“This land is Ours God gave this land to us”
Before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, Filipinos lived in villages or barangays ruled by chiefs or datus. The datus comprised the nobility. Then came the maharlikas (freemen), followed by the aliping mamamahay (serfs) and aliping saguiguilid (slaves).
However, despite the existence of different classes in the social structure, practically everyone had access to the fruits of the soil. Money was unknown, and rice served as the medium of exchange.
“United we stand, divided we fall”
When the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the concept of encomienda (Royal Land Grants) was introduced. This system grants that Encomienderos must defend his encomienda from external attack, maintain peace and order within, and support the missionaries. In turn, the encomiendero acquired the right to collect tribute from the indios (native).
The system, however, degenerated into abuse of power by the encomienderos The tribute soon became land rents to a few powerful landlords. And the natives who once cultivated the lands in freedom were transformed into mere share tenants.
First Philippine Republic
“The yoke has finally broken”
When the First Philippine Republic was established in 1899, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared in the Malolos Constitution his intention to confiscate large estates, especially the so-called Friar lands.
However, as the Republic was short-lived, Aguinaldo’s plan was never implemented.
“Long live America”
Significant legislation enacted during the American Period:
- Philippine Bill of 1902 – Set the ceilings on the hectarage of private individuals and corporations may acquire: 16 has. for private individuals and 1,024 has. for corporations.
- Land Registration Act of 1902 (Act No. 496) – Provided for a comprehensive registration of land titles under the Torrens system.
- Public Land Act of 1903 – introduced the homestead system in the Philippines.
- Tenancy Act of 1933 (Act No. 4054 and 4113) – regulated relationships between landowners and tenants of rice (50-50 sharing) and sugar cane lands.
The Torrens system, which the Americans instituted for the registration of lands, did not solve the problem completely. Either they were not aware of the law or if they did, they could not pay the survey cost and other fees required in applying for a Torrens title.
“Government for the Filipinos”
President Manuel L. Quezon espoused the "Social Justice" program to arrest the increasing social unrest in Central Luzon.
Significant legislation enacted during Commonwealth Period:
- 1935 Constitution – "The promotion of social justice to ensure the well-being and economic security of all people should be the concern of the State"
- Commonwealth Act No. 178 (An Amendment to Rice Tenancy Act No. 4045), Nov. 13, 1936 – Provided for certain controls in the landlord-tenant relationships
- National Rice and Corn Corporation (NARIC), 1936 – Established the price of rice and corn thereby help the poor tenants as well as consumers.
- Commonwealth Act. No. 461, 1937 – Specified reasons for the dismissal of tenants and only with the approval of the Tenancy Division of the Department of Justice.
- Rural Program Administration, created March 2, 1939 – Provided the purchase and lease of haciendas and their sale and lease to the tenants.
Commonwealth Act No. 441 enacted on June 3, 1939 – Created the National Settlement Administration with a capital stock of P20,000,000.
“The Era of Hukbalahap”
The Second World War II started in Europe in 1939 and in the Pacific in 1941.
Hukbalahap controlled whole areas of Central Luzon; landlords who supported the Japanese lost their lands to peasants while those who supported the Huks earned fixed rentals in favor of the tenants.
Unfortunately, the end of war also signaled the end of gains acquired by the peasants.
Upon the arrival of the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942, peasants and workers organizations grew strength. Many peasants took up arms and identified themselves with the anti-Japanese group, the HUKBALAHAP (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon).
“The New Republic”
After the establishment of the Philippine Independence in 1946, the problems of land tenure remained. These became worst in certain areas. Thus the Congress of the Philippines revised the tenancy law.
President Manuel A. Roxas (1946-1948) enacted the following laws:
- Republic Act No. 34 -- Established the 70-30 sharing arrangements and regulating share-tenancy contracts.
- Republic Act No. 55 -- Provided for a more effective safeguard against arbitrary ejectment of tenants.
Elpidio R. Quirino (1948-1953) enacted the following law:
Executive Order No. 355 issued on October 23, 1950 -- Replaced the National Land Settlement Administration with Land Settlement Development Corporation (LASEDECO) which takes over the responsibilities of the Agricultural Machinery Equipment Corporation and the Rice and Corn Production Administration.
Ramon Magsaysay (1953-1957) enacted the following laws:
- Republic Act No. 1160 of 1954 -- Abolished the LASEDECO and established the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) to resettle dissidents and landless farmers. It was particularly aimed at rebel returnees providing home lots and farmlands in Palawan and Mindanao.
