Philippine Land Reform

Topics: Land reform, Land reform in Zimbabwe, Ferdinand Marcos Pages: 61 (19501 words) Published: December 6, 2012
The National Campaign for Land Reform in the Philippines

Saturnino M. Borras Jr.
Halifax, Canada

Jennifer C. Franco
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Web Version
September, 2007


This paper was prepared for the project on Citizen Engagement and National Policy Change, coordinated by John Gaventa at the Institute of Development Studies and Gary Hawes, of the Ford Foundation.  We are grateful to the Ford Foundation for its support. We anticipate that shorter versions of the papers will be forthcoming as a printed volume.

Other papers in the series include:

Cultural Adaptations: The Moroccan Women’s Campaign to Change the Moudawana

Is Knowledge Power? The Right to Information Campaign in India

Mexico Case Study: Civil Society and the Struggle to Reduce Maternal Mortality

Protecting the Child: Civil Society and the State in Chile

Reforming the Penal Code in Turkey: The Campaign for the Reform of the Turkish Penal Code from a Gender Perspective

The Extraordinary ‘Ordinary: The Campaign for Comprehensive AIDS Treatment in South Africa’

Urban Reform, Participation and the Right to the City in Brazil

The National Campaign for Land Reform in the Philippines


The social, political and cultural aspects of successful land redistribution are difficult to measure and assess. Some studies posit a straightforward breaking of the nexus between peasants and landlord and transformation of the former into relatively ‘free-er’ agents, with a greater degree of autonomy in social and political decision-making and action vis-à-vis both state and non-state actors. Others show that while clientelistic tenant-landlord ties may be cut through land reform, other unequal relationships can emerge to take their place, such as between government officials and merchants on the one side and newly created small family farmers on the other. Or, in the case of commercial plantations, farmworkers’ key relationship may shift from being with a domestic landlord to a transnational company, where the underlying issue of control of the land resource and its products is not resolved in their favour. In the contemporary Philippines, the overall picture may be mixed, but one thing is clear: fuelled by the break-up of landlord-peasant ties through partial land reform implementation, the social-political power of the landed elite has experienced an unprecedented degree of erosion, albeit in localised patches scattered across the country. How has this been possible?

In a liberal democracy, no matter how flawed, policy making and the implementation of pro-poor programs are structured, but open-ended and even conflictual processes involving strategic interactions between actors within the state and in society. These dynamics, the nature and degree of conflict involved, and the outcomes they produce, are influenced by a number of factors, including the political-economic character of the state, social class formation in society, as well as the nature of the public policy being debated or pursued and interested parties’ perceptions of these (Grindle and Thomas, 1990; see also Fox, 2005). Some pro-poor policies require the redistribution of wealth and power in society, while others do not. Public policies can thus be categorized into two broad types, namely, ‘distributive’ and ‘redistributive’. According to Fox (1993: 10):

Distributive reforms are qualitative changes in the way states allocate public resources to large social groups…Redistributive reforms are a special case of distributive policies: they change the relative shares between groups. This distinction is important for two principal reasons. First, many apparently redistributive reforms are not, and to call them so implicitly begins with what should be the ultimate outcome of analysis: determining what a social reform actually does, and why. Second,...
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