The return of the Sugar Bloc

From Barons, Brokers, and Buyers: The Institutions and Cultures of Philippine Sugar , as originally quoted in this entry of mine from 2006, Planters and millers:

…Many in the sugar industry persist in the belief that they are among the most powerful political forces in the nation. But those with real power consider that claim laughable in today’s Philippine sugar economy. More political capital can be gained from disparaging the “sugar barons” than from advancing their interests.

And yet, in their efforts to portray the Philippines as a neo-colonized, exploited, and “feudal” cog on the periphery of the global world capitalist system, many Philippine scholars have missed or understated this important trend… scholars have conveyed the impression that the old rural oligarchs have preserved their preeminence in unabated form, or at least that all Philippine elites are pretty much alike in how they relate to the state. Journalistic accounts… are even more stark in their portrayals. For them the Philippines is a “changeless land” and a “land of broken promises,” dominated by fabulously rich rural elites able to direct political life unfettered by competition from other elites with other values and unconcerned with the greater national good…

I am not claiming that those perspectives are entirely mistaken, only that today’s Philippine reality is far more complex. Where rural elite families have managed to maintain their status and power, they have done so by adapting to radically different circumstances, by making new alliances, and by using their wealth and influence to pursue different strategies of gain. Those oligarchic families who have clung to the older methods of wielding influence have largely ceded ground to the nouveau riche. Most important, urban businessmen and financial wizards have increasingly become the dominant reference groups for ambitious young people. One would be hard-pressed today -even in Negros- to find a young member of a planter family who would admit to aspiring to a life of rural leisure and inherited “success”…

Although patrimonial capitalism endures in the Philippines, I argue that the shift from landlord dominance to the dominance of urban businessmen is critically important as a harbinger of future change in politics, economy, and culture. While it may appear at first that all Philippine elites are alike, that elites from different sectors pursue different strategies of domination and advocate different sorts of policies has consequential implications.

Many on the Philippine left see signs that the next “ruling class” will consist of former peasants or proletariat. But it seems far more plausible, given current trends, that what is evolving is the more typical historical progression: replacement of an old elite class by a newer one with different interests and sources of power, even though many of the individuals and families are the same. Despite the many works decrying the static composition of Philippine elites, and the bipolarity of Philippine society, I argue that this shift is affording an unprecedented amount of upward mobility and the rapid growth of a Filipino “middle class.”

That historic progression is still taking place, but let me put forward a portion of Benedict Anderson’s 1988 essay, Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams:

Immensely confident of Anglo-Saxon world hegemony and the place of English as the language of capitalism and modernity, the colonial regime effortlessly extruded Spanish and so expanded an English-language school system that by 1940the Philippines had the highest literacy rate in Southeast Asia. After independence, the oligarchy, like other Third World oligarchies, found that the simplest way of establishing its nationalist credentials was to expand cheap schooling. By the early 1960s university degrees were no longer a ruling class near-monopoly.

The huge expansion of English-language education produced three distinct, politically significant, new social groups. Smallest was a radical intelligentsia, largely of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois urban origins, and typically graduates of the University of the Philippines. Among them was Nur Misuari, who in the later 1960s formed the Moro National Liberation Front in the Muslim southwest. Still better known was José Maria Sison, who broke away from the decrepit post-Huk Communist party to form his own, and, borrowing from the Great Helmsman, founded the New People’s Army which is today a nation-wide presence and the major antagonist of the oligarchy. (The spread of English, and, later, of ‘street Tagalog’, in nationalist response to American hegemony, has made possible an archipelago-wide popular communication – below the oligarchy – that was inconceivable in the era of Bonifacio or the Hukbalahap.)

Next largest in size was a bien-pensant proto-technocracy, which also included graduates from American universities. Drawn from much the same social strata as the radical intelligentsia, it was enraged less by the injustices of cacique democracy than by its dilettantism, venality, and technological backwardness. This group also deeply resented its own powerlessness. When Marcos eventually declared Martial Law in 1972 and proclaimed his New Democracy, it flocked to his standard, believing its historic moment had come. It stayed loyal to him till the early 1980s, and long remained crucial to his credibility with Washington planners, the World Bank and the IMF, and foreign modernizers all and sundry.

Largest of all – if not that large – was a wider urban bourgeois and petty bourgeois constituency: middle-level civil servants, doctors, nurses, teachers, businessmen, shopkeepers, and so on. In its political and moral outlook it can perhaps be compared with the Progressives (definitely not the Populists) of the United States in the period 1890–1920. In the 1960s it made its political debut in campaigns for honesty-in-government, urban renewal, crackdowns on machine and warlord politics, and the legal emancipation of municipalities and the new suburbs. As might be expected, this group was both anti-oligarchy and anti-popular in orientation. Had it not been English-educated, and had not President Kennedy secured a major change in the American immigration laws, it might have played a major role in Philippine politics in the 1970s and 1980s. But these factors offered it enticing alternatives, such that, by the mid-1980s, well over a million Filipinos (mainly from this stratum) had emigrated across the Pacific, most of them for good. This bourgeois haemorrhage in the short run weakened a significant political competitor for the oligarchy, but in the longer run cost it an important political ally – one reason why the Aquino government has so little room for manoeuvre.