- Republic Act No. 1199 (Agricultural Tenancy Act of 1954) -- governed the relationship between landowners and tenant farmers by organizing share-tenancy and leasehold system. The law provided the security of tenure of tenants. It also created the Court of Agrarian Relations.
- Republic Act No. 1400 (Land Reform Act of 1955) -- Created the Land Tenure Administration (LTA) which was responsible for the acquisition and distribution of large tenanted rice and corn lands over 200 hectares for individuals and 600 hectares for corporations.
- Republic Act No. 821 (Creation of Agricultural Credit Cooperative Financing Administration) -- Provided small farmers and share tenants loans with low interest rates of six to eight percent.
President Carlos P. Garcia (1957-1961)
Continued the program of President Ramon Magsaysay. No new legislation passed.
President Diosdado P. Macapagal (1961-1965) enacted the following law:
Republic Act No. 3844 of August 8, 1963 (Agricultural Land Reform Code) -- Abolished share tenancy, institutionalized leasehold, set retention limit at 75 hectares, invested rights of preemption and redemption for tenant farmers, provided for an administrative machinery for implementation, institutionalized a judicial system of agrarian cases, incorporated extension, marketing and supervised credit system of services of farmer beneficiaries.
The RA was hailed as one that would emancipate Filipino farmers from the bondage of tenancy.
President Ferdinand E. Marcos (1965-1986)
Proclamation No. 1081 on September 21, 1972 ushered the Period of the New Society. Five days after the proclamation of Martial Law, the entire country was proclaimed a land reform area and simultaneously the Agrarian Reform Program was decreed.
President Marcos enacted the following laws:
- Republic Act No. 6389, (Code of Agrarian Reform) and RA No. 6390 of 1971 -- Created the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Agrarian Reform Special Account Fund. It strengthen the position of farmers and expanded the scope of agrarian reform.
- Presidential Decree No. 2, September 26, 1972 -- Declared the country under land reform program. It enjoined all agencies and offices of the government to extend full cooperation and assistance to the DAR. It also activated the Agrarian Reform Coordinating Council.
- Presidential Decree No. 27, October 21, 1972 -- Restricted land reform scope to tenanted rice and corn lands and set the retention limit at 7 hectares.
President Corazon C. Aquino (1986-1992)
The Constitution ratified by the Filipino people during the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino provides under Section 21 under Article II that “The State shall promote comprehensive rural development and agrarian reform.”
On June 10, 1988, former President Corazon C. Aquino signed into law Republic Act No. 6657 or otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL). The law became effective on June 15, 1988.
Subsequently, four Presidential issuances were released in July 1987 after 48 nationwide consultations before the actual law was enacted.
President Corazon C. Aquino enacted the following laws:
- Executive Order No. 228, July 16, 1987 – Declared full ownership to qualified farmer-beneficiaries covered by PD 27. It also determined the value remaining unvalued rice and corn lands subject of PD 27 and provided for the manner of payment by the FBs and mode of compensation to landowners.
- Executive Order No. 229, July 22, 1987 – Provided mechanism for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
- Proclamation No. 131, July 22, 1987 – Instituted the CARP as a major program of the government. It provided for a special fund known as the Agrarian Reform Fund (ARF), with an initial amount of Php50 billion to cover the estimated cost of the program from 1987-1992.
- Executive Order No. 129-A, July 26, 1987 – streamlined and expanded the power and operations of the DAR.
- Republic Act No. 6657, June 10, 1988 (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law) – An act which became effective June 15, 1988 and instituted a comprehensive agrarian reform program to promote social justice and industrialization providing the mechanism for its implementation and for other purposes. This law is still the one being implemented at present.
- Executive Order No. 405, June 14, 1990 – Vested in the Land Bank of the Philippines the responsibility to determine land valuation and compensation for all lands covered by CARP.
- Executive Order No. 407, June 14, 1990 – Accelerated the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands, pasture lands, fishponds, agro-forestry lands and other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture.
President Fidel V. Ramos (1992-1998)
When President Fidel V. Ramos formally took over in 1992, his administration came face to face with publics who have lost confidence in the agrarian reform program. His administration committed to the vision “Fairer, faster and more meaningful implementation of the Agrarian Reform Program.
President Fidel V. Ramos enacted the following laws:
- Republic Act No. 7881, 1995 – Amended certain provisions of RA 6657 and exempted fishponds and prawns from the coverage of CARP.
