Land reform, it seems to me, is one issue only a disinterested youth with no independent income can have a totally objective, non-partisan view. One's bias is automatically dictated by one's position in the society.
If you or your family owns a sizeable property yourself, you'll most probably be decrying the economic efficiency lost by dividing properties and distributing them to farmers who don't even have the capital to develop the land themselves. Conversely, if you don't own land, you'll probably be incredulous of the seeming gall of landlords to selfishly hold on to property through every loophole they can see in the law.
In the case of the Sumilao farmers and their demand for their ancestral land in Bukidnon, it is probably correct to say that when viewed strictly in terms of potential economic contribution, at least in the the short term, the land in question is better off ending in the hands of San Miguel than the farmers who marched cross-country.
Many people are of the above opinion and some columnists have even started questioning the "landless" credentials of the farmers, like Emil Jurado in today's column.
The first time I heard of the march by the farmers, my first thought was that it was futile. After all, had there not been a final Supreme Court Case decided against them? I thought only God or a revolution can give them back the land. But, in fact, there is a solid possibility that they have a valid case that might win them back the land.
Here's the lowdown of the story: To save the land from land reform, the Quisumbings promised to convert it from agricultural to agro-industrial use in five years' time. They, however, failed to deliver on the promise and instead sold it to San Miguel, which plans to set up a piggery on the property.
As Dean Bernas points out here, the farmers have a valid case in saying that because the Quisumbings did not deliver on their promised land conversion of the property to agro-industrial use, the land conversion should be revoked.
Meanwhile, DAR Secretary Pangandaman has asked the farmers to write a position paper, which the farmers, I think, submitted to the secretary a couple of days ago.
With all the incendiary and highly emotional quality of this Sumilao issue, I cannot help but think former President Corazon Aquino could have spared the nation the emotionally draining debate on land reform if she only unilaterally parcelled off the land in 1986 during her revolutionary tenure as president. Instead of discussing weighty issues on how to move the Philippines forward in the highly competetive global economy, here we are in the great age of the global knowledge economy still debating on what to do with land, that primary source of wealth of a bygone era.