327. Memorandum From the Central Intelligence Agency to the 303 Committee 1


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The proposal also involves a direct frontal attack against the deteriorating political situation and internal security problems facing the Philippines, making possible a viable movement channeling legitimate Filipino nationalism along Christian-Democratic lines. General reform must find its beginnings and impetus in the broad bases of a society. Among the more evident bases in the Philippines are the peasant and the Church: the peasant because he is the mass and the ultimate focal point of meaningful reform; the Church because it is uniquely equipped to act as a catalyst between the government, vested interests, and the Filipino peasant, who is in a sense the land.

The land tenure system in the Philippines is a basic cause of rural poverty, a major obstacle to agricultural development and a main source of agrarian unrest which, though traditional, is the root of the internal security situation in the Philippines today. In order to focus attention on the land reform problem, educating the peasant to his rights and responsibilities, demonstrating enlightened need for reform to politicians and vested interests and influencing the government to implement reform aggressively, a fairly dramatic action is called for. [2–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

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2. Problem

There have been more than adequate attempts made in the Philippines towards legislating land reform. During the Commonwealth period the United States moved energetically and with imagination into land reform and land distribution, including the purchase and redistribution of “friar” lands representing large holdings by the Church. Since independence, various presidents and governments have recognized the need for reform, notably under Magsaysay, to some extent Garcia, and most recently Macapagal. The problem in the Philippines is not [Page 725]to begin anew, but to improve on progress already made, to moderate the influence of forces traditionally opposed to reform and finally to create a demand on the government for reform from the end-user, the peasant, by “popularizing” his rights under existing legislation.

The Agricultural Land Reform Code, promulgated on 8 August 1963, has the stated purpose of redefining the relationship of the cultivator to the land. Essentially an adequate law, it unfortunately has built-in complexities, in deference to political and economic self-interest groups, which prevent aggressive implementation. The Armed Forces of the Philippines are heavily engaged in national civic action work having ultimate effect on land reform in general. In addition, the Presidential Assistant for Community Development and the private Philippines Rural Reconstruction Movement have recently agreed to coordinate overall civic action/reform programs, rather than continue the competition of the past. A central point in the reform problem, besides inherent opposition and endemic inertia, has been to approach it by governmental decree rather than from a popular base. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] should provide the impetus necessary to get underway constructive land reform and with it the beginnings of general reform. Without some such action, the dilatory approach to reform in the Philippines can be expected to continue.

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  1. Source: National Security Council, Special Group/303 Committee Files, Subject Files, Philippines. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. A note on the memorandum indicates that this proposal was “approved telephonically by the 303 Committee principals on 11 April 1966.”