Agrarian Reform Revisited Philip Ella Juico It is regrettable that several lives were lost and many more

were injured in the clashes between rallyists and police-military personnel last Tuesday at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac as a result of the deadlock in the negotiations between management and laborers of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT). As people of peace, we certainly condemn all forms of unnecessary and excessive use of force by anyone. The investigation of the incident should be allowed to go on freely and independently and should be finished as soon as possible. Once finished, a fair trial must be held and people convicted for them to pay for their negligence, incompetence and/or wickedness for exposing unsuspecting thousands to such real danger for their own ends. What makes the whole incident rather ironic is that all of the dead and injured come from the poorer sectors of society. These poor are the very same people who are supposed to be government’s and civil society’s partners in implementing a true and functioning agrarian reform program. It cannot be argued that one of the reasons for the agrarian reform program being a key social justice measure of the Corazon C. Aquino presidency from February 25, 1986 to June 30, 1992, was, to integrate the rural poor into a new democratic and consultative order. The other objectives of the program were to fast track the development of the countryside and promote rural industrialization and thus provide the non-military solution to the insurgency problem. But before reason gets lost and is drowned in the highly emotional environment, it might be worth our while to look closely at the facts if only to help prevent anarchists from sowing further discord and from confusing a people who are, very often, influenced by non-informative sound bites and fleeting images. The first fact that has to be pointed out is that the labor dispute has very little to do with the laborers/farm workers of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HCLI), but with the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT). What is at issue is the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) provisions of CAT. And the Cojuangco company involved in the dispute is CAT which has been loosely referred to by both the public and, unfortunately, media as simply, “Hacienda Luisita.” Because of the false impressions that the problem revolves around HLI, the compliance by the Cojuangco family with the agrarian reform law also becomes an issue. Before this is discussed, it might however be good to establish other important facts. HLI is the farm that produces the sugar cane that is later milled by the CAT. It is owned not just by the Cojuangco family but also by a corporation called Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), which is in turn owned by stockholders composed of the Cojuangco family, Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) and about 5,300 Farm Workers and Agrarian Reform Farm worker Beneficiaries (FWB). In short, the 5,300 FWB’s collectively co-own a portion of HLI, in this case about 33 1/3 per cent. HLI was formed to comply with Republic Act 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 or CARL or CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) Law. The scheme that was used was the Stock Distribution Option (SDO). The basis for the SDO is found in among others, Section 2 of the CARP Law that states, “The agrarian reform program is founded on the right of farmers and regular farm workers, who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till.” In addition, Section 3 of the same law states that agrarian reform means the redistribution of lands… and all other arrangements alternative to the physical distribution of lands such as production or profit sharing … and the distribution of shares of stock which will allow beneficiaries to receive a just share of the fruits of the lands they work.” In brief therefore, SDO is allowed under CARP as a mode of compliance with the law and that both the Cojuangco family and the 5,300 FWB’s who overwhelmingly and voluntarily agreed to such a scheme in two referenda in May and October 1989, complied with the law. In the May 11, 1989 referendum, 92.9% of the then 6,296 FWB’s signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that spelled out the intent of all parties to comply with CARP. On October 14, 1989, a higher percentage, 96.27% (5,117 out of 5,315 FWB’s) chose SDO over the actual, physical redistribution of the Luisita land. On November 21, 1989, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), which includes

representatives from both the peasant and landowners’ groups and Cabinet members, unanimously approved the SDO of HLI. HLI and not CAT was therefore covered by CARP in accordance with law. It is to be noted that the FWB’s received their shares of stock at no cost to them. There are other benefits that the FWB’s who co-own the farm receive which are in addition to what the law requires, the records of which are on file with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). There is no need at this time to detail all these benefits. Suffice it to say that the FWB’s entered into these agreements on their own free will after extensive deliberations with proponents and opponents of the SDO having their chance in a democratic setting to say their piece. They had several chances to repudiate their earlier positions but did not do so. The SDO provision itself in the CARP Law has been subject to much discussion and debate. Some say it is unconstitutional, although the entire law’s constitutionality has been upheld. It is a known fact that the CARP Law, which took both houses of Congress all of 11 months to pass, was extensively debated in both the official and non-official parliaments. The SDO, in particular, was exposed to extensive deliberation. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of CARP, including the SDO, were also openly discussed in wide-ranging consultations and published in newspapers of general circulation. The whole CARP was subjected to various surveys in order to get a better sense of program acceptability or non-acceptability. The general feeling and belief of the nation was that it was reasonable enough: not too radical and not too conservative. But still the debates persisted and continue to do so, but very often with incomplete and sometimes, downright misleading and malicious, premises and information. As the then Secretary of the DAR who had the privilege of implementing the new agrarian reform law, I would often say (as I do say now), “If CARP does not come up to someone’s expectations, then it must be said that the individual’s conscience is ahead of the popular conscience. In any case, it is “out of step” with the popular mind, which values social peace, and practices God-given patience for the sake of keeping the social fabric together. If CARP is considered far too advanced, then he who judges it to be so must realize that he is slowly being left relegated to the past… for he walks far behind popular consensus. And just as consensus does not remain static, so also is CARP possessed of a dynamism of its own, open to advances or retreats, sensitive to the impulses of the present and the future.” Dr. Phillip Ella Juico was Secretary of Agrarian Reform (DAR) from July 1987 to June 1989.

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