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Land Reform

After more than 10 years of striving and struggling to be returned to their land, the 166 Higaonon farmers of Sumilao have triumphed. In a settlement that has been dubbed as a “win-win” resolution for the parties involved, the Sumilao farmers have proven that steadfastness, quiet resolve, faith, and the eschewing of violence remain viable means in achieving change and reform.
At the background of this inspiring turn of events is the crucial issue of agrarian or land reform that requires reconsideration not only by the national leadership, but by our own communities. And that reconsideration is not centered on the matter of extending again the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP, but on a key principle of land reform: private ownership.
CARP operates and has operated on the notion that people own land, that land is property. It is thus that its identification of the problems in agrarian reform and discernment of solutions to these same problems are delineated by this fundamental presupposition. Hence, its basic concern of how to distribute land to people without encroaching on the property or land ownership rights of others.An alternative paradigm may prove more appropriate.If the primary premise of land reform is that people belong to the land, instead of land belonging to people, then a new set of concerns emerge; ones that are quite different from previous concerns.For instance, land use becomes a matter of ascertaining—naturally enough—how the land may benefit everyone instead of a few “stakeholders.” Exploitation of the land’s resources for the profit of foreign multinationals clearly becomes an offense that cannot be obscured by slick legalese or protected by grease money.In lieu of the overriding worry of protecting the property rights of a few, such a paradigm would be concerned with how to better allot the fruits of the land to the people who belong to it. Sharing, as a consequence, becomes the basic attitude inculcated among members of a community. And not egoism.The Sumilao farmers’ victory, in fact, has underscored this attitude: there is enough for all, but not enough for the greedy. With this, let us not only support the current clamor to extend the implementation of CARP. Let us look at the matter of agrarian reform from a different perspective. Let us look at it from the point of view that it is people who belong to the land.