Posted by: Jae | December 21, 2007

On Sumilao, Satur and Agrarian Reform

Over the past month, I have found myself regretting that I had not taken a more active part in the Sumilao campaign. The farmers reached Manila after their long walk from Bukidnon around the time I was in Sweden, and when I got back I found myself running from one commitment to another, in various places around the country. To my great regret, the only time I spent for Sumilao was the first day they camped out in front of DAR. And while, of course, I ask for and get regular updates from friends playing active roles in the campaign, I have not written about Sumilao in this blog. I felt that what I could say about the matter had been said a thousand times before, by people better-situated and better-informed to say it.

Like other agrarian reform advocates, I was disappointed that the order from Malacanang was not to install the farmers (initially, there was word that all 144 hectares would actually be distributed), but only to revoke the conversion order on findings of violation of its terms. It meant that the process of CLOA application would begin all over again, starting from the issuance of notice of coverage.

However, I also found disturbing some comments made by various sectors, in particular, the comment of Satur Ocampo, which landed on the front page of the Inquirer. In essence, he said that “the Sumilao farmers’ plight was serving to highlight the bogus character of the government’s agrarian reform program.” While militant and activist-sounding (and to a certain extent true, for no one is denying that the CARL as it stands is shot full of holes), the subtext that statement is no secret: Ka Satur and the national democratic movement simply do not believe in Agrarian Reform.

They who filed a House Bill for the creation of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Act in the House of Representatives had, only a couple of months before, filed a House Resolution AGAINST the extension of CARP. In fact, in several Committee hearings, they unwittingly found themselves on the side of the likes of Iggy Arroyo and other Congressmen bent on protecting their landed interests.

Indeed, the past twenty years of CARP implementation have stood witness to a wide gamut of problems that have impacted heavily and adversely on the right of the farmers to till their own lands. The lack of political will from the Department of Agrarian Reform has largely been responsible for the failure to meet redistribution targets. Landowners have likewise resorted to creative legal gymnastics in order to retain their landholdings, making use of non land transfer schemes, like the Stock Distribution Option in Hacienda Luisita, onerous leaseback agreements and other corporate venture schemes which the CARL had allowed.

Policy problems have been compounded even further by various extralegal maneuvers being employed by landowners, including the filing of criminal cases to harass and intimidate the farmers — sometimes even resorting to the use of physical violence and scare tactics. In Hacienda Velez Malaga owned by Roberto Cuenca, a total of eleven peasant leaders had been killed between 2001 and 2007. In Bondoc Peninsula, there are documented cases of landowners confederating with members of the New People’s Army to liquidate the peasants. National and local government structures are routinely being abused to guarantee impunity.

We must distinguish, however, between extending RA 6657 and retaining its present form, and extending the agrarian reform program.

Given this landscape, after all, it is all too easy to make the call against the extension of the agrarian reform program, when in fact the call should be to introduce urgent reforms to the present law. While the premises of Ka Satur are valid and based on documented evidence, the conclusion reached should be reexamined. In the absence of real and concrete alternatives, eradicating CARP altogether will eliminate the already scant protections granted under the law to farmers and farmworkers.

Without the CARL, agrarian reform advocates would be bereft of any legal basis with which to assert the rights of tillers to the lands that they till. The power to take lands from landlords with huge tracts of lands and redistribute them is a power that only the State can exercise. Legally, no other entity or institution is clothed with that power. Likewise, the provision of support services post-redistribution cannot be relegated to any other entity. Hence, it is well nigh impossible to envision an agrarian reform program that is not state-sponsored or does not make use of state mechanisms. Operating within that framework and cognizant of that limitation, calling for the termination of the CARL in 2008 would only entrench even deeper landed interests and make the status quo even harder to dismantle.

Moreover, the 1987 Constitution mandates that the “State shall undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farmworkers who are landless to own directly or collectively the lands that they till.” There is therefore a clear imperative to maintain in place a mechanism to forward this guiding principle.

The long list of problems with regard to the implementation of the existing agrarian reform program should not be a reason to eliminate the program altogether, in the absence of any other sustainable and viable alternative. Rather, the expiration of CARP in 2008 should be seen as an opportunity to lobby changes that reflect experiences on the ground and attempt to provide solutions to address persisting issues of landlessness, rural poverty and disenfranchisement.

Truly, genuine agrarian reform can only take place in a setting wherein there is a State that (1) understands the strategic importance of agrarian reform in eliminating rural poverty, (2) has the political will to break the hold of the landed class amidst a climate of political favors and clientelism, and (3) has a functioning and efficient bureaucracy that will speedily implement the program without fear or favor.

That does not mean, however, that failure to meet these criteria should result in a shelving of the agrarian reform program. There is much more to be lost than to be gained by relinquishing CARP at this particular juncture. The incremental gains accrued should be preserved, the protections it affords to farmers should be maintained, and the deficiencies and infirmities in its provisions should be corrected.



  1. tama si can speak for a tama ka, calling for the end of CARP does not make too much sense.mejo nagulat din ako sa panawagan na yan.kwento ko lang sa u, before i left the sumilao meeting, tinx smiled and said: oh, the life we choose to live.i replied: the life we choose, dahil pareho kaming nakasmile, alam mo na alam naming dalawa na mahirap man, tama ang desisyon natin.

