WIKEPEDIA describes land reform as an “alteration in the societal arrangements whereby a government administers the ownership of land.” Often controversial, its implementation is invariably fraught with near-insurmountable difficulties since it consists essentially in the transfer of ownership of land from the powerful few (nobles, colonizers and their modern counterparts) to the poor and powerless majority of a feudal nation.

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The fact remains, however, that nations which succeeded in economically empowering their peoples did so with a definitive break from feudal “societal arrangements” through honest-to-goodness land reforms. In Europe, to mention a few, Denmark had its first land reform legislation in 1919, Finland and Sweden even earlier in 1757 and France in the 1790’s, towards the end of the French revolution.

In Asia, Japan did it first in 1897, then again in 1947. “Tiger economies” like South Korea did it in 1945-50 and Taiwan in 1950. China, now the second biggest economy, tried one in 1940 but the straw that broke the camel’s back came with Mao in 1946.

The Philippines, a non-tiger, was last to start with a feeble land reform program in the 1960’s followed by the now-failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) in the 1980s.

In Latin America and Africa, land reform is a major component in their efforts to decolonize themselves. Former colonies there that are socially restructuring and rejecting colonial values through land reform are enjoying vibrant economic surges and catching the world’s attention.

The Cory administration’s Carp fell flat after 20 years, killed by government corruption that was abetted by opponents of land reform. President Noynoy Aquino’s administration could revive it with a definitive resolution of the Hacienda Luisita controversy. Far from being intra-corporate, it is a national issue that could decide whether or not we Filipinos will finally disabuse ourselves of our lingering colonial mentality that makes a few decide what is good for the many who, in turn, think of their survival as a gift from their bosses in the farm, in the workplace and even in church.

We need to free ourselves from feudal structures and values, a “societal arrangement” that dates back to the colonial era. Controversial or not, difficult or not, we just have to try land reform again until we succeed. Either that or remain a colony, this time of privileged few fellow Filipinos. Hacienda Luisita could restart it by shunning compromise agreements and complying with our land reform laws strictly.

Decolonization is to break the shackles of our colonial past.

Land reform can do it for us if earnestly pursued as our more progressive neighbors have gone ahead and shown us.