The Marcos regime, which began to entrench itself long before the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, was an instructively complex hybrid. From one point of view, Don Ferdinand can be seen as the Master Cacique or Master Warlord, in that he pushed the destructive logic of the old order to its natural conclusion. In place of dozens of privatized ‘security guards’, a single privatized National Constabulary; in place of personal armies, a personal Army; instead of pliable local judges, a client Supreme Court; instead of a myriad pocket and rotten boroughs, a pocket or rotten country, managed by cronies, hitmen, and flunkies. But from another viewpoint, he was an original; partly because he was highly intelligent, partly because, like his grotesque wife, he came from the lower fringes of the oligarchy. In any case, he was the first elite Filipino politician who saw the possibilities of reversing the traditional flow of power. All his predecessors had lived out the genealogy of mestizo supremacy – from private wealth to state power, from provincial bossism to national hegemony. But almost from the beginning of his presidency in 1965, Marcos had moved mentally out of the nineteenth century, and understood that in our time wealth serves power, and that the key card is the state. Manila’s Louis Napoleon.

In this extract he points to the origins of the middle class and a factor missed out, above: that the reformist middle class was gutted when American emigration laws were liberalized. Anderson thinks it took place in the 1960s-1970s; it may be that the initial decimation took place, then; but a large enough chunk remained to matter in 1986; but as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, since the 1980s, it was further decimated in the 1990s to date; and what’s left has clung more and more ferociously to the Old Guard as it tries to forestall losing power in the face of a population which has reaped the failures of the Old Guard but refused, or been unable, to exact its pound of flesh -because it can go overseas like the middle class has been doing since the 1960s…

But whether or not you subscribe to Billig’s view that the old provincial nabobs have given way to a new class of merchants and managers, or to Anderson’s (earlier) views, or even my assertion that the old middle and upper classes have been decimated but have managed to retard the rise of a replacement class culturally divorced from them, the process of evolution of not outright reform, at least in one respect, seems to have stalled.

Back in 2006, apropos the stalled peace process, I blogged about an observation made by Paulynn Paredes Sicam:

She observed that the past twenty years has seen the disappearance of a “peace constituency” and that the urgent task at hand is to rebuild one. To this end, she appealed to the media to devote attention to peace developments, and to bear in mind that sensationalistic, or utterly cynical reportage can have a tremendously harmful effect on the prospects of peace, and be quite damaging to peace prospects in particular localities. She also said t[h]ere are many inspiring stories that are never reported or superficially reported: cases where communities rise up, and basically tell both government and rebel troops to get the hell out and leave them in peace -and then, maintain that peace.

As it is for human rights, so it is for almost everything else: the disappearance of so many constituencies formerly so vibrant and even powerful.

Add to this list the obvious weakening of the land reform constituency. The best it could muster was a kind of kamikaze mission the other night: Commotion erupts at House of Representatives.

To be sure, land reform hasn’t been a major priority of the present administration. There has been the usual speechifying in favor of it, but the President certainly hasn’t gone for broke in terms of spending political (or any other kind of) capital to accomplish it. See Land redistribution slowest under Arroyo presidency. But neither Aquino (who herself came from a landed family) nor Ramos (who did not), actually targeted the big estates. Both administrations redistributed more middle class land and then public land, than actually breaking up the big estates -and only those big estates of families willing to give up their lands, and not the richest and most valuable estates whose owners actively resisted land reform.

The other day, in his blog, Rep. Ruffy Biazon pointed out the administration at the very least, went through the motions of corralling support to put the renewal of CARP over the top:

In fact, aside from the certification which is an official act, more personal efforts were taken to ensure the cooperation of congressmen. Last Tuesday, the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office individually reminded congressmen to attend sessions and stay until its passage. Likewise, the Office of Speaker Prospero Nograles sent text messages to the Members of the House, urging them to be present during session and not leave until debates are concluded and a vote is taken.

It is not the first time that such persuasion was used on congressmen. The Anti-Terror Bill, the R-VAT Bill, and many others were passed with the same kind of prodding from the Office of the President and the Office of the Speaker of the House. While other bills languish in suspended animation, there bills which enjoy the active support of the leadership, to which members of the majority are all too willing to accommodate.

But there was a palpable lack of enthusiasm among administration allies. Biazon says that if the previous Speaker fell, among other reasons, for failing to muster quorums, then it bodes ill for the new Speaker that he doesn’t seem to be doing much better:

So with the President’s certification of the bill and the leadership change still fresh in the House, it was expected that the CARP extension bill would not encounter difficulties in passing. Although debates have been going on for almost three weeks owing to some lengthy interpellations by a few congressmen, it seemed that yesterday was going to be the last day for debates. There were several congressmen lined up to ask questions, including myself, but the intention was to go overtime if needed, just so that the bill would come to a vote.

We have also done that many times, conducting marathon sessions stretching one day to the next, just to give everyone an opportunity to ask questions and yet have the bill voted on as soon as possible.

At first it seemed that the congressmen were going to maintain the pace and close the deliberation of the bill and finally vote. But as the night wore on and the debates became longer, the numbers began thinning. At around 8:00 PM, one congressman from the administration coalition suddenly stood up and questioned the quorum.

It was obvious then that there were not enough numbers of congressmen in session. The proceedings were suspended and the quorum bell rang, calling all congressmen to proceed to the hall. Proponents of the bill tried to convince the member who questioned the quorum to reconsider his position. But he stood firm, and eventually the session had to be adjourned.

And as subsequent events have shown, it has to be asked, just how genuinely, did the administration bat for the House giving CARP a lease on life?

The Inquirer reports House defers vote on CARP extension bill: But resolution extending LAD until December OKd, and some rather peculiar suspicions on the part of at least one frustrated member of the House:

Akbayan party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, one of the principal authors, however, said that the “landlords” in “collusion with leftist solons” from the Bayan bloc were out to block the passage of the bill, or water it down.

