Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Legalized Landgrabbing Continues

On February 12, 1935, the government enacted Legislative Act No. 4197, otherwise known as the "Quirino-Recto Colonization Act." T his was the turning point of the land settlement when the government declared settlement as the "only lasting solution" to the problem in Mindanao and Sulu, thus shelving all other long-range solutions as secondary and of less importance. The choice of the term "colonization" in the very title of this enactment bespeaks obviously of Manila's sinister designs. It had no scruples in openly calling the Moro country its colony.
This Act envisaged land settlement, with Mindanao as the special target. The mealy-mouthed preamble spoke of the great national advantage in carrying out the work in that part of the country because land settlement is the only government activity that will furnish an effective solution to the Mindanao problem."' The Act opened the floodgates to massive influx of settlers on Mindanao under the full sponsorship of the government. "Go South, young men!" became the slogan of the day. Mindanao became the "Promise Land." News that the program had the full backing of the government, in addition to the construction of roads and other infrastructure, spread like wildfire. Unknown number of individuals rushed south to join the mad scramble for the choicest parcels of land, especially along the highways. But the sad part of this was that instead of addressing past complaints of the Moros, the government pushed too far in abetting and inciting homestead-seekers in the unjust process of landgrabbing. Newcomers just squatted on lands and began cultivation before they could get around to subdivide the areas.
On November 7, 1936, Pres. Manuel Quezon signed into law Commonwealth Act No. 141 which declared all Moro ancestral landholdings as public lands. Section 84 of this law provides:
That all grants, deeds, patents, and other instruments of conveyances of land or purporting to convey or transfer rights of property, privileges, or easements appertaining to or growing out of lands granted by sultans, datus, or other chiefs of the so-called non-Christian tribes, without the authority of the Spanish Government while the Philippines were under the sovereignty of Spain, or without the consent of the United States Government or of the Philippine Government since the sovereignty over the Archipelago was transferred from Spain to the United States, and all deeds and other documents executed or issued or based upon deeds, patents, and documents mentioned are hereby declared to be illegal, void, and of no effect.
By a simple piece of legislation, the Moros became landless and were deprived of their ancestral holdings. Under this Act, a Moro was allowed only to apply for a piece of land, not exceeding four hectares, while a Christian was entitled to own up to 24 hectares, and a corporation, wholly owned by non-Moros, was permitted to get 1,024 hectares.
In June 1939, Pres. Manuel Quezon signed Commonwealth Act No. 441 creating the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA). This was another settlement law. Given the priority slots in this program were those who had completed military training in preparation, as the proponents put it, to meet the impending Japanese invasion. But the Moros viewed it from a different angle. Their suspicions were not really unfounded because a similar condition was required to be fulfilled by those who made up the first batch of fifty settlers in 1912. The colonial government saw to it that the members of this batch were required to be experts in arnis or sword-play. 12 This was obviously in anticipation of encounters with the kris-wielding Moros of Mindanao. NLSA opened up three major settlement projects and two of these were in the Cotabato Valley. That in Koronadal Valley in Cotabato was spearheaded by Gen. Paulino Santos, onetime Governor of Lanao and in 1944 appointed Commissioner for Mindanao and Sulu. In this project, 200 Christian families were given each twelve hectares farmland and financial assistance reaching up to P7.5 million.
In the meantime, the settlement projects had been temporarily slowed down, principally due to the war with Japan. All state attention, activities and resources were focused on the war efforts. In addition, mass movement of people, especially from one far-flung area to another in the archipelago would not only entail huge expenses but was dangerous. 

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