Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Legalized Landgrabbing Persists

As noted in the preceding discussion, the full-blast settlement of Mindanao initiated by Pres. Manuel Quezon was temporarily shelved in view of the impending war with Japan. This was not continued until 1950, when the government established the Rice and Corn Production Administration (RCPA), which was apparently a continuation of the bid to promote rice and corn production. Subsequently, in the same year, the RCPA and the Agricultural Machinery and Equipment Corporation, whose function was to supply farmers with farm machinery and equipment, were merged to form the Land Settlement Development Corporation (LASEDECO). The new agency became the implementor of the resettlement program of the state. By the end of its mandate, it had resettled 1.500 fan-Lilies to the expenses of P3.5 million.
The resurgence of the agrarian-related problem posed by the Communist-inspired Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (National Army against the Japanese) or Hukbalahaps or Huks called for the immediate upgrading or reshuffling of government agencies handling land settlement. Thus, Mindanao also became the dumping ground for the so-called "undesirables" of Luzon and the Visayas. In 1954, the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) was created through Republic Act No. 1160. At the outset. the NARRA efforts were not very extensive. But a few years later, in 1963, it had already resettled 20,500 families at the cost of P44.5 million.' As in the Commonwealth period, Lanao and Cotabato were adversely affected by the convergence. The government also created the Economic Development Corporation (EDCOR) which issued homestead lands to alleged former Huks. Ironically, however, many of those resettled in Mindanao. especially in Cotabato and Lanao were not former Huks. In fact, many former soldiers were deliberately mixed with the former rebels in order to function as stabilizers.' The EDCOR was set up under the control of the Philippine Army and its budget Also emanated therefrom. The EDCOR settlements were largely through the initiatives of Ramon Magsaysay, then Secretary of National Defence.
NARRA was subsequently taken over by the Land Authority, and one of its functions was to administer all the various settlement projects of the government. In September 1971, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos signed into law Republic Act No. 6389 creating the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The agency took over the administration of all existing settlement projects in the country. By December 1980 the DAR, now renamed Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MAR), was administering some 23 settlement projects in Mindanao. And in 1983, the MAR was in charge of 52,728 resettled families nationwide, 22,639 of them in Mindanao and Sulu.
In February 1986, Pres. Corazon Aquino carried on with the settlement projects of the Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MAR). After some time, the government made a new approach by pushing for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). This approach called for the breakup of big landed estates into small units of seven to 15 hectares, depending on whether the land was planted with rice, coconut, sugar, etc. The CARP Law is in effect at the time of this writing (1997).
It is very clear that the various land and settlement laws and projects of the government since the beginning of this century benefited only the Christians. Hardly any effect trickled down to the benefit of the Moros and other indigenous natives. This historic injustice became more appalling with the introduction of the Torrens System of land ownership which was copied from Australia. The system was a complete anathema to the clan or community ownership system prevalent among the Moros. The doctrine considers all lands within the state as public domain and ownership is a state-conveyed privilege. Any person or group may own property subject to the laws of the land. Its implementation, therefore, resulted in the wholesale confiscation of the ancestral lands of the Moros, and the expropriated lands were declared "public lands" and hence subject to distribution even to outsiders. This state of affairs is well elucidated by the following statements by Aijaz Ahmad in Class and Colony in Mindanao:
Muslims, who were 98 percent of the region's population in 1913, accounted for only 40 percent by 1976, according to government estimates. They had owned all the land in Mindanao on the eve of colonization. Today, they owned less than 17 percent, most of it in remote and infertile mountain areas which lacked marketing and infrustructural facilities. Over 80 percent of the Muslims are now landless tenants.
Sad to state, this tragic scenario persisted. In collusion with greedy agents, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LB) continued to dispossess the Moros of their few remaining landholdings, in consideration of payment from 30 to 40 percent of the amount.

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