The fate of the proposed legislation hangs in the Senate because the senators are bucking its approval until the DAR submits a full accounting of the CARP funds for the past 20 years.

“There’s no CARP without the Senate… There can be no law without the Senate,” Nograles said.

Now the point isn’t whether some sort of unholy alliance is at work, but rather, we are facing the revival of a political force long thought extinct since the days of Martial Law: the Sugar Bloc. You can read, entirely free, on-line, John A. Larkin’s Sugar and the Origins of Modern Philippine Society:

In the end, sugar created a native elite, prestigious and powerful who, despite their disparate provincial origins, acted together with the collusion of foreigners to shape the course of Philippine modernization. For more than a century and a half, sugar represented the most important and influential sector of an insular commercial life that this elite, with rare exception, exploited almost exclusively for their personal advancement. Their conspicuous consumption contributed not so much to the progress of the islands as to the outflow of cash and to the inequitable colonial economy. Among sugar workers the maldistribution of profits created not a consuming public but permanent pockets of poverty, and attempts to ameliorate their circumstances came mostly to naught.

But even the book’s snapshot, of moribund sugar mills, of limited successes for cooperatives, has changed:

The post-Marcos era has commenced in the Philippines, and Nasutra has gone the way of other martial law aberrations; however, world economic conditions have prevented significant recovery for the industry. The U.S. market, too, promises to remain a finite one for Philippine sugar, given pressure from America’s own sugar producers, the demands of its other offshore suppliers, and the fact that its biggest food producers, including large bottlers Pepsi and Coca-Cola, now increasingly use corn sweetener in their products. Even if future Philippine sugarmen improve their productivity, they will have to depend for their livelihood on insular consumption and limited exports. The World. Bank reports the industry’s export earnings for the present as “stagnant,” and there seems little prospect of revival.

The book was written before the expansion of regional economies, and of ethanol and the modernization of the industry: the creation of a New Sugar Bloc.

The New Sugar Bloc has some of the old (though still fairly new, in that they’re Marcos-era) faces of the Old Sugar Monopoly of the New Society, but in its behavior it’s more like the pre-martial law Sugar Bloc in that it has strategically, and effectively, managed its bloc in Congress regardless of what the chief executive wants (or in collusion with the Palace, which is a possibility, too). And triumphant, too: in Negros (Bacolod, for example), the reformist clergy I met are no longer young; and the priests and future bishops who will replace them, no longer imbued with the same focus on Social Justice.


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    • cvj on June 12, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    As cotton was in the pre-Civil War United States, sugar is to the Philippines today – an obstacle to industrialization. Unfortunately, unlike the United States, we don’t have the equivalent antagonism between the Northern Industrialists and the Southern plantation owners. (Note: It was the tensions between the two, and not slavery that led to the Southern Secession and Civil War). Over here, they’re in cahoots.

    As long as most of our capital is locked up in land (and real-estate), and as long as the richest Filipinos confine themselves to these types of business activities, our home grown industrialization efforts will not take off. Our neighbors Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam decimated (literally and/or figuratively) their landlord class. (Singapore did not have one to start with.) As Dani Rodrik observed, ‘Rich countries produce rich country goods’. If we are to become a rich country, we have to eventually produce ‘rich country goods’ and we have to start working our way towards producing these goods.

    The interesting thing to me is the push towards Corporate farms. The proponents of this approach fail to notice the similarities between what they are advocating and the Collectivization efforts of Stalin, Mao and the other communist countries.

    The other interesting thing to me is those who encourage entrepreneurship among OFW’s, the middle class and the poor, in order to fill the role that is supposed to be fulfilled by the non-existent industrialists who are currently content to stay in the safer trading and rent-seeking activities. While encouraging entrepreneurship is a good thing, these advocates are barking up the wrong tree, or at least the most convenient tree.

    • Jeg on June 12, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    My great grandfather’s brother is mentioned quite a bit in that Larkin book. My grandfather and my aunts and uncles almost never talked about him when we were kids except to say that he was some kind of lady’s man and that he went to jail. It was only much, much later that an aunt mentioned that he was the first Filipino president of the PNB. I didnt know he has quite a role in the country’s sugar industry.

    • jmd on June 12, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    The CARP topic never fails to bring up the “Sugar Barons of Negros”, the favorite whipping boys. Has anybody related CARP to the vast Coconut, Banana and Pineapple Landholdings?

    Yes, I am from Negros. Raised and schooled here. Yes, my great grandfather was a “haciendero”. As was my grandfather and my father. However, my siblings and I are not. We all have other professions not related to agriculture. And why is that?

    Nature happens to have its own land distribution program. Say the great-grandpa accumulates 1,000 hectares. He has 10 children so my grandpa ends up with 100 hectares. He then has 10 children and my pa ends up with 10 hectares. So, maybe that is why our generation chose to be professionals. Or maybe we should have lined up, became land reform beneficiaries and get free 5 hectares each. That would have been neat!

    Our country’s land reform program is a FAILURE. The program is hemorrhaging peoples’ money and the sooner the proponents admit that, the faster another solution can be made.

    I was appalled at the behavior of the rallyists in Congress. But that is to be expected. When dealing with activists in the Philippine setting, if you do not agree with them, then you are wrong. They exploit a weakness in the Filipino psyche… IF YOU SHOUT HARDER THAN THE OTHER GUY, HE BACKS OFF.

    Shall we wait and see what happens if the other guy decides to SHOUT BACK? What will happen if one of them happens to hold a gun?

    I can bring you to failed land reform areas here where the tillers are no longer the original beneficiaries. It is a sad story all over again. Please tell me now.. WHO BENEFITS?

