Saturday, August 05, 2006
The impeachment trial, agrarian reform, and upland development may be disparate social issues, but they are all tied up in one way or another to the issue of lingering poverty. Of the three, the first eclipses the rest of the issues in terms of magnitude of controversy; it is the current buzz of national politics, especially after the black boxes containing allegedly incriminating evidences against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were declared “dead-on-arrival” by her ilk owing to the shortage of oppositional support, like in last year’s similarly-fated attempt for presidential impeachment. The whole business of this “investigative” proceeding is actually reduced to the battle between the administration and the opposition, made colorful by the political bickering and mudslinging that is in no way connected to the duties these politicians are supposed to carry out. As the opposition accuses the President of electoral illegitimacy, of graft and corruption and of advancing her naked interests via the Charter Change, her allies are busy saving the queen by countering all these antagonisms on their political benefactress, to the detriment of the constitutional functions to be disposed in the name of progress. As our great leaders divert their energies on consequential matters other than the passage of bills into executive laws for the development of the country, the constituents suffer in poverty because its alleviation is relegated to the sides by more pressing issues involving the President.
Upland development in the form of forest clearing and mineral quarrying has not fulfilled its promised progress. In the wake of logging, mining and the kaingin system, mountain denudation has generated the rise in the number of endangered species, the depletion in our water reserve, the negative effects in upland migration and its related livelihood opportunities, and the high incidence of flashfloods and mudslides. The privatization of some highland areas paved for golf courses, subdivisions and rest houses has exacerbated what is supposed to alleviate the affected citizens from poverty. With lack of livelihood in their immediate environment, these people languish in economic misery as influential people exploit them and the uplands for the latter’s own gains.
It is lamentable that there is no real agrarian reform program in the Philippines, one of only two countries in the world to continue to ignore the privilege of tenants to own the lands they have tilled for quite a long time already. Feudalism is long dead in many countries that have since industrialized for an anticipated economic elevation, but hereabouts, the landed lords, even as they do not leave the comfort of their manors, continue to earn their keep from the rent collected from the kasama (proletariats). The Negros sugarfield experience and Hacienda Luisita controversy are but two of the sensational examples of the Philippine agrarian reform that fails in execution. The latter even involved a massacre of labor leaders who fight for the cause of land ownership in recent memory. This being the case, the tenants who are the very tillers of the land they use for occupation remain in abject poverty because the products of their daily toils are enjoyed not by them but by the landlords to whom they “owe” the produce by virtue of the piece of earth being leased to the former.