Marcos’ Agrarian Reform: Promises, Contradictions, and Lessons

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The paper is a reexamination of Presidential Decree 27, the agrarian reform law signed by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos on October 21, 1972. Previous studies of the topic proved to be critical of its outcomes but failed to mention the innovations made by Marcos’ agrarian reform program. A month earlier, Marcos signed Presidential Decree 2 which abolished sharecropping or tenancy in rice and corn lands in the country and Presidential Decree 27 further advanced tenurial relations by introducing the concept of land ownership to peasants. In addition, the program included technical and financial support to ensure productivity and the program’s viability. Moreover, the program required peasants to bond themselves into cooperatives as a way of weaning them from dependence on landowners. Notwithstanding the beneficial intent and design of the program, it was hobbled by succeeding laws and directives that contradicted its aims and objectives. Finally, the non-inclusion of coconut and sugar farms in agrarian reform only highlighted the disparity between these groups of farmers with those in rice and corn areas, a stark difference that became a rallying issue against the Marcos regime as well as an advocacy in the post-Marcos era that aspired for a more inclusive agrarian reform coverage.