THE long-running row between the landowners of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and its laborers over the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program could have been avoided if the stakeholders, the Government included, had simply stuck to the basic principles of the CARP under the 1987 Constitution.
Under the present Constitution we do not own land; we are just stewards of the State over them. As stewards, we hold on to the land until the Government tells us to transfer them to another citizen. The recipient, on the other hand, takes over the land under terms and conditions set by the State which, in turn, must compensate the former landowner for taking care of it.
It however seems that the Board of Directors of Hacienda Luisita, Inc. are reluctant to accept this stewardship concept; that in spite of statements to the contrary they still insist on the old principle of absolute ownership; they do not want to let go of the land and resort to means to retain or at least delay its turnover to the government-mandated beneficiaries.
The Government, on the other hand, is as bad as the landowner. They question the Hacienda’s “stock development offer” to the beneficiaries but in turn give out “bonds” to the Corporation which, to the stockholders and directors, is not as practical as receiving cash which they can immediately invest in non-agricultural ventures that will take the place of the income they earned from the sugar plantation.
The CARP beneficiaries are no better. They have shown from past experience an inability to pay back the value of the land transferred to them even under the very liberal installment terms offered by the Government. Conversely, Government has done very little in providing the beneficiaries with enough capital and agricultural inputs that will make their till of the land productive.
The consequence to all of these is inevitable. CARP has largely become a failure and, in the case of Hacienda Luisita, a source of national heartache and headache.
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was launched with good intentions, following the ideal of land stewardship and equal access of it to everyone. It was bound to succeed, if only the Government, the landowners and the beneficiaries assumed their individual responsibilities to make it so. It is therefore unfortunate that each one acted like spoiled individuals, insisting that he/she/it be given preferential treatment.
The CARP is not for the spoiled. It failed because, unfortunately, that’s exactly what we all are.