Land, social justice, democracy and peace

By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Bulatlat perspective

Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Hacienda Looc in Batangas, Hacienda Dolores in Pampanga, Hacienda Arloc and Hacienda Ilimnan in Negros Occidental, what do these have in common? These are vast tracts of land, which were appropriated by a few elite families of big landlords. Also, these lands were supposed to be covered by agrarian reform programs of various administrations. Thus, farm workers in these haciendas are called agrarian reform beneficiaries. They are, in fact, holders of more than one certificate identifying them as beneficiaries such as Emancipation Patents (EP), Certificates of Land Ownership Agreement (CLOA), and Certificates of Land Transfer (CLT).

Ironically, they are currently engaged in a fierce and bloody land struggle. And these land struggles intensified under the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and its “Extension with Reforms” (CARP and CARPER) because whatever gains the farmer workers got are being reversed. Prime lots in Hacienda Luisita are being fenced off by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan; Hacienda Looc is being claimed by a big real estate developer; and Haciendas Arloc and Ilimnan are being claimed by the governor of Negros Occidental.

These are not isolated cases. Land struggles are happening not just in the abovementioned haciendas but all over the country.

Hacienda is the Spanish term for vast landholdings devoted to cash crop agricultural production. These were first established during the last one hundred years of Spanish colonization with the opening up of Philippine ports to world trade, which replaced the galleon trade between the country and Acapulco of earlier years. Ownership over the lands covering these haciendas, which were grabbed from indios (Filipinos) by friars and Spanish colonizers, were passed on to the descendants of the Spanish colonizers or sold to other landed families. Other landed families grabbed their lands from those supposedly owned by the government and forests cleared for planting by peasant settlers.

The CARP was enacted in 1988 and was supposed to end after ten years. It has been extended several times and has been under implementation for 26 years already. The CARP’s appendage, the CAPRER, is supposed to end this year and the Aquino administration declared that it would push for its extension for another two years. If the Congress does approve its extension, it would be the longest-running agrarian reform program of any administration in Philippine history, spanning almost three decades.

But did it make a dent in the problem of landlessness in the country? The fact that farmers and farmworkers are still engaged in fierce and bloody land struggles, and these struggles are still intensifying belie official claims that the CARP and other previous government agrarian reform programs have resulted in the emancipation of the peasantry.

If the CARP has not addressed landlessness, why then is it being extended? That is exactly the point. The fact that the CARP does not threaten the landholdings and the monopoly of landlords, who dominate Congress and the Aquino administration – President Aquino himself is being called a haciendero president by progressive peasant organizations – is the very reason why it has been extended several times already.

The problem of landlessness, in a country that is not industrialized – its manufacturing sector limited to producing low value-added semi-manufactures in mere assembly plants – and is backward and agricultural where the peasantry comprise the majority, is the most pressing, prevalent, and central issue confronting Philippine society. It is the central issue that is the cause and the main democratic demand of the national democratic revolution being fought for by the New People’s Army (NPA). The national democratic revolution is being precisely described as a peasant war and the NPA a peasant army.

Add to this the attacks on workers rights, the pressing down of wages to starvation levels, the intensification of the exploitation of workers – through lengthening the working hours and /or making the work more difficult such as increasing the quota and the number of machines and processes a worker operates – the worsening joblessness and poverty, and one will have the formidable combination of workers – who are the most organized, practical and scientific thinking sector, who are not weighed down by property ownership – and the peasant majority. It is with theoretical and historical basis that communist parties, in general, and the Communist Party of the Philippines, in particular, describe themselves as a party of the working class, of the proletariat. The CPP takes the responsibility of leading the national democratic revolution up to the establishment of socialism.

Add to this the sell-out of the country’s sovereignty and patrimony, the scandalous wholesale corruption, the attacks on people’s rights and civil liberties such as freedom of expression and assembly, due process, freedom from torture, etc. and impunity in human rights violations and killing of journalists, and one would have the unity of all freedom-living Filipinos with the struggle of the workers and peasants. This is what the National Democratic Front of the Philippines is all about.

The national democratic revolution being waged by the CPP-NPA-NDFP does not only have an ideological basis – which unifies the movement and provides direction to the revolution – it also has a basis in the conditions prevailing in Philippine society. These are the roots of the armed conflict.

The Aquino government’s adamant refusal to seriously address these issues and make these part of the substantive agenda in its peace talks with the NDFP shows that it is not serious in achieving peace based on justice no matter how many times it declares that it is for peace and that it is open to the peace talks with the NDFP. And for as long as the social, economic, and political basis exists and the roots of the armed conflict are not being addressed seriously, the Aquino government would not be able to wipe out the revolution no matter how many Supremos it arrests and puts behind bars. It would push the resolution of the national democratic revolution to its logical conclusion: the victory of the majority over the minority. After all, isn’t this what democracy and a just and lasting peace is all about? ()

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