By Raïssa Robles
A secret survey conducted by private pollster Social Weather Stations told then President Corazon Aquino early on that Filipinos wanted her family’s vast landed estate distributed to the tenants.
I dug up a copy of this “preliminary and confidential” survey conducted on March 1987 – or shortly before the assumption into office of the first Congress after Ferdinand Marcos fled.
The nation was then under the Freedom Constitution.
At that time, land reform only meant one thing – land redistribution.
The stock option scheme came later, devised partly by Cory Aquino’s relatives to keep Hacienda Luisita from being redistributed.
The questioned posed by SWS to respondents was the following below:
As you can see, Filipinos were overwhelmingly FOR land distribution.
Another question posed to the respondents was the following below:
As you can see again, land reform was thought by the respondents as one of the vital pressing issues which they wanted President Cory Aquino to move on fast.
Why Pres. Cory did not follow survey
One of the Palace insiders I have talked to since, told me why President Cory Aquino never used her vast revolutionary powers to implement a sweeping and genuine land reform program that covered huge landed estates like that of her family. I was told she was pressured by her oldest brother, the clan patriarch Pedro Cojuangco – the man who died recently – and by her own brother Peping Cojuangco, not to distribute the land to the farmers.
Fernando Cojuangco has told listeners – “Over my dead body”
A separate source also told me about hearing Pedro Cojuangco’s son, Fernando, say something aloud during a gathering when the conversation wandered to land reform and Hacienda Luisita. Fernando Cojuangco told his listeners: “Over my dead body.”
Perhaps his remark showed how strongly he felt about the land. He is after all the administrator of Hacienda Luisita.
Why do I write about such a divisive issue at this point in time?
Because it is one of the unfinished business of President Cory Aquino and the entire Filipino nation. We cannot move forward as a nation because of this. The energies of many Filipinos are devoted to blocking land reform or trying to ram it through.
Some one million hectares of land are not being used to their full potential because the landowners continue to resist land reform with the same passion as the late Congresswoman Hortencia Starke.
In 1987, Starke threatened to lead a counter-revolution. Here is my memento of that sad era. Starke gave away t-shirts like these to reporters:
Perhaps there are those in the Cojuangco clan who think I should stick my nose into my own business and I have no right to intrude on what happens to their land.
Sorry to say, I have the moral ascendancy to write on this issue
My family was among those whose landholdings were seized by Marcos for land reform. And unlike the Cojuangcos who borrowed money to buy their land, my grandfather, the late Dr. Mariano Lamson bought the land using his earnings as a medical doctor in the province of Nueva Ecija.
I still remember him raging to his dying day. My mother and aunts, too, were deprived of their inheritance. And I, too, could be wealthy by now if we still had that land.
I believe in genuine land reform which includes redistribution
Despite what had happened to our family I believe in genuine land reform. Japan, Taiwan, China and South Korea were only able to progress and modernize as a nation after undertaking genuine land reform.
Not the bogus kind that Hacienda Luisita is trying to pass off as land reform. The kind that all other haciendas in the country are trying to emulate with Hacienda Luisita as the model.
The Cojuangcos know in their hearts it is bogus and just a ploy to keep the land and then convert this to other uses like a mall.
What they don’t understand, perhaps, is that their family – the Cojuangcos – has this choice before them whether or not to live forever as heroes in Philippine history. And to be respected the way the family name Rizal is respected across ages.
They do not understand that it is not the land that is valuable but their name – Cojuangco.
That is the coin that will open doors for them for generations to come once they give up the land with joy and generosity.
How that will unleash a revolution of giving all across the nation.