  2. ahem, ang sinabi ni (lasing) karl na minememorize ko talaga, “a mouthpiece for a generation ready to resist.” wahaha. feeling ko tumambling si lean alejandro sa kanyang pinaghihimlayan. 😀

    on you and tinx, yeah i guess there are parts about our work that are hard, pero don’t you think.. masaya din? im still having fun in doing what we do, it’s still a great ride.

    a few days ago, kainuman ko isa kong friend sa my bro’s moustache. i told him na parang naiisip ko na umalis. sabi niya, see, sabi ko sa yo hindi mo kaya tumagal ng ten years. sabi ko,hindi, gusto ko na umalis ng qc at pumirmi sa regions, yung dati ko pang five year plan. like quezon or negros, perhaps. kasi nga this work we do still keeps me super happy.

    yeah, miles to go before we sleep, pero i like to think that these are fun miles naman (parang cebu pacific).hindi tayo grim and determined! hindi! hindi! 😀

  3. It really depends on what tools of analysis you are using. For the Natdems, their fundamental framework in resolving the land question is through agrarian revolution, genuine peasant uprising. So, logically, to them, it makes perfect political sense.

  4. sure emman, but in the meantime, what? leave the peasants to the vagaries of elite interests and politics?

    while organizing the workers and waiting for a workers revolution, don’t we strive to make incremental changes in labor conditions by engaging the state and using mechanisms like collective bargaining agreement?

    and even assuming the posturing makes sound political sense, their actions belie it. case in point: bondoc pen.

  5. akala ko ba the purpose of being a lawyer is to question a law? eh kitang kita naman that the CARP is a flawed law. its only function is for the government to brag that it still has a sense of social justice, while on the other hand, land-owners has all the means to evade land distribution by banking on all the numerous loopholes of CARP. GMA should not retain this law for such mediocre purpose. i agree with satur that the CARP should not be re-extended. its target was for ten years only. now it has been extended and is to be re-extended again. there’s no more sense in doing that. but unlike satur who is calling for a better version of CRAP, este CARP to be passed in Congress, i recommend for the total abolition of land reform. we should instead allow foreigners and corporations to buy and convert agrarian lands. You know what, i actually salute AKBAYAN-Youth in UP for heir support to the UP Charter Change proposal of Pres. roman. with AKBAYAN-Youth’s support, UP might just be able to sell, lease, or convert academic lands for financiallycreative purposes. i commend the Ayala Corporation’s plan to use part of Diliman’s properties as a commercial complex. ayala is a number one real estate developer, he knows his business well and will have a great partnership with UP. But i think he should cut the crap about the S&T park, we all know he is not an R&D financier. UP Admin, Ayala, and Akbayan-youth should just be proud to declare that UP is now into real estate business and earning well, thanks to them. then the country should follow UP’s example, forget about land reform and think about all the dollars our country could earn by putting lands to good use. farmers should not complain about their being poor. they should send their children to school and have faith on the concept of social class mobility. UP offers good education for a low price. they can even make use of STFAP and have the same status as Ateneo scholars. diba may point ako? kalimutan na yang land reform na yan.

  6. sige nalang, mehn. kakapagod na eh. your opinion doesnt, um, really matter all that much. 🙂 i dont really mind a healthy debate, pero siguro, aral ka muna ng kaunti. i can actually come up with better arguments against my positions than the arguments youve managed to come up with.

    i assume youre quite young. your passion for debate is impressive and you should keep that up. 🙂

  7. “we should instead allow foreigners and corporations to buy and convert agrarian lands.”??!!

    well, at least klarong-klaro ang position mo on that issue.

  8. “waiting for a workers revolution, don’t we strive to make incremental changes in labor conditions?”–jae hahaha! kung ang position mo ay while waiting for an armed revolution (gusto mo nga ba talaga yun?)to distribute land, you should be making incremental changes through CARP, mali pa rin yun. you should strive for a different law na walang gaanong loop holes, di kagaya ng CRAP na obsolete na nirerecycle pa ng paulit-ulit. how can you make substantiveincremental changes with a law na palpak. Kahit nga si walden bello inamin nya walang ngipin ang CARP, nagtataka nga ako bakit gusto pa rin niyang i-extend yun. pero dahil AKBAYAN ka at ayaw mo naman tiyak ng program nina satur at ka roger na revolutionary land reform, diba dapat mas magpupursige ka na mapalitan na ang CARP? sina satur nga na may iba pang agenda hindi na makuntento sa minor achievements ng CRAP, tapos ikaw na umaasa lang talaga sa government land reform, makukuntento na sa batas na yun. hanggang incremental changes na nga lang talaga kayo habambuhay. pero kung ako ang tatanungin, mas gusto ko talaga ang strategy ng AKBAYAN-youth sa UP. convert academic lands to a commercial complex, husay nga naman, kikita pa ng pera. dapat ganun na lang ang ipalit na strategy sa CRAP.

  9. dedma na. tempting, but not worth it. 😉

  10. hahahaha sori na po

  11. jae may alam na akong pwede mong pagtripan. si amihanmalaya.wordpress.agit na maoist-thirdworldist. di ko alam kung ano yun pero tingin ko lang kahit mga taga-bayan muna magagalit dun. ang point nya kasi, first world versus third world. at kahit manggagawa ka sa first world, kaaway ka pa rin ng mga nasa third world kasi part ka ng first world labor aristocracy. o diba, ibang linya na naman yun. awayin mo din, mga rebisyunista hehe. bakit ang mga komunista di na nagkapare-pareho, lagi na lang magkakaiba ng paliwanag. kaya di na kayo dumadami nakakalito kasi kayo hahaha.

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