The Federation of free farmers (FFF) is currently one of the largest and most effective non-governmental organizations of rural workers in the Philippines. It was organized in 1953 by a group of Catholic laymen soon after the break-up of the Communist-led revolutionary movement in the country during the term of President Ramon Magsaysay.

Initially, the FFF experienced negligible success due to popular apprehensions resulting from the recent Communist-led turmoil. However, by the mid- 1960s, the FFF increased its membership and expanded its activities, and except for a brief term following the declaration of martial law during which the Federation underwent drastic reorganization, the growth of the FFF has been sustained.

Today, it has branches and footholds in some 50 provinces. Memberships, consisting of agricultural tenants, owner-cultivators, agricultural laborers, fishermen and settlers, total around 200,000.

The FFF as a socio-political movement in a society that I mainly agricultural operates on the principle that the farmer I the backbone of the nation. At the same time, since the farmer have been the recurrent victims of social and political exploitation and injustice, the FFF believes that national progress cannot be achieved and maintained unless the farmers acquire a socio-political-economic status that promotes their well-being and commends respect for their dignity and worth to the nation.

Hence, the Federation has unceasingly pushed for an agrarian reform and rural development program that would give land ownership to actual tillers and provide them decent living from the fruits of their labor. The FFF has also worked for the meaningful participation of rural workers through their mass organizations in government decision-making and implementation.

Given the resistance of landlord groups and the institutions and officials supported by them, however, the upliftment of the status of the farmer can only be achieved if the peasants themselves are organized to work together to secure their rights. The peasants must form an organization not just for themselves, but more important, genuinely, of, and by, themselves, reflecting their aspirations, solving their problems and promoting their welfare.

Membership Development

A strong farmers’ organization, however, requires a determined and enlightened membership, which is difficult to form within an agricultural population that has developed an attitude of hopelessness and hesitance to change. Hence, from its long experience in organizing the farmers, the FFF has seen the need to continuously develop a philosophy and theology of development which would effectively motivate the farmers to organize for change.

In this regard, the FFF has held countless meetings, dialogues and consultations in the rural areas, and educational activities which provide a forum for the propagation and refinement of principles, strategies and skills at present constitute the bulk of the Federation’s activities. These educational activities include pre-membership and educators’ development, civic classes, management/accounting course, and agricultural skills training.

The educational-organizational activities of the FFF has resulted in the steady growth of its membership and mass base, and the development of an organizational structure that extends to the far-flung barrios of the country. At least 15 farmers which has attended the pre-membership seminar constitute the barrio local, the smallest organizational unit of the FFF. At

least three (3) locals subsequently form a municipal chapter, at least three of which in turn compose a provincial association. Every year, the provincial associations send delegates to