- Republic Act No. 7905, 1995 – Strengthened the implementation of the CARP.
- Executive Order No. 363, 1997 – Limits the type of lands that may be converted by setting conditions under which limits the type of lands that may be converted by setting conditions under which specific categories of agricultural land are either absolutely non-negotiable for conversion or highly restricted for conversion.
- Republic Act No. 8435, 1997 (Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act AFMA) – Plugged the legal loopholes in land use conversion.
- Republic Act 8532, 1998 (Agrarian Reform Fund Bill) – Provided an additional Php50 billion for CARP and extended its implementation for another 10 years.
President Joseph E. Estrada (1998-2000)
“ERAP PARA SA MAHIRAP’. This was the battle cry that endeared President Joseph Estrada and made him very popular during the 1998 presidential election.
President Joseph E. Estrada initiated the enactment of the following law:
Executive Order N0. 151, September 1999 (Farmer’s Trust Fund) – Allowed the voluntary consolidation of small farm operation into medium and large scale integrated enterprise that can access long-term capital.
During his administration, President Estrada launched the Magkabalikat Para sa Kaunlarang Agraryo or MAGKASAKA. The DAR forged into joint ventures with private investors into agrarian sector to make FBs competitive.
However, the Estrada Administration was short lived. The masses who put him into office demanded for his ouster.
President Gloria Macapacal-Arroyo (2000-2010)
The agrarian reform program under the Arroyo administration is anchored on the vision “To make the countryside economically viable for the Filipino family by building partnership and promoting social equity and new economic opportunities towards lasting peace and sustainable rural development.”
Land Tenure Improvement - DAR will remain vigorous in implementing land acquisition and distribution component of CARP. The DAR will improve land tenure system through land distribution and leasehold.
Provision of Support Services - CARP not only involves the distribution of lands but also included package of support services which includes: credit assistance, extension services, irrigation facilities, roads and bridges, marketing facilities and training and technical support programs.
Infrastrucre Projects - DAR will transform the agrarian reform communities (ARCs), an area focused and integrated delivery of support services, into rural economic zones that will help in the creation of job opportunities in the countryside.
KALAHI ARZone - The KALAHI Agrarian Reform (KAR) Zones were also launched. These zones consists of one or more municipalities with concentration of ARC population to achieve greater agro-productivity.
Agrarian Justice - To help clear the backlog of agrarian cases, DAR will hire more paralegal officers to support undermanned adjudicatory boards and introduce quota system to compel adjudicators to work faster on agrarian reform cases. DAR will respect the rights of both farmers and landowners.
President Benigno Aquino III (2010-2016)
President Benigno Aquino III vowed during his 2012 State of the Nation Address that he would complete before the end of his term the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the centerpiece program of the administration of his mother, President Corazon Aquino.
The younger Aquino distributed their family-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. Apart from the said farm lots, he also promised to complete the distribution of privately-owned lands of productive agricultural estates in the country that have escaped the coverage of the program.
Under his administration, the Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services (ARCCESS) project was created to contribute to the overall goal of rural poverty reduction especially in agrarian reform areas.
Agrarian Production Credit Program (APCP) provided credit support for crop production to newly organized and existing agrarian reform beneficiaries’ organizations (ARBOs) and farmers’ organizations not qualified to avail themselves of loans under the regular credit windows of banks.
The legal case monitoring system (LCMS), a web-based legal system for recording and monitoring various kinds of agrarian cases at the provincial, regional and central offices of the DAR to ensure faster resolution and close monitoring of agrarian-related cases, was also launched.
Aside from these initiatives, Aquino also enacted Executive Order No. 26, Series of 2011, to mandate the Department of Agriculture-Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Department of Agrarian Reform Convergence Initiative to develop a National Greening Program in cooperation with other government agencies.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (2016 – present)
Under his leadership, the President wants to pursue an “aggressive” land reform program that would help alleviate the life of poor Filipino farmers by prioritizing the provision of support services alongside land distribution.
The President directed the DAR to launch the 2nd phase of agrarian reform where landless farmers would be awarded with undistributed lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Duterte plans to place almost all public lands, including military reserves, under agrarian reform.
The President also placed 400 hectares of agricultural lands in Boracay under CARP.
Under his administration the DAR created an anti-corruption task force to investigate and handle reports on alleged anomalous activities by officials and employees of the department.
The Department also pursues an “Oplan Zero Backlog” in the resolution of cases in relation to agrarian justice delivery of the agrarian reform program to fast-track the implementation of CARP.