The 6,453 hectares of land in Hacienda Luisita is rife with history of agrarian reform, which dates back to 1957, when former President Ramon Magsaysay blocked the sale of the hacienda from the wealthy Lopez family in Iloilo. He instead offered the land to Jose Cojuangco Sr.
Under the agreement, Cojuangco was supposed to redistribute all the land to the farmers after 10 years, but he was not able to. This has led to a series of land reform efforts that are still ongoing to this day.
On June 10, 1988, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was enacted under then President Corazon Aquino. It aimed for the nationwide “redistribution of public and private agricultural lands to farmers and farmworkers who are landless, irrespective of tenurial arrangement.” Among millions of hectares nationwide up for land distribution, the implementation in Hacienda Luisita is the most controversial.
The program implemented a stock distribution option (SDO) in which the farmers would receive corporate stocks as an alternative to land distribution. In Hacienda Luisita, the farmers’ share of 4,916 hectares, valued at P197 million, only consisted 33 percent of total shares. The Cojuangcos’ shares, worth P394 million, consisted 67 percent. Inevitably, under the system, many farmers lost their land.
“For farmers who got displaced, they were forced to work under contractualization or as a labandera in Metro Manila. Some are now well-off because they worked abroad in the Middle East,” says Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita Chairperson Florida “Ka Pong” Sibayan in an interview with The LaSallian.
In 2003, approximately 5,000 Hacienda Luisita farmers petitioned at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to revoke the SDO, claiming that it has only made them poorer. The DAR granted the petition, but the Cojuangcos contested it at the Supreme Court.
In the following year, 2004, the Hacienda Luisita Massacre broke out. Twelve farm workers and two children were killed in a standoff between the farmers and forces of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The PNP was able to repel the farmers with the use of guns, armored cars, and fire trucks.
While the farmers were protesting for fairer wages, increased benefits, and a more sincere commitment for national land reform, they were attacked with tear gas and water cannons, while bulldozers destroyed their crops and makeshift homes, recounts Ka Pong.
By 2008, the budget for CARP eventually expired, with 1.2 out of 10.3 million hectares of land left to distribute. In 2009, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was established. It added another five years to the deadline of land distribution. Land reform efforts were then extended to President Benigno Aquino III when he assumed office in June 30, 2010.
CARPER under P-Noy
In April 2012, a decision by the Supreme Court ordered the total distribution of Hacienda Luisita to the farmworker beneficiaries. As of press time, however, only 4,099 out of 6,453 hectares of land have been distributed. Hundreds of hectares of the land were already used for building the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, malls, factories, and creeks, while part of the land has also been reserved for future commercialization projects.
In 2013, the SDO of the CARPER was replaced with a lottery system. This created confusion among the farmers because the supposed allocation of farm lots were reshuffled and mixed up.
Ka Pong shares that she and other farmers were assigned to a farm lot in Barangays Pando and Mabilog, which were 25 to 30 kilometers away from their original farm lot in Barangay Balete, Tarlac. The tricycle fee was P150—Ka Pong shares that, in a day, she would spend P300 going back and forth to her farm lot.
In terms of military presence, Ka Pong says that from time to time soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines scout the various barangays in Hacienda Luisita. The farmers shared that, as recent as March this year, military men bulldozed another portion of their land where crops had been planted. Ka Pong shares that she is dismayed with mainstream media’s lack of coverage on events like these.
Hope in Duterte?
Two years ago, in June 2014, Aquino extended the CARPER for another two years and promised to finish it by the end of his term. However, as of press time, many farmers in Hacienda Luisita still have not been granted their portion of land. Additionally, the farm worker beneficiaries have not yet been paid P1.3 billion from the sales of 580.51 hectares of land.
Farmers in Hacienda Luisita are looking forward to radical change in land reform through President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. Pia Montalban, a poet and activist who supports various networks of farmers in Hacienda Luisita, says that as of today it is still vague as to what Duterte can bring for agrarian reform.
Recently, the militant group Kilusang Magsasaka ng Pilipinas (KMP) questioned the plans of Duterte to appoint communists in four key cabinet positions, which include the DAR. The KMP also claimed that the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, which is pending in Congress, may be the solution for land reform in the country.
After over 28 years of agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita, the farmers have already seen various changes under different presidents and leaders of the DAR. However, despite the costs incurred by the CARP and CARPER, many farmworkers still have not received their own share of land.