Post War Attempts At Agrarian Reform ((LINK))
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The history of Philippine agrarian policy since independence is a sadly monotonous one for the scholar, a bitterly disappointing one for the hopeful tenant cultivator. It is a story of repeated initiative from the center of government that did not result in anywhere near the announced change in the countryside. Explanations for this series of ineffectual reforms have varied from insincerity and corruption to lack of peasant interest in getting ownership of the land. The most convincing analysis, however, seems to relate to the political and economic interests of the top decision makers, those initiating policy and supervising its implementations, and to the socioeconomic characteristics of the agrarian systems being reformed. The cumulative political consequences of agrarian policy also find both political and socioeconomic explanations.
Agrarian reform is a complex of policies designed to transform rural society in the direction of greater equality of wealth and power among groups and classes, and greater equality of opportunity for individuals. Where agrarian reform has followed a successful revolution it has usually involved the uncompensated redistribution of land. A much more modest attempt at transformation may be the creation of cooperatives in which small cultivators are given greater opportunities than their large competitors. But the type of reform on which we will focus here is the redistribution of tenanted land with compensation to the original owner, land for which the beneficiary of reform must repay the government. Despite all the permutations in Philippine policy over more than 30 years, these basic elements of land reform have remained constant: government purchase of tenanted land and its resale to tenants.
The way in which Mr. Marcos won reelection in 1969 with charges of massive fraud, inducement and intimidation, triggered a political reaction that had a profound impact on the national attention to and perception of land reform. It marked the beginning of a new stage in the history of Philippine agrarian reform.
In sum, the political purpose of land reform and its ancillary policies was to create mass support for the New Society and its leader, legitimize him abroad, and undermine support for alternative leadership on both the right and the left. Since great estates in sugar, coconut and other export crops were excluded from its coverage in any case, it is probably fair to say that in the long run none of these goals were accomplished. In the first few years of martial law, however, agrarian policy did help create support for Marcos in the countryside, blunted foreign criticism of his regime, and put the landed elite on the political defensive.
Macapagal had indeed grown up a poor boy, but he had been co-opted by the landed Pampanga elite. His sudden conversion to the virtues of agrarian reform in 1963 is thus all the more surprising. Certainly he was respectful of American advice, and like every other Filipino politician adored the prospect of new agencies to fill with his appointees, and the Agricultural Land Reform Code created several of them. But his reaching out for mass support on the land reform issue was a harbinger of change in the Philippine system, a harbinger of trends that many thought had died with Magsaysay. But Macapagal started too late in the building of a new mass base to succeed.
In December, the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations (CACIF), who had boycotted the Assembly, also produced a set of recommendations. In contrast to the CNOC and ASC proposals, CACIF argued against the idea of social property, and stressed that 'collective systems of ownership have never in practice been as successful as it was claimed they were'. It refuted past attempts at redistributive land reform and, on the grounds of technical efficiency, called for the privatisation of the few remaining communal or municipal lands.
* Property, Use and Rental of Land The ASC called for existing agrarian legislation to be reformed to introduce the idea of social use and ownership of land. It also demanded a new agricultural census, the creation of a land bank and other measures to regulate the land market.
The Socio-Economic Accord partially reflects the various positions of the interested parties. However, its provisions implicitly indicate that resolution of the agrarian problem is understood as a process of reallocating resources within a marginally reformed institutional context based on private ownership and the market. There are no provisions for structural changes in land tenure or for expropriating unused or under-utilised lands, while the notion of social property is entirely absent. In terms of underlying philosophy therefore, it is CACIF's vision which predominates. In explaining this, most commentators point to the weakness of the insurgent Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) in talks and the powerful influence of landowners on government negotiators. It is also widely believed that the guerrilla leadership opted to make strategic concessions on the land issue in order to bring the peace process to an end as soon as possible and to facilitate their own future participation in a legal political framework.
While the Socio-Economic Accord recognised previously neglected issues such as access to credit and technology, the titling of lands and the reform of state institutions to consider smallholder needs, it does not articulate a broad, national and long-term vision of development, and avoids any direct challenge to the inequitable status quo. Its appeals to a 'transparent land market' and 'friendly governments' may bring about a partial alleviation of rural poverty, but more substantial dimensions of the land problem have been postponed for future generations. As a consequence, low-level conflict is likely to continue, as expressed in campesino land invasions, strikes by rural workers and clashes between smallholders and armed agents of wealthy landowners. In all probability, simmering agrarian unrest will not lead to a full-scale rekindling of the war, yet it may well preclude a substantive and stable peace in the Guatemalan countryside.