leading multitudes of those who had been dispossessed of their land.


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U.S. imperialism had planned that large haciendas would still remain in the hands of the landlords in order that sugar, copra, hem, tobacco and other raw agricultural products would be immediately exchanged in bulk with U.S. surplus manufactures through the agency of what we now call the compradors. Today, if you wish to have a clear idea of compradors, observe the comprador-landlords, under the leadership of Alfredo Montelibano in the Camber of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who are benefitted by the neocolonial trade between the Philippines and the United States and who are now maneuvering the perpetuation of parity rights and preferential trade.

According to the MacMillan-Rivera report, nineteen per cent of the farms in the Philippines were operated by tenants or share-croppers at the beginning of the U.S. colonial regime. By 1918, after the supposed division and redistribution of the friar estates and after a large increase in total farms through the opening of public lands, tenancy had risen to 22 per cent. In the 1930's, as the peasantry became more dispossessed and poorer, tenancy further rose to 36 per cent. The pretended grant of independence by the United States, far from reversing the trend of peasant pauperization, increased it and exposed the emptiness of such a bogus grant. By the late 1950's the tenancy rate rose to 40 per cent.

According to figures issued by the reactionary government, tenancy in the Philippines embraced eight million out of 27 million Filipinos in 1963. In Central Luzon, 65.87 per cent of all farms were tenant operated, and in the province of Pampanga it was 88 per cent - the highest rate for all provinces in the country. This did not yet include an equal number of the wholly landless agricultural workers who subsisted under onerous contract labor conditions on sugar haciendas, coconut plantations and elsewhere. The displaced tenants and the irregular, seasonal agricultural workers - the sacadas - are also a part of the hapless poor peasantry.

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The imperialist version of land reform for which Magsaysay was glorified during his time has gone completely bankrupt. The land resettlement program intended supposedly for the benefit of the landless has only prolonged the life of feudalism in the Philippines. Landlords have taken over far vaster tracts of land in those areas of resettlement and in too many cases, they have even put into question the titles of small settlers. The program of expropriating big landholding for redistribution to the landless has only been used by the landlords to dispose of their barren and useless lands at an overprice to the government. The Magsaysay land reform, conducted by the Land Tenure Administration and the NARRA, have failed to improve the condition of the peasantry as the rate of tenancy has risen far beyond 40 per cent. The credit system of the ACCFA and the system of FACOMA's have failed to help the tenants and the small farmers and have only been manipulated by the landlords and corrupt bureaucrats for their selfish interests. Agricultural extension workers from the Bureau of Agricultural Extension have always been inadequate.

As the imperialist-landlord combination ruled over the country in the 1950's by force of its state power, the reform measures and palliative proved ineffective in alleviating the condition of the peasantry or in whipping up false illusion. Imperialist and clerical organizations like the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the Federation of Free Farmers also proved ineffective even as propaganda instruments among the peasantry, especially among those who had experienced genuine peasant power.

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