    • cvj on June 12, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    jmd, land reform’s failure in the Philippines has to do with it’s slow and half-hearted implementation. By comparison, we can see from our neighbors (both communist and capitalist) that implemented their own land reforms quickly and decisively, i.e. completing the program in more or less five years, how much further they have progressed economically. But you’re right, we should also include the Banana, Coconut and Pineapple barons among the bad guys of Philippine history. Fair is fair.

    • d0d0ng on June 13, 2008 at 4:37 am

    There is not a chance of redistribution for the farmers benefit and get the vote in both houses. The farmers organization is weak and has no influence over congressmen and senators. Today’s hacienderos have relatives and friends all over the halls of congress and the Malacanang palace. For the wealthy landholders, to fastrack and maximize agricultural results is best served where decision making is left entirely to them and not bunch of farmers who are afraid to get the next loan.

    • UP n student on June 13, 2008 at 5:12 am

    jmd: what you wrote about illustrates why “enough is not enough” for some folks. An “oldtimer-farmer” may recognize that it takes 100 hectares for a successful farming career, and wishes to “push along” his 3 sons who have shown interest in the farming business. So while “enough is enough” for one, this old-timer-farmer will begin to accumulate 300 hectares in preparation for the generation-transition.

    Same thing with real estate. A few folks do wish to help their children, and one such way is to gift them with their own house. And having rental property proves beneficial in other ways, e.g. when the marriage fell apart for my friend in California, the parting-of-ways became “easier” with each of the spouses having title to his/her own house.

    • d0d0ng on June 13, 2008 at 5:17 am

    Even if the next president come 2010 is serious about implementing a genuine land reform, the odds are stacked against lowly farmers just by tremendous economic burden. Prices of goods are near double digit and so are cost of equipment, fertilizer and supplies.

    The new hacienderos are not farmers. I knew of a doctor who became haciendero because the poor farmers cannot pay the bills but wanted to repay and so gave up the title of the land.

    A country without health insurance for the farmers, just a financial hardship like illness or accident can easily drive the farmer to sell his tilled land.

    And this is getting worse as prices continue to go up year by year.

    • KG on June 13, 2008 at 8:50 am

    On children not interested in land and or farmiing.ako buong buhay ko nasa maynila ako kahit na may maliit na coconut plantation sa mulanay quezon,anong gagawin ko don. e di bigay ko na lang sa pinsan ko nag aalaga nun, kung papayag ang utol ko na di rin naman madalas sa quezon.
    langya buhay pa erpat at ermat ko pinoproblema ko na.

    • jmd on June 13, 2008 at 9:23 am

    The link above to John A. Larkin’s book (Sugar and the Origins of Modern Philippine Society) provides an insightful look at the origins of the Philippine sugar industry and Philippine Agriculture in general.

    cvj, at least we agree that Land Reform is a failure here. Whether it’s because of inept implementation or otherwise. It is unfair, however, to label big landowners as “bad guys of history”. Larkin’s book accurately describes what those pioneers did to achieve what they have. At great risk, most unloaded successful businesses in urban centers like Manila, uprooted their families, to farm in the hinterlands of Negros, Panay and Central Luzon. They had to fend off Moro raiders, local bandits, malaria, over-all lack of basic services for the health and welfare of their families. Fortunes were made and lost, as the nuances of agriculture, typhoons, fires, pests took their toll.

    Did those who lost their savings. family members to treatable illnesses, go to the government and cried foul? No, they just picked up the pieces and tried all over again. Some went to other endeavors. Yet, there are those out there now that demand land. As if the world owe them some. Why?

    Larkin tells us examples of hardships and the rewards that goes with hard work.

    -Of pioneers like Agustin Montilla, whose farms were continuously raided by the Moros, yet fought back. Eventually, he established a settlement in Pulupandan and Bago River.

    -Of Yves Gaston, A Frenchman, trained in Mauritius, who came to the Philippines. Initially worked with the Roxases in Batangas but the venture failed. He then went to Negros and jump-started a new era in the sugar industry. Apparently, the Roxases were not fazed with the initial failure as they eventually put up a sugar mill there.

    -Of countless families who braved the wilderness with their budding families in search of fortune in farming.

    -Of true leaders and statesmen during the Commonwealth who had to deal with foreign colonists. Yes, there were groups that promoted their interests. You will notice, however, that they moved as an industry. The benefits went to the INDUSTRY, not to INDIVIDUAL pockets, like the present times.

    Why is it so wrong to own large property in the Philippines now? What made it so? My experience with agriculture says, you have to have economies of scale to be successful. Yet, we are breaking down anything over 5 hectares because it is wrong to have more than 5 hectares? Who decided on that yardstick? It takes 1 hectare grazing land to support 1 cow. Therefore, 5 hectares = 5 cows. Can this support a family? We are forcing farmers to remain poor.

    Let us not use the “lowly” farmer as an example for the ills of our society.

    dOdOng, the farmer having to sell his land to pay for hospital bills is no different than an urban dweller having to sell his house and everything in it who is in the same predicament. Health care or lack of it affects all. The doctor or the money lender will become the next haciendero or apartment owner. Such is the Wheel of Fortune.

    UP n Student said it right. Farming is the same as real estate or any other business endeavor. The proponent will always try to accumulate as much wealth as he can to provide for his family.

    HARD WORK will always be rewarded. Don’t you agree?

