By Raïssa Robles
In May 1987, the independent polling organization Social Weather Stations gave then President Corazon Aquino the findings of a “preliminary and confidential [and] non-commissioned” survey showing most Filipinos wanted her to distribute Hacienda Luisita to the tenants.
The timing of the survey release was important. Mrs Aquino could still do something about the survey results since she still wielded law-making powers under the Freedom Constitution.
The survey response showed Filipinos were overwhelmingly for Mrs Aquino using her vast powers to effect land redistribution:
The SWS asked respondents directly whether they were FOR including Hacienda Luisita for land redistribution. And the respondents replied:
Mrs Aquino’s law-making powers lapsed, however, when Congress reconvened on July 1 after an absence of 39 years.
Unknown to the public, most of those they had voted into office had vast landholdings.
Being landlord-dominated, Congress exempted huge estates including Hacienda Luisita from direct land redistribution.
SWS president Dr. Mahar Mangahas wrote a paper discussing the Hacienda Luisita findings. Among the two most important findings he saw were:
Number 1: An “overwhelming number” of respondents wanted Hacienda Luisita placed under land reform (see Number 4):
Number 2: The urgent need for the Cojuangco family “to participate” in the “speedy” redistribution of Hacienda Luisita
I should stress here that Dr. Mangahas was not expressing his personal opinion regarding land reform. He was discussing the SWS findings then regarding this very touchy, incendiary subject.
Dr. Mangahas said respondents saw that Ferdinand Marcos’s land reform program which only touched on rice lands did not go far enough.
He noted that based on the responses, Filipinos overwhelmingly wanted land reform to go even further:
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 actually 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 passionately 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 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.
The communist rebellion continues to feed on this issue.
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 us Senate 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 have been wealthy by now if we still had that land – converted to a mall or subdivision.
But I believe in genuine land reform which includes redistribution and hand-holding farmer-beneficiaries
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 has been trying to pass off as land reform. Not the kind that all other haciendas in the country, including those of the Arroyo brothers, are trying to emulate using 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, an industrial zone, a BPO, etc.
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.
Read below Dr. Mahar Mangahas’ 1987 report entitled:
Public Opinion on Land Reform
I would like to thank Dr. Mangahas for this copy.