Commentary

Dapat bawiin

Kara showed me her group’s answer to the exercise in their Agrarian Reform Law and Social Legislation class after they had submitted it. The question talked about a person who bought a 50-hectare land (prior to the 1987 Constitution) with 20 farmers tilling within the land. The new owner had offered to sell to the farmers the areas they were cultivating because she would be converting the land to industrial use but the farmers refused the offer, contending that they are agricultural lessees of the land. Kara’s group advised the owner to pay the disturbance fee to the farmers so they could be removed from the land. She asked me if their advice was right.
I asked her if she was asking for the legality or the morality.
Legally speaking, under Sec. 36(1) of R.A. No. 3844, when the landowner will convert the property to non-agricultural use, agricultural lessees thereon could be ejected upon the payment of disturbance compensation.
But morally, why would not the landowner just give a portion of her 50-hectare land to the 20 farmers? Even if only half a hectare would be given to each farmer, she would still end up with 40 hectares, or 80% of what she bought. Why do our laws allow such large landholding in the first place?
A portion of “Dapat Bawiin”, Pancho Lara’s translation of the Uruguayan folk song “A desamblarar” comes into mind:
Itinatanong ko ngayon sa ‘yo
Di mo ba naiisip na ang lupang ito’y sa atin
At hindi sa lalong meron?
Dapat bawiin
Ang lupang ‘toy sa atin, sa iyo at sa kanya
Kay Pedro, Maria, kay Juan at Jose
The reality is, despite our well-meaning laws and lofty principles embedded in the Constitution, we never truly had a genuine land reform program. Very large swaths of land are still in actual control of some entities. The very problem that gave birth to the 1896 Revolution is still with us. No amount of militarization of our rural areas will fix that.
Perhaps one day I will live to see a genuine land reform program implemented, a legal regime which declares it immoral and legally impossible for a single entity, whether directly or indirectly, to own land more than a certain limit (the 12-hectare limit under the Constitution is a good start), with the excess taken back by the State for redistribution.

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