Legal but unjust compensation

By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — “Just compensation” when referring to agrarian reform is an oxymoron. All agrarian reform programs of Philippine presidents provide for “just compensation” for landlords whose lands are taken by the government for distribution to farmers. But this does not make it just.

“How could you own that which will outlive you?” Macliing Dulag, a Kalinga tribal chieftain who led the struggle against the building of the Chico River Dam during the 1970s, was once quoted as saying in reply to a demand by an army engineer fo show him the title to the land. Macliing Dulag was killed when soldiers fired at his house on April 24, 1980 .

These words from the respected leader of the Butbut tribe of Kalinga province could very well serve as an indictment of the monopoly of land by a few landed families in the country. How could these landlords, such as the Cojuangcos, Lobregats, Yulos, among others, lay claim to vast tracts of land that existed before them and would outlive generations of their families? If one is to trace the history of this country, land monopoly began during Spanish colonization. It was a result of land grabbing by the Spanish colonizers who passed on the land to their heirs who, in turn, either kept it or sold it to other landed families. Thus, even if the monopoly of the land by a few families was legitimized by the country’s laws, it is still the greatest and most prevalent form of injustice in the country today.

Moreso for the Cojuangco clan of Hacienda Luisita Inc.: their claim to the land, which they bought from its former Spanish owners, was even financed by taxpayers money through a loan agreement entered into by Don Jose Cojuagco with the Central Bank of the Philippines and the Goverment Service Insurance System. Based on the loan agreement, the Cojuangcos should have turned over the land to the farmers more than four decades ago.

Second, it is through the labor of farmers and farmworkers that the land was made productive. It is also their labor that created the wealth of landlords who contributed nothing to making the land productive. It is this landlord–farmer relationship that has enslaved a vast majority of Filipinos for centuries.

Third, landlords are not wanting in wealth and capital after centuries of oppressing and exploiting farmers and farm workers. They belong to the one percent of the population who corner around 80 to 90 percent of the country’s wealth. Take some members of the Cojuangco clan as example: Danding Cojuangco has a net worth of $760 million or P32.68 billion as of December 2010; Enrique Cojuangco of Tarlac is worth P200 million ($4.65 million); Carmen Cojuangco of Pangasinan is worlth P96 million ($2.23 million; President Benigno Aquino III has a declared net worth of P55 million ($ 1.27 million).

On the contrary, it is the farmers who are capital-strapped.

Fourth, under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the government would compensate landlords for their lands, which were covered by agrarian reform. In turn, farmers and farm workers are supposed to pay for fhis through montly amortizations. This is the biggest flaw of the agrarian reform law. How could farmers pay their monthly amortization when they even have to borrow money so that they could plant and the farming technology is so backward that the harvest is hardly sufficient for their families’ consumption? Thus, it is almost certain that farmers, who would not be able to cope with the monthly amortization, would be forced to resell the land, which was awarded to them, to the landlords.

So where is the justness in compensating landlords such as the Cojuangco clan of Haceinda Luisita? ()

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