Cory Aquino

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Date Submitted: 07/11/2013 08:41 AM

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y aA landmark decision issued by the Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed the Stock Distribution Plan enacted at Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated, but upheld the validity of the Stock Distribution Option as a method of agrarian reform.

The court mandated that potential beneficiaries of agrarian reform once again vote if they wished to receive land or stock options. What hides behind the opaque language and convoluted logic of the decision is the final scrapping of even the most limited land reform in the Philippines.

The 6,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita sugar plantation is owned by the Cojuangco family, of which President Benigno Aquino is the leading scion. When his mother, Corazon Aquino, assumed the presidency in the aftermath of the Marcos dictatorship, she was immediately confronted with demands from working people for concessions, including for land for the country’s impoverished peasantry.

On January 22, 1987, a group of peasant protestors marched across Mendiola Bridge to the presidential palace with the basic demand written on their banners, “Land to the tillers.” The police opened fire on the unarmed and peaceful demonstrators. Thirteen peasants were killed, and more than fifty injured. The event became known as the Mendiola massacre.

Corazon Aquino engaged in a series of half-hearted gestures at land reform, which culminated in the misnamed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). This toothless legislation has over the past two decades served as a concrete demonstration of the objective impossibility of genuine land reform under capitalism.

Under CARP, large landholders avoided the redistribution of their land to tenants by either reclassifying their land as commercial or industrial land, or by using the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), which changed the ownership of the land to joint stock ownership and distributing a small portion of the shares to the tenant farmers.

The Cojuangcos did both with their land. They reclassified a portion...