Showing posts with label judiciary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label judiciary. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Road Towards Agrarian Reform: RA 3844, 6389, 6657, and 9700 and the Unique Role of the Judiciary

 Agrarian reform has been a long standing quest of many peasant farmers and land tillers all over the world to free them from the bondage of soil. During the Greek and Roman period, peasants’ revolutions (Peasant’s Revolt in 1381 and German Peasants' War in 1524 to 1526) and struggles between tenants/land tillers and landowners were staged to clamor for the need of land and/or agrarian reform. In China, Mao Zee Dong gave lands to the landless as part of his program under Cultural Revolution for he believes that a self-reliant individual can sustain agricultural production that generates surplus for industrial development. The end of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 to 1990 and disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991, as well as the transition of China to market-oriented agricultural system paved the way towards the small intermittent steps of land and agrarian reform in various parts of the world.

In the Philippines, emancipation of man from the bondage of soil has always been more than a century-old issue too since it is traced back from the time of the Spanish colonization. The discovery of the Philippines by Magellan in 1521 in the pristine waters of Mactan, Cebu serves as the impetus for the Spaniards to acquire ownership over the entire islands of the Philippines through discovery and conquest. The Spanish regime “technically” owned all parcels of lands, whether it is agricultural, mineral or forest lands and likewise all things above or beneath the bowels of the earth. Private dominion can only be given by means of royal concession or royal grant. Unlike other systems of bequeathing title, the distribution of land under royal concession or royal grant is in accordance with the rank of a certain grantee in the society. Thus, land distribution during those times may be sometimes, or if not, usually “highly politicized”, for that matter.

The materialist conception of history [of Karl Marx] starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life – and, next to production, the exchange of things produced – is the basis of all social structure[1]. Thus, it can be inferred that social changes such as land reform can be achieved by the genuine implementation of agrarian reform agenda in the country. As a predominantly agricultural country, it is believe that a sound and viable agrarian reform policy agenda is essential to implement agrarian reform justice in the Philippines.

The story of agrarian reform law in the Philippines has a long winding road brought about by the prevailing social, economic and political environment of each times. Indeed, land distribution to the landless as social justice program of the government has underwent a gradual process of revolution. The first landmark legislation pertaining to agrarian reform is Republic Act (RA) 3844 otherwise known as the Land Reform Code dated August 8, 1963 which creates the Land Authority that implements land reform in the country. In 1970s, Republic Act 6389 also known as the Code of Agrarian Reform of the Philippines that established the autonomous agency called the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) replacing the former Land Authority was passed. In 1978, however, DAR was re-named as the Ministry of Agrarian Reform when the country was then under the parliamentary form of government. 

 With the restoration of democracy and the birth of the 1987 Constitution, a new chapter in agrarian reform history unfolds. President Corazon Aquino intensified the implementation of land reform by incorporating "social justice in relation to emancipation of man from the bondage of the soil" in the fundamental law of the land taking into account that economic growth and development of a country is often tied with the stability of its land reform and agrarian reform policy. It is, therefore, imperative that the government shall foster land distribution to the landless pursuant to the social justice enshrined under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, to wit:
 The government shall undertake an agrarian reform program founded in the right of farmers and regular farm workers who are landless to own directly or collectively the lands they till, or, in the case of farm workers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof. To this end, the State shall encourage and undertake the just distribution of all agricultural lands, subject to such priorities and reasonable retention limits as the Congress may prescribe, taking into account ecological,  developmental, or equity considerations, and subject to the payment of just compensation (Article XIII, Section 4).
 The issue of agrarian reform was heightened with the passage of RA 6657 otherwise known as the  Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program on June 10, 1988 that provides mechanisms for its implementation. In the light of the foregoing, it is believe that the true essence of these laws can be immortalized if its letter and spirit will both serve the end of the government, that is, the general welfare of the people and promotion of social justice.

 Emancipation of man from the bondage of soil does not, however,  gave the farmer beneficiaries blanket authority. The enjoyment of rights bestowed under these laws carries with it also their compliance with certain conditions and fulfillment of duties and responsibilities.

Section 118 of the Public Land Act pertains to the prohibition of the sale or encumbrance of a land acquired through free patent and homestead provision within a period of 5 years from the date of the issuance of the patent or grant. On the other hand, Section 119 of the said law subjects said land’s alienation, impliedly after the expiration of the prohibitive period, upon a right of repurchase by the homesteader, his widow, or heirs, within a period of five years from the date of its conveyance. 

Indeed, these provisions complement the intent and purpose of the law “to preserve and keep in the family of the homesteader that portion of public land which the state had gratuitously given to him.” However, it is important to stress that the ultimate objective of the law is “to promote public policy, that is, to provide home and decent living for destitute, aimed at providing a class of independent small landholders which is the bulwark of peace and order.” Our prevailing jurisprudence requires that the motive of the patentee, his widow, or legal heirs in the exercise of their right to repurchase a land acquired through patent or grant must be consistent with the noble intent of the Public Land Act. It was held in a number of cases that the right to repurchase of a patentee should fail if his underlying cause is contrary to everything that the Public Land Act stands for [2]

The development of agrarian reform policy in the Philippines proves the realization of Jean-Jacques Rousseau when he said that "what makes the constitution of a state really solid and lasting is the due observance of what is proper so that the natural relations are always in agreement with the laws on every point, and law  only serves, so to speak, to assure, accompany, and rectify them." In August 7, 2009, Republic Act 9700 (An Act strengthening the comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP) extending the acquisition and distribution of all agricultural lands, instituting necessary reforms, and amending certain provisions of RA 6657 was passed embodying the lessons learned from the implementation of RA 6657 and solidifying the rationale   behind the wordings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The CARPER Law institute reforms by increasing the prohibitory period to sell or alienate the awarded lands from five years under Section 118 of the Public Land Act to ten years under the CARPER Law. 

"Transferability of Awarded Lands. – Lands acquired by beneficiaries under this Act or other agrarian reform laws shall not be sold, transferred or conveyed except through hereditary succession, or to the government, or to the LBP, or to other qualified beneficiaries through the DAR for a period of ten (10) years: Provided, however, That the children or the spouse of the transferor shall have a right to repurchase the land from the government or LBP within a period of two (2) years. Due notice of the availability of the land shall be given by the LBP to the BARC of the barangay where the land is situated. The PARCCOM, as herein provided, shall, in turn, be given due notice thereof by the BARC xxxx (Section 27, RA 9700)"
The implementation of agrarian reform does not end by merely distributing lands to the landless but it is coupled with social responsibility. One must ask himself, "How can one will fully utilize the responsible tilling of land when he or she has no resources to do the same?."  It is essential therefore to improve farm to market road, introduce irrigation projects, credit facilities among farmer beneficiaries, and institutionalize training and unleashing the human resources potential of the people.  Strong agricultural based is essential as a springboard of our economy toward the path of economic growth and development, which can be achieved through the cooperative effort of the executive, legislative, and the judiciary.

 The role of judiciary in implementing social justice can be seen in various landmark cases such as Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) vs. Cuenca,   Estribillo vs. DAR,  Fortich vs. Corona,  and Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated vs. Presidential Agrarian Reform Council.   Although there have been controversial issues with regard to the implementation of land distribution in the past, the judiciary plays its  unique role in nurturing democracy and upholding the rule of law.  It has able to level the playing field between the rich and the poor, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the North and the South, the core and the periphery ... 

[1] Curtis, Michael. The Great Political Theories, Vol 2. 1981
[2] (Capistrano vs. Limcuando, et al, G.R. No. 152413, February 13, 2009)

A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.”