    • cvj on June 13, 2008 at 10:00 am

    jmd, the claim that we ‘both agree’ that land reform is a failure glosses over the distinction that i believe it failed because of it’s slow and incomplete implementation . Despite its overall failure, those farmers who are beneficiaries of Agrarian Reform have on average a higher income and productivity than those who have not. So the policy implications are clear. We need more of it rather than less. If land reform condemns farmers to poverty, why is it that it is Vietnam (where land reform was implemented and completed in the 50’s) which is exporting rice to the Philippines?

    The economic rationale for implementing land reform (apart from its basis in social justice) is based on the link between high land inequality and low economic growth. Those stories are nice, but what we need is for the descendants of these Montillas and Gastons to demonstrate that same pioneering and can-do spirit their forefathers showed and apply them to other sectors of the economy, particularly in manufacturing. You’re the ones with enough wealth to look beyond your families’ needs and do what is good for the country.

    • BrianB on June 13, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Walang hiya talaga yang mga sugar barons na yan at mga politicians, para ring mga journalists. Just replace Ces Drilon with Tita Cory; you’ll know what I mean.

    • BrianB on June 13, 2008 at 10:52 am


    “As cotton was in the pre-Civil War United States, sugar is to the Philippines today – an obstacle to industrialization.”

    Come on, man, I said that first, months ago. Stop plagiarizing me. 🙂

    • BrianB on June 13, 2008 at 10:53 am

    “Over here, they’re in cahoots.”

    You got it wrong, not in cahoots but same family

    • BrianB on June 13, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Manolo is an advocate of slow and subtle change. It’s like the breeze slowly shaping the walls of intramuros into something more palatable in a democracy. Takes, years, many years.

    • BrianB on June 13, 2008 at 10:59 am

    jmd, CARP hemorrhages money because it makes compromises. Dapat di na kayo bayaran or utang lang muna.

    • cvj on June 13, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Brian, my apologies 😉

    • rego on June 13, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    I believe its a little too laste for Agrarian Reform program in the Phil…
    Sabi nga ni CVJ, Vietnam did it in 50’s pa. If you compare the population of th ePhils then and now, susme napakaraming pinoy na ngayon na mag aagawan sa kakaapiranggot na lupain. Yung mag landlord noon na katulad ng mag ninuno ni jmd nanganak at nanganak kaya yung mga pag pinarte parte yung lupa halos wla na talagang matitira. So paano pa magkakaroon ng lupa yung mga pinanaganak na walang lupa?

    Yung sitwasyon ko katulad ng sitwasyon ni JMD. Yung lolo at lola ko sa magkabilang panig nakapagpundar ng malakilaking lupain. Nakapagmana ang nanay ko ng 30 hectares, ( labingatalo sila mag kakapatid so ang lolo ay may mahigit na 100 hectares na pag aari) Nakpagamana rin ang tatay ko ng 40 hectares( at pito naman silang magkkapatid) Tapos nakabili pa silang mag asawa ng 30 pa. So meron silang pagaari 100 hecters. Pero dahil sampu kaming mag kakapatid nauuwi rin sa tig 10 hectares lang. eh yung mag kapatid ko may tig dadalawa o tatlong mg anak so halos tig 5 hectares na lang at yung may tatlong anak halos 3.5 hectares na lang. so ano pa ang ipamimigay doon sa mag walang lupa.

    I mean really its a little too late now. So I believe the solution is not on the inclusion of coconut , banana coffe at kung anu ano pang plantation. The solution will be on land utilization and helping the current land oner make aa business. I dont know how. But I guess that will fall into corporate farming and enterpreneurship.

    Sa kaso ng pamilya ko. Nakapgtapos kaming lahat maliban sa isa na wala talgang hilig sa pagaaral. May kanyang trabaho at hindi na sa probinsya nakatira. So noong buhay pa ang tatay ko kinumbinse nya na yung isa kung kapatid na mamahala sa mga lupa. So buo parin yung lupa ng tatay at nanay ko pero nasa ibaibang pangalan na. Nakapagasawa rin sya ang kapatid ko ng mag may lupain so kayang kaya nyang suportahan yung pamilya nya.

    So Im leaning towards corporate farming and enterpreneurship . Wag na yung land reform hindi na practical.

    Oh well, siguro agrarian reform lang para sa pamilya nina Glorya , Cory , Mar Roxas at at dun sa mga may sobra sobra lupa na talaga.

    kaya lang hindi pa rin eh. Ilang hektaraya ba ang ibigay sa mga walang lupang magsasaka? 3hecs? 5 hecs?,Ilang ba ang mga anak ng mga eto 3? 5? 7? I dont think its going to work at all!

    • nash on June 13, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    We still have sugar barons???

    Aaanyways, just wondering because I stumbled upon a UN booklet which showed the Philippines was a fairly decent sugar exporter back in the 60s but, now, no longer. Our national demand is higher than our output…wait, maybe GMA and ABS-CBN can meet the shortfall with their puro ka-sweetan melodramas starring Piolo and Sam…someone once said the electrification of the farms will slow our population rate..well since electricity brings TV and TV is full of imoral and un-Catholic teachings of the poor peasant girl falling for the haciendero’s son, the national libido has actually gone up.

    Ah basta, more people, more resources needed…

    • UP n student on June 13, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I think that every Malacanang resident for the next 25 years will always need to say that she or he has a program to an agrarian reform program. It is the nature of politics. But the focus should be on productivity — food-production efficiency and the family-productivity.

    These examples probably are numerically identical:
    — yearly salary of a rural nurse;
    — yearly salary of a rural public school teacher;
    — a new 3-room rural public school;
    — a deep well;
    — land-for-landless for one farmer;

  1. Our neighbors Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam decimated (literally and/or figuratively) their landlord class.

    cvj, i’m just interested to know exactly how they “decimated their landlord class”. Through patient encouragements? through incentives? through appeal to their sense of nationhood? or through blackmail and threats under the barrel of the gun? I want to know this because you yourself might flinch at what might be needed to effect the reform you have in mind. Strong political will in theory is nice sounding; in real enforcement, you might have to haul them all to jail and fire a few shots to kill.

