June 10, 1988, President Corazon C. Aquino signed Republic Act No. 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Act.
Land reform, contrary to common knowledge that it started in the late 80’s, is actually as old as Martial Law, five days younger to be exact.
In September 26, 1972, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos through Presidential Decree No. 2 declared the country under a land reform area, with Republic Act 6389, creating the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and subsequently funding the program.
When Marcos was eventually toppled by the EDSA Revolution, Cory Aquino replaced him as President. Aquino envisioned land reform as the centerpiece of her social agenda; something that thousands of farmers took to heart as they marched on Mendiola on January 1987.
The peaceful march, however, turned violent as police opened fire on the farmers calling for land reform. Instead of soil, they received bullets. Twelve farmers died while 19 more were injured in the Mendiola Masaacre. The aftermath galvanized the Aquino administration to railroad legislation on agrarian reform. Presidential Proclamation 131 and Executive Order 229 outlined Aquino’s land reform program, paving the way for Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law signed on June 10, 1988.
This was the birth of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which aimed to put an end to the land reform question. Aquino’s class origins, however, prevailed when CARP showed its glaring flaws, chief of which was the provision that allows haciendas to restructure themselves as corporations and give shares, known as the stock distribution option.
This is important to note, considering that Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino had a large stake in Hacienda Luisita, a 6,453-hectare estate in Tarlac owned by the Cojuangco clan. Equally important was that Luisita availed the stock distribution option, becoming Haciendia Luisita, Inc.
The Constitution ratified by the Filipino people during the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino provides under Section 21 under Article II that “The State shall promote comprehensive rural development and agrarian reform.”
Among those to be given due consideration in the distribution and ownership of land and representation in decision-making bodies are subsistence fishermen, veterans and retirees, agriculture graduates, and rural women.