A cursory review of history gives light to the degree of deconstruction and deformation of indigenous agrarian institutions and structures in the country. What could have evolved into a few forms in a less violent manner was deconstructed and deformed by the introduction of power from the outside. The colonial and post-colonial governments negated and demolished preexisting
institutions and structures creating a political trauma that infected social relations and economic arrangements (Ed Q, Historical Notes).
The only difference between the Spanish and American approaches was that the Spaniards neglected agriculture, focused on mercantilist trade and left land exploitation to the clergy and the favored landed gentry. The Americans, on the other hand, sought to segregate public and private lands to systematize economic allocation and use the same for political control of the
population and the nation‘s economic resources.
The communal agrarian structures of indigenous communities received a series of blows with the advent of colonialism in Southeast Asia. The Spaniards delivered the first blow by expropriating the whole colony by virtue of the mythical Regalian Doctrine and renaming the islands with the Spanish monarch‘s namesake. The vestiges are still evident: the Spanish-mestizo sugar barons of Negros and their haciendas and the friar lands still retained by big Catholic religious congregations.
The second blow came with the coming of the Americans at the turn of the 20th century. This was preceded by the sale of the Philippine islands by the Spaniards to the Americans under the Treaty of Paris in 1898 for US$20 million.
The American land policy towards the colony was characterized by three elements:
(a) maximizing land space through settlement in order to quell resistance to colonization;
(b) limiting the size of private land; and,
(c) introducing a new property regime known as the Torrens System.1 With the Torrens system, the state bestows, recognizes and protects the private and physical ownership of the land. Thus, private property ownership in the Philippines began in the early 1900s during the American colonial introduction of new land laws.
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