Will Hacienda Luisita farmers finally get their land?

MANILA, Philippines - 25 years since the agrarian reform law was passed, farmers call the landmark legislation a failure in addressing inequality in land ownership.

After 2 agrarian reform laws and a quarter of a century, 6,000 Hacienda Luisita farmers will finally own their share of the vast sugar plantation.

The Department of Agrarian Reform says the agency will start distribution well before the State of the Nation Address of President Benigno Aquino.

The 6,000-hectare landholding is owned by the Cojuangco side of the President’s relatives and has been the subject of a bitter legal dispute.

In a historic ruling, the Supreme Court awarded about 4,000 hectares of the hacienda to farmers.
But farmers who waited for 25 years can wait no longer.

LITO BAIS, UNITED LUISITA WORKERS UNION PRESIDENT: Mula noong nagdesisyon ang Supreme Court, mahigit isang taon na ngayon, ay namosisyon na ang mga mamamayan. Kumuha ng mga posisyon sa lupa na kayang-kaya namang bungkalin.

(Since the Supreme Court’s decision over a year ago, the farmers started getting portions of the land. They got their own portions to till.)

Hacienda Luisita is the most famous case study for land reform in the country-- known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP.

About 870,000 hectares of CARP land throughout the country has not yet been distributed.
Even agrarian reform advocate and close Aquino ally, Kaka Bag-ao is disappointed with the pace of land distribution.

KAKA BAG-AO, AKBAYAN REPRESENTATIVE: I still think that this government of PNoy has not been very serious in accomplishing its targets under CARPER…In fact, they should be in stage 3 right now where they should be focusing on lands less than 24 hectares. But they're till focusing on big landholdings.

According to DAR, 163,000 hectares are problematic.

JOSE GRAGEDA, DAR UNDERSECRETARY: Maraming problema related, halimbawa sa titles, survey plans; and many of the problems can’t be resolved by DAR alone. By the way, a major factor is landowner’s resistance. (Many problems are related to titling, survey plans.)

The government assures the farmers agrarian reform does not end when CARPER expires in 2014. 
25 years after it was enacted, farmers’ groups say CARP failed to fulfill its promise to address one of the root causes of poverty and conflict in the Philippines – landlessness. 

Voltaire Tupaz, Rappler, Manila.