EDITORIAL - Make agrarian reform work
() - November 26, 2011 - 12:00am

Relatives of President Aquino have promised to abide by the latest Supreme Court decision, which ordered the distribution of 4,915.75 hectares of the family’s sugar estate in Tarlac to more than 6,000 farm workers. The unanimous decision amended the SC’s ruling last July, which allowed Hacienda Luisita Inc. to give its workers the option of choosing between land and shares of stock in HLI.

The President has tried to distance himself from the dispute, pointing out that his shares in the country’s largest sugar plantation were negligible and he had no role in the management of HLI. But he has to live with the reality that regardless of the size of his shares in Luisita, Filipinos will always link him to the controversy. This was also the case with his late mother Corazon Aquino, under whose watch the stock distribution option was included in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law that was passed by the landlord-dominated post-EDSA Congress.

The option, which allowed owners of large agricultural estates to avoid having their lands parceled out to tenants, was aggravated by the inadequacy of support for making the redistributed land viable. Many small farms under CARP suffered from the lack of farm-to-market roads, marketing support, post-harvest facilities and fertilizer assistance. A number of frustrated CARP beneficiaries sold their farms, with their plight bolstering the argument that large agricultural estates are more productive and efficient.

Farmers, however, can be assisted in setting up cooperatives and putting together their limited resources to make CARP lands viable. By this time, it may be too late for this in areas where many of the farmer-beneficiaries have sold their lands. But there are ways of increasing this program’s chances of success, and President Aquino must show that he is exerting effort to make agrarian reform work.

Whether he likes it or not, the case of Hacienda Luisita is seen as a test of the President’s political will. The case may not yet be over; HLI may appeal the SC ruling. And with the court having opened the doors, through recent decisions, to endless litigation, the farmers of Hacienda Luisita may still have a long wait ahead to own land. What can be done immediately is to intensify efforts to make agrarian reform work for farmers who have already received land under the program.

COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM LAW CORAZON AQUINO HACIENDA LUISITA HACIENDA LUISITA INC LAND LUISITA PRESIDENT AQUINO RELATIVES OF PRESIDENT AQUINO SUPREME COURT TARLAC
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