Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

1. Despite more jobs are being created today in the service sector, agriculture remains a very important section of our economy. But why do young people today do not want to become farmers? The answer is because most of our farmers are poor.

2. It is this poverty in the countryside which fuels social discontent. In fact, rural poverty is the root of revolutions, past and present, in our country.

3. Since the 1900s, more than 42 laws/programs have been passed to address landlessness and to quell peasant unrests. All have failed to reduce poverty and the inequitable land distribution in our society

4. CARP was supposed to be the most comprehensive land reform program which was enacted in 1987. But from the beginning, the radical aim of CARP was torpedoed by landlord interests. The weaknesses of CARP are not unknown. CARP provides legal basis for the displacement of farmers from their lands. CARP allows big landlords to retain ownership and possession of their vast landholdings through land use conversion, crop conversion, and the infamous stock distribution option. Hacienderos can easily appeal for the exemption of their lands from CARP coverage. ‘Land to the tiller’ becomes ‘parchment to the tiller.’

5. If after 20 years, CARP has failed to deliver on its promises of land emancipation, why did we renew its life in 2009 by passing the CARPER. I was one of those who opposed the passage of CARPER. Why? I didn’t want to endorse a measure which would only extend a pro-landlord agrarian reform program. The principal sponsor of CARPER even admitted during interpellation that CARPER will not correct the congenital defects of the original CARP. Was it Albert Einstein who said that “The height of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result?”

6. What is GARB? Land reform based on social justice and social equity and not merely a business transaction between landlords and tenants. Land reform that requires political will to implement bold reforms in the land management system in the country. Land reform that seeks to redistribute wealth in favor of the landless and the poor.

7. GARB is needed in response to soaring prices of food crops. The vast landholdings of agribusiness firms are in the hands of foreigners (multinational corporations). These lands, if nationalized, can be used to address the food needs of our people. Export of food crops should be a second priority. We should first solve hunger in the countryside.

8. Is it impossible to implement GARB? Only a government committed to the protection of the interests of the tiny elite will reject the egalitarian ideals of GARB.

9. There are several indicators to measure economic performance of the country. If we believe our government statisticians, it seems the economic fundamentals are strong. I propose that we use the conditions of our farmers to measure the real state of the economy. And I believe that the only way to boost the productivity of farmers and to improve the lives of our farmers is to implement a true land reform system in the country.

10. I sincerely wish that land reform will happen in my lifetime. I do not want to grow old and share stories to my children and grand children that even during the time of my youth, land was a precious asset owned only by a few families in the Philippines.

11. I believe GARB is the most appropriate solution to the peasant unrest in the countryside. It is a sincere solution, precisely because the proposed bill is borne out of the struggles of the peasant class. The farmers wrote this bill, unlike CARP and its extension which was written by landlords and self-styled progressives.


GARB was initially deliberated by the Committee on Agrarian Reform last month. The authors and supporters of GARB were able to clarify and explain some of the controversial features of the bill. For example, critics of GARB decry the provision on the nationalization of agribusiness enterprises owned by TNCs and MNCs. But nationalization of lands is not a new concept, nor is it illegal. It is even a feature of the CARPER law. What GARB proposes is the immediate nationalization of these prime lands while CARPER allows foreigners to lease the land for another 25-50 years.

Will GARB allow the distribution of lands without compensating the landowners? No. Just compensation will be provided to landlords by the government. Of course farmer beneficiaries will be able to own the land for free since it is the most essential component of a genuine agrarian reform program.

Another important provision of GARB is the confiscation of sullied landholdings or lands “acquired through fraud, deception, intimidation, or the use of force or violence, and landholdings whose landowners have maintained private armed groups.”

The time frame for the completion of GARB is five years. Critics insist this is impossible to achieve and only communist countries can implement this swift and radical agrarian reform program. We must remember that post-war South Korea and Japan were able to restructure their traditional land ownership system in only a few years yet they were not communist regimes.

This proves that if only our leaders are sincere in smashing the landlord control of the countryside; and if they are ready to give up ownership of land estates which give them feudal power and wealth, then we can say that the fulfillment of GARB’s objectives is not an impossible dream.

* Thanks JM for the additional input.

One Response to “Why agrarian reform?”

  1. Nice post. But I want to focus on point no.1 above, that is the reason why young people do not want to become farmers. Such vision also occurred in Indonesia.


Leave a Reply