You cannot expect land reform in a country run by landlords — Andolana

Aug. 21, 2009

By Media Mindanao News Service

News Digest Volume 1, August 1987-July 1988 Posted by Davao Today

KIDAPAWAN, North Cotabato (MMNS/August 31, 1987) — Long before the so-called cause-oriented groups (COGs) came to the forefront of militant yet peaceful protest, nationalist representative Gregorio Andolana had immersed himself to progressive issue-related movements. Significantly, as a lawyer and even when he was still a law student, Rep. Andolana has consistently displayed concern and interest on the plight of the farmers.

Way back in his college years, the boyish-looking solon of North Cotabato province volunteered to cooperatives organizing, one of the programs of the Diocese of Kidapawan social action arm.

When the zeal of COGs finally caught him, he still found himself in the open and militant peasant movement. In 1983, together with other leaders, Andolana founded the Makinasudnong Alyansa sa mga Mag-uuma sa Mindanao (Nationalist Federation of Farmers) or MAALAM-Mindanao. At this point, Andolana was highly regarded for his keen knowledge on the peasant issue. Without missing a notch in facts or figures, Andolana could talk for hours on the lot of the largest yet sadly, the poorest sector in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country.

Such a penchant for the farmers is a consequence of his origin. Andolana was born 42 years ago to a peasant family in Magpet, North Cotabato. If he managed to attain a degree in law it is because the nationalist congressman is blessed with an above-average intellect and he worked for it.

Inevitably, Andolana became a prestigious figure in the protest movement. He is feared and respected for his radical views – depending on which side one is in; esteemed for his unswerving commitment and steadfast pro-people perspective and; loved by the poor, especially the farmers.

Aside from what can be called innate love for the disadvantage, if there’s such a thing, another virtue remains in him. Andolana is a deeply religious man, a quality that nobody, not even his critics, could contradict.

Thus, when he ran in last May 11’s legislative elections, Andolana was rated sure winner by his colleagues in the Partido ng Bayan. His candicady was well-founded among the Basic Christian Communities (BCCs) of the Diocese although the Church did not openly vouch for him.

No amount of dilatory tactics blocked his victory which for him is the People’s triumph. Three weeks after the last canvassing, Andolana was declared representative, the only PnB bet in Mindanao who made it amid vote-buying and harassment (5 of his campaigners, including a family of 4 were killed), aside from the persistent leftist, if not, communist tag.

Together with Venancio Garduce (Samar) and Bonifacio Gillego (Sorsogon), Andolana created the nationalist bloc in the House of Representatives. In this interview, he shares with MMNS his opinions on a variety of topics including, of course, land reform.


On being a congressman

I am feeling the burden. In the parliament of the streets, there are no fixed expectations. But it’s different when you’re a legislator. People expect you to provide the solutions to the country’s problems but this could not be done with the present composition of Congress. But Congress could be a venue for raising the realities of the peasantry and the people in the countryside to the urban centers. You see, many people in the urban areas, like Manila do not know exactly the realities in Mindanao, especially in the rural areas. So I would be considered the spokesman of the majority of the poor people.

On Congress itself

I am quite optimistic. Though progressive bills may not pass, those could serve as lessons. A seed of progressive position may transform the conservatives into moderate or into our side.

We may suffer persecution, we may suffer ridicule and criticism but we do not mind this because what we have in mind is the people’s interest.

When President Aquino sought the increase of the military budget in her state of the nation address to solve insurgency, we immediately rose and said, That’s militaristic. After explaining our position, other congressmen said bitaw (that’s right). Then, came the question of foreign debt. Garduce and I, at the start were the only ones who called for outright repudiation on the grounds that those debts were illegal, immoral and fraudulent. Congress was stirred and after lengthy debates, selective repudiation became a popular option. We took that position, too.

On the Comprehensive Land Reform (CARP)

Executive order 229 (on CARP) is nothing but a repetition. The most important and substantive provisions of a comprehensive agrarian reform program were left to Congress. Our world history dictates that there has been no genuine agrarian reform passed through legislative measures. It (land reform) is passed in totalitarian regimes because of people’s revolution like that in China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Besides, you cannot expect genuine and reform in a country run by landlords.

On the Congress nationalistic bloc

I could count on a reliable seven. There are still some who have expressed the interest to join us.

On the harassment of Nationalists in Congress

That’s part of low-intensity conflict, a US-inspired counter insurgency strategy. There are some landed solons who are sympathetic to our cause but they could not adopt our position. Maybe because of their interests, whatever these are.

They say: We feel for you. We like your proposals but that’s all.

Assessment of the Aquino government

The Aquino government has deviated from its avowed promise of people’s consultation. Although President Aquino’s popularity is decreasing, she is nevertheless still popular.

The government is running on popularity but it does not have a good program of government.

On the appropriate economic policy of the country

It should serve the Filipinos first and above all. It would be based on equitable distribution of land and the right to access to natural resources eventually gearing toward nationalist industrialization.

By then, there will be equitable distribution of the fruits of labor, capital and entrepreneurship.

On the Farmers’ plight

Their struggle is a consequence of oppressive societal structures. In Mindanao, exploitation is very clear. Especially during the time multinational companies expanded. DOLE (a pineapple-raising subsidiary of the American Castle and Cooke) expanded to 30,000; also Philippine Packing Corporation (Bukidnon).

There were also the politicos widening their ranches, using some areas as their economic and political bases.

Deprivation was massive. Those were some of the reasons we thought of creating MAALAM-Mindanao. Farmers’ organization should continue the educational activities. Trainings like appropriate technology, organic agriculture as a way of stopping the introduction of a foreign technology.

On the vigilantes

I am against the vigilantes. Vigilanteeism is not the solution to the country’s basic problems. Rather it aggravates. There should be a selective progressive approach in solving insurgency. One is agrarian reform program. Or resettle these vigilantes in designated areas. If they are in the urban centers, give them jobs or give them the chance to own a parcel of land to till.

Instead of buying arms and ammunitions, let’s buy machinery so they could be productive.

On the New People’s Army

Few are ideologues. The problem is more of economic injustice and political inequities. The conflict is not ideological. If we can transform this oppressive societal structure, insurgency will become a thing of the past. (Media Mindanao News Service News Digest Volume 1, August 1987-July 1988 Posted by Davao Today)

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