Thinking about land reform and Hacienda Luisita

See my note on FB.

For those not in FB, the note says:

I’ve tried to make sense of the majority view, in light of the dissents. On present law, the land can either be “expropriated” in favor of the farmer, or “VOSd” whereby the farmer acquires the land based on an offer to sell by the landowner.

Thus, if the “referendum” is in fact an individually exercisable option, it is as though a farmer “opting in” as a shareholder of HLI got the land but immediately sold it to HLI for stock. Is this last step legal? Would the implicit price of the land sold for stock reflect “just compensation,” taken to mean on two measures – just compensation to the landowners as of 1989, and market value of the land as of today given to the farmer-beneficiary who surrenders the land?  (These seem to be among the still-to-be-settled issues that can be raised during the “compliance” proceedings.)

Perhaps what is also missing in all this is an explicit provision in the agrarian laws that would state that once a farmer-beneficiary acquires land under the land reform program, such land can thereafter be freely sold – i.e., the land is then no longer “CARP-able.” Possibly, that missing provision is now given jurisprudentially, except that the HLI decision has been set up as pro hac vice.

But if the referendum results in a majority vote in favor of a stock distribution that thereby makes all  beneficiaries stockholders of HLI, then the dissents make sense.  Since stock distribution under present law is no longer legally valid, it can only mean that the so-called referendum does not require the determination of a majority/minority vote.  Each farmer-beneficiary would simply exercise his option to get land or stock, and no individual beneficiary should be “forced” into being a stockholder against his will.

Reform is always good, but as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

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