“This land is Ours. God gave this land to us”
Before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, Filipinos lived in villages or barangays ruled by chiefs or datus. The datus comprised the nobility. Then came the maharlikas (freemen), followed by the aliping mamamahay (serfs) and aliping saguiguilid (slaves).
However, despite the existence of different classes in the social structure, practically everyone had access to the fruits of the soil. Money was unknown, and rice served as the medium of exchange.
“United we stand, divided we fall”
When the Spaniards came to the Philippines, the concept of encomienda (Royal Land Grants) was introduced. This system grants that Encomienderos must defend his encomienda from external attack, maintain peace and order within, and support the missionaries. In turn, the encomiendero acquired the right to collect tribute from the indios (native).
The system, however, degenerated into abuse of power by the encomienderos The tribute soon became land rents to a few powerful landlords. And the natives who once cultivated the lands in freedom were transformed into mere share tenants.
1st Philippine Republic
“The yoke has finally broken”
When the First Philippine Republic was established in 1899, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared in the Malolos Constitution his intention to confiscate large estates, especially the so-called Friar lands.
However, as the Republic was short-lived, Aguinaldo’s plan was never implemented.
“Long live America”
Significant legislation enacted during the American Period:
Philippine Bill of 1902 – Set the ceilings on the hectarage of private individuals and corporations may acquire: 16 has. for private individuals and 1,024 has. for corporations.
Land Registration Act of 1902 (Act No. 496) – Provided for a comprehensive registration of land titles under the Torrens system.
Public Land Act of 1903 – introduced the homestead system in the Philippines.
Tenancy Act of 1933 (Act No. 4054 and 4113) – regulated relationships between landowners and tenants of rice (50-50 sharing) and sugar cane lands.
The Torrens system, which the Americans instituted for the registration of lands, did not solve the problem completely. Either they were not aware of the law or if they did, they could not pay the survey cost and other fees required in applying for a Torrens title.
“Government for the Filipinos”
President Manuel L. Quezon espoused the "Social Justice" program to arrest the increasing social unrest in Central Luzon.
Significant legislation enacted during Commonwealth Period:
1935 Constitution – "The promotion of social justice to ensure the well-being and economic security of all people should be the concern of the State"
Commonwealth Act No. 178 (An Amendment to Rice Tenancy Act No. 4045), Nov. 13, 1936 – Provided for certain controls in the landlord-tenant relationships
National Rice and Corn Corporation (NARIC), 1936 – Established the price of rice and corn thereby help the poor tenants as well as consumers.
Commonwealth Act. No. 461, 1937 – Specified reasons for the dismissal of tenants and only with the approval of the Tenancy Division of the Department of Justice.
Rural Program Administration, created March 2, 1939 – Provided the purchase and lease of haciendas and their sale and lease to the tenants.
Commonwealth Act No. 441 enacted on June 3, 1939 – Created the National Settlement Administration with a capital stock of P20,000,000.
“The Era of Hukbalahap”
The Second World War II started in Europe in 1939 and in the Pacific in 1941.
Hukbalahap controlled whole areas of Central Luzon; landlords who supported the Japanese lost their lands to peasants while those who supported the Huks earned fixed rentals in favor of the tenants.