    • supremo on June 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    ‘Why is it so wrong to own large property in the Philippines now? ‘

    There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is the feudalistic attitude of the landowners. Ang tingin nila sa tenant farmers alipin na pwedeng ipamana sa anak nila.

    • BrianB on June 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    yes, we all will flinch. They had it coming. In fact, they know they have it coming. Cory, a haciendera, had those harmless farmers killed in mendiola. Absolutely no immediate threat to her but as a haciendera she knows she better not encourage them. So massacre.

    • KG on June 13, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Some research on land reform in china and vietnam.

    Edwin E. Moïse
    Land Reform in China and North Vietnam:
    Consolidating the Revolution at the Village Level

    “In both China and North Vietnam, land reform programs designed to ,break the power of traditional village elite, recruit new village leaders from among the peasants, and distribute wealth (especially land) from the elite to the poor, were very important parts of the Communist revolution. The ethnically Chinese areas of China underwent land reform between 1946 and 1953, and the ethnically Vietnamese areas of North Vietnam between 1953 and 1956.

    During World War II the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had stressed the united front against the Japanese, rather than class struggle. But class struggle was starting to revive by the late stages of the war, and revived very much after 1945. By late 1947 and early 1948, in substantial areas of North and Northeast China, the CCP was carrying out a very radical land reform–extreme in the numbers of executions, extreme in the taking of land not just from real landlords but also from people only moderately (if at all) wealthier than their neighbors, and extreme in the paranoia with which those running the campaign purged village-level Communist Party branches of suspected landlord agents. By mid 1948 the program was moderating in all of these respects, and it was under these more moderate policies that most of China underwent land reform in the following years. But these policies were “more moderate” only by comparison with what had gone before; hundreds of thousands of landlords were still executed. In my study of this later period of the land reform, I have focused on the Central-South Region, and especially on the province of Guangdong.

    The Communist Party in Vietnam had followed united front policies during the early years of its war for independence against the French, but was shifting to class struggle by the late stages of that war. A formal land reform campaign began on a small scale at the end of 1953, and then spread; most of the villages of North Vietnam were covered in the final year of the campaign, from mid-1955 to mid-1956. This final year was also the most radical period, with many peasants falsely labelled as landlords and subjected to the confiscation of their land, and many Communist Party members purged from village-level party branches on false charges that they were landlords or landlord agents. Substantial numbers of people were executed, though not the huge numbers later claimed by some anti-Communist propagandists. In the latter half of 1956, the party recognized that it had made serious errors; a campaign to correct the errors lasted into 1958. ”


    so china not only “decimated the landlords butalso those moderately welthier than their neighbors.
    vietnam was worse, it decimated the peasants and just labelled them landlords.

    should we emulate that model?

    The problem is we are all looking for bad guys,and we always feel like victims.

    always looking for bad guys like landowners,foreigners elite.

    enough of the elite para maiba foreigners na lang.

    WE blame foreigners as if we are not worried how are ofws are to be treated outside. that stupid enrile,bianara nya yung frenchman na me asawang pinay ng todo todo, that stupid senile does not even mind that her seatmate and inaaanak is running for an international post.Buti nga sa kanya. Kinabukasan halos lahat ng hot money nagsiliparan.

    ang yabang natin eh,wala naman tayong ibubuga kundi dighay at utot.

    o sige pagusapan ulit natin ang elite at class struggle.

    I have found this article entitled “the failure of the revolution “by tony abaya.

    I have seen comments from two commenters in this blog yung isa madalas yung isa pasulpot sulpot na lang,but almost three years ago, he was very active in this forum.

    • BrianB on June 13, 2008 at 11:55 pm


    The best way to think about the problem with the current elite is this, in my opinion: Are they the wrong kind to lead this country to the future? They are. Will we survive without them? We certainly would. We have a lot of good minds here and abroad, most of whom will not be affected by a revolution that will remove the landed class. Money from OFWs will continue to flow in. In fact, the conglomerates merely funnel this money and call what they’re doing a business. They survive parasitically, these conglomerates. With OFW billions flowing in, they are not inclined to innovate.

    Syempre an daming maiini sa mga nagsasalita lang. I feel that pauwi na sila, papunta palang kami. They’ve known what I’ve known for many decades, I think. They know they are not this country’s solution and in fact I think they feel it deep inside that they are the main reasons this country is where it is. Most of these people fear only one thing… a violent revolution. I think they know there is no other way to unroot them. Maski pahiyan mo sila sa New York Times wala na silang pakialam.

    Class struggle is not a cliche. i take a slightly different view. I believe that when it comes to actual power, these old families, many of whom are also in politics, are very weak. I believe I am at a loss why the middle class do not care to participate more – throw their weight around more often. I suspect they are still innocent enough to keep their faith in our so-called aristocratic families. May tiwala pa at kulang sa tiwala sa sarili. If the middle class band together, the revolution will not be as violent. If they lack a solid direction, it could turn out very bloody, dahil madaling i-manipulate ang masa.

    • rego on June 14, 2008 at 12:08 am

    May napanoodnaman ako sa talk show ni Charlie Rose sa PBS na nag quote ng: The problem is not really the having elite in a society but choosing the right elite to lead them ( the people).

    mmmmmm do I believ him? Yes i do!

    • BrianB on June 14, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Sorry, a little tipsy. Let me rephrase.

    Class struggle, i know, is just a cliche.

    The old power is very weak, I believe. They are only taking cue from the state of mind of the masses and middle class. they are very keen in taking cues, and this is what’s keeping them in power.

    I am at a loss why the middle class do not throw their weight around more.

    It’s not just about brilliant idea but rather about giving power to everyone and, hence, taking it from the oligarchy. If government starts taking orders from the greater population, the rest will take care of itself. We’ve long been conditioned not to think for ourselves and the powers that be make sure this mindset, this lack of confidence, is perpetuated. This maintain power if the larger population have defaults on their democratically given power. Because the middle are shy to insist on their own ideas, the oligarch get to perpetuate the old way.

    • BrianB on June 14, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Sorry again: This is how the elite maintain power, by having the larger population default on theirs.

    • rego on June 14, 2008 at 12:45 am

    The same guest (sorry im not that good in remembering names) also said “that the best that people can do to help the country is to really excel on the areas where government can not interfere with.

    and again I agree with him.

    • BrianB on June 14, 2008 at 1:18 am


    It’s laughable advice. As if we don’t have a right to care about the oppressed and do something about it. The best words from the populace to fall unto corrupt ears: “We have no right to judge them.” Tuloy ang ligaya.

    • BrianB on June 14, 2008 at 1:22 am

    I think it’s really stupid to just let government be. And FYI, I think many Filipinos are excelling already… “where” government and the oligarchy cannot interfere with them.

    • rego on June 14, 2008 at 1:35 am

    Brian, I dont think he is advocating that we shoudl stop caring about the oppressed and just let the goverment be. By all means we all do that but our top priority is to improve our selves abd really excel on the areas where government can not interfere with or has less influence on.

    If Filipnos is already excelling then we just have to keep that attitude. But if that is so, why are there so many pinoys who are still poor and very dependent on the government feel oppressed and negelcted?.

    • cvj on June 14, 2008 at 1:40 am

    ricelander, in Vietnam and China it was through revolution so there, more landlords were literally decimated. [In Vietnam, the landlords were variously classified as ‘wicked’ or ‘ordinary’ or ‘pro-revolution’. Those in the ‘ordinary’ and ‘pro-revolution’ categories got better treatment, but they were subjected to land reform just the same. As Karl mentioned in his post, a lot of mis-classifications happened involving the richer peasants which the Vietnamese government tried to correct after the fact, with mixed success.] In Taiwan and South Korea, the process was relatively more peaceful so there decimating the landlord class would be more figurative, but i don’t think the landlords over there had much of a choice there as well. Some were able to reinvent themselves into industrial magnates, but others faded away.

    Over here, i’m hoping we can achieve land emancipation through ‘patient encouragements’, but so far, the Upper and Middle classes can’t see beyond themselves and are unable to shake off their elitist mindset.

    KG, let’s emulate the good aspects and avoid the bad. Yes there were excesses which is why i’m hoping that the Oligarchs would be farsighted and selfless enough to engineer a soft landing so we can skip the excesses that comes with revolution. The problem with Tony Abaya’s analysis is that he’s so blinded by Cold War-era anti-communism that he doesn’t see the connection between eliminating inequality and economic takeoff. Don’t you at least find it a little ironic that he is calling communism ‘a failure’ when two of the most dynamic economies in the region are run by the Communist Party?

    We have to go beyond knee-jerk anti-communism and instead identify the successful policies implemented by both Communist and Capitalist economies, which include:

    1. Reducing economic and social inequality especially land inequality. we find that this is a prerequisite to the next steps which are…
    2. Implementing an Industrial policy that built up local production capabilities through active participation by the State in the form of reciprocal control mechanisms, and
    3. Promoting entrepreneurship and market-based exchange.

    Over here, we have so far neglected the first two. Our government has become such a liability that when we get advice such as “the best that people can do to help the country is to really excel on the areas where government can not interfere with”, we have no choice but to agree with him.

    • Bencard on June 14, 2008 at 1:55 am

    “i’m at a loss why the middle class do not throw their weight around anymore”. brianb

    let me guess, brian. the middle class is usually in the employ of either the government or big business that is usually owned/controlled by the oligarchs. they (the middle class) have simply decided not to rock the boat or they will lose the ability to support themselves and their families. they are beholden to their employers and couldn’t care less what is happening to the country as long as they get their pay.

    the only group that can afford to make noise (other than partisan, self-anointed ‘crusaders’ with self-serving agenda) are young students going through the phase of i-want-to-change-the-world mentality. they can afford because they have their middle class parents to keep feeding them and clean up their mess when they get into trouble. while many outgrow their activism and eventually become members of the middle class themselves, others are afflicted by peter pan syndrome and continue being quixotic “young students” all their life.

    another group that are prone to rabble-rousing at their benefactor’s instigation are the teeming masses who are in the sway of politicians who pander to them and give them dole outs designed to keep them dependent and permanently on the take.

    • Bencard on June 14, 2008 at 2:14 am

    edits: OTHER GROUPS that are prone…

    • BrianB on June 14, 2008 at 2:36 am

    Bencard, lots of people these days not working for them. You add OFWs in the configuration and you’ve got something honestly powerful.

    • Bencard on June 14, 2008 at 3:00 am

    yeah brian, but other than articulate ofw’s with internet capability (which i don’t think are too many), most are not interested and would rather watch “wowowee” or “game ka na ba” or copycat soaps. most are working 16 hours a day and are dead tired when they get home to even bother.

    • rego on June 14, 2008 at 3:29 am

    lol, so true bencard. i havent work my ass really that hard in all my life, and im realy realy tired alamost very working more than 8 hrs. sometimes. I still find to particpate in the discussion here. But most of the times i just grab a beer play play some chess online and sleep.

    Last month was really really hard. wake up 4 am to catch the shutlle van in china town at 6 then drive to project site bedford ,weschester in upstate new york, Arrive there just before 8am , work til 6 pm then drive, reach home. 8 Madalas clogged up pa ang George Washington bridge so dadating sa sa bahay mga 10 pm…Haay buhay .

    • rego on June 14, 2008 at 3:35 am

    ver here, we have so far neglected the first two. Our government has become such a liability that when we get advice such as “the best that people can do to help the country is to really excel on the areas where government can not interfere with”, we have no choice but to agree with him.


    take note that the advice was addressed to American audience, so hindi tayo nag iisa! And i bet maraming pang bansa na katulad na sitwasyon. Sweden lang siguro ang hindi, dahil ang gobyerno nila ay talgang alagang alagang ang mga tao. At syempre ang tax nila ay napakataas at 50%

    • rego on June 14, 2008 at 3:48 am

    “We have to go beyond knee-jerk anti-communism and instead identify the successful policies implemented by both Communist and Capitalist economies, :”


    Good! because you are not advocating a total communist take over! I dont think thats going to happen. But wait, dont we have CCP guys in congress already like your idol Criipin Beltran and his comrades. Then its their job to incorporate communist policies in the existing capitalist government.

    • grd on June 14, 2008 at 4:56 am


    i think there’s no point dragging the name of the late ka beltran in the discussion out of respect for the man. i believe ka beltran is an honorable man and served his people well. he simply walk the talk unlike some people who uses the masa just to gain pogi points.

    • rego on June 14, 2008 at 5:28 am

    Oh sorry about that, I did n’t know that he died already…

    • leytenian on June 14, 2008 at 5:45 am

    “On Land redistribution slowest under Arroyo presidency.” Slow could also mean prioritizing other reforms…
    In general, let’s look on reforms… Gradual or Rapid…( not just about land reform)

    Gradual, says John McMillan, who argues for a step-by-step approach
    to economic reform. Rapid, says Oleh Havrylyshyn, who examines “big bang” reforms in Russia and Eastern Europe and finds that of nine rapid reformers, eight have done very well.

  2. decent sugar exporter back in the 60s but, now, no longer.

    Because during the marcos era, sugar was already committed to the futures market for many years ahead.

    • KG on June 14, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Thanks for your views BrianB and CVJ!

    I was looking at rego’s comment on too late for carp because of the poulation.

    We could also look at it at the land area of the philippines:

    300076 sq km or 30007600 hectares

    lets say everything is agricultural and each of us gets a piece of land(90 m pop)

    if I pressed the calculator correctly that means 0.33 hectares for each pinoy .

    We all know I am going extremes here,…we all know ceteris parabus is only for econonomics classes.

    • d0d0ng on June 14, 2008 at 7:54 am

    rego on the quote, “The problem is not really the having elite in a society but choosing the right elite to lead them”.

    I suppose the elite in the Philippines are kind and generous enough to allow the ‘masa’ to choose and consider the ‘masa well’ being. From the standpoint of preservation and control, the elite unilaterally decide on their own and keep the ‘masa’ where they belong.

    Another way to look at this is how many in the Filipino elite are philantropist and undertake social work for the improvement of standard living of the majority poor considering the Filipino millionaires, even billionaires who joined the Forbes list?

    • leytenian on June 14, 2008 at 7:57 am

    if arroyo is prioritizing other reforms.. what would that be? gradual or rapid and which department? is she implementing pro-alcohol program and to exclude sugar land from Agrarian Reform ( someone must update me) ..i really don’t understand what this current admin is doing. Is the land in Negros for sugar production own by which elite? or rent seeking oligarch?

    from cut and paste: The Livelihood of Sugar Workers
    The sugar workers live within the hacienda. Living condi­
    tions are poor, and the workers remain heavily dependent on the
    owners. The workers are given no hospitalization. Especially
    since the 1989 sugar crisis, the hacienda owners have ceased to
    provide funds to build or repair the workers’ houses. Most of the
    children finish only primary school (four years); only 30 percent
    finish elementary, school (six years), and less than 5 percent
    finish high school.

    With global energy crisis.. Brazil is Satisfying its Fuel Needs.

    • leytenian on June 14, 2008 at 8:05 am

    we can be as self sufficient as we want to be… lots of countries in the world that we can learn from…. take the best model and apply it either gradually or rapidly according to our prioritize. no wonderit’s about SUGAR BLOC… you are so smart manolo.

    • leytenian on June 14, 2008 at 8:42 am

    2006: I like this… from in a pig’s eye
    “We all know that what the Philippines needs to do is get its act together to craft a good set of policies that will pave the way for the investments in infrastructure needed to make the practical everyday use of both ethanol and biodiesel a reality.”

    • KG on June 14, 2008 at 9:06 am


    The url above shows an article similar to your cut and paste . The article shows to me that little has changed even if the article was printed in 1990.

    if you are patient enough to read the comments above,you will be updated enough.

    you pointed out brazil, i think that is the model used by our senator migz zubiri when he crafted the bio fuels bill.

    • leytenian on June 14, 2008 at 9:29 am

    obviously i;m losing patience… i was cutting the real deal.. LOL

    was the bill passed or still in the closet? LOL

    i have a feeling that our current admin invested some of our surplus in 2006 in US real estate… it will take 5 years to get our equity back. of course, this information will be undisclosed. tsismis lang..

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