This early, the opposition tries to highlight and bring to the fore the issue of Hacienda Luisita and its redistribution to the farm workers and peasants in the hacienda. In so doing, there is the attendant pressure on one of the hacienda‘s more prominent stockholder, President Noynoy Aquino, to order the redistribution.
The call for putting the Hacienda Luisita under the Comprehensive Land Reform Program is correct. This is not only because the constitutional and legal requirements are fulfilled but also because the Hacienda has become a politically-sensitive issue that will have a bearing on the entire government land reform policy and on the Aquino administration’s popularity itself.
The call for redistribution of individual plots to farm workers and peasant-tillers may not necessarily be correct however. The hacienda falls under the category of an enterprise farm–its main crop is sugar–that is best planted and managed on a large scale. CARP itself–and for that matter even the CPP agrarian reform program–recognized this characteristic of a large plantation and recognized the retention of the plantation. Chopping off small plots (less than a hectare) for individual farm worker or peasant family will be an impractical proposition.
The real issue then is: how to apply the concept of a large farm enterprise within a regime of the land reform program. Obviously, redistribution is an option, although not a viable one. The other options are to maintain the enterprise farm as a corporation or to establish as a cooperative with the farmer/peasant together with the former owners (who have their own shares) acting as stockholders and jointly deciding on the management of the farm.
The current option by the Cojuangco family is to form a corporation and distribute minority SDO stocks to the land reform beneficiaries, while retaining the majority control and management of the corporation. they also contend that only a portion of the hacienda is subject to CARP. This option effectively goes against the spirit and even the letter of the land reform law. If upheld by the Supreme Court, this would pin down the generations of farm worker and peasant families to a life of penury.
The only viable option within the context of the present administration, I think, for both sides to the controversy is for the state to buy out the hacienda, give the Cojuangco family their share of the land, and run the rest as a single cooperative enterprise. The alternative is one of mutual destruction–neither side has the capacity to force the other side to accept its position.
The SDO option is touted as a solution because of the claim of its acceptance by at least 70% of the beneficiaries. However, on its face, it cannot support on a long-term basis the families of the beneficiaries. The issue will only recur again and again.
The other extreme–distribution of individual plots–is also not capable of sustaining even on a short-term basis the families of the beneficiaries. A distributed plot is simply too small to sustain a family. It will only open the situation for land speculators to come in and get the land.
The Aquino administration has the opportunity to make a grand gesture for land reform in the country. How it will handle the Hacienda Luisita issue will have repercussion on the other and more problematic cases of privately-owned haciendas all over the country. It will also have an implication on whether or not it can create a wide enough domestic market for a sustainable economic development for the country and our people.
The benefits of democracy start with the solution to the Hacienda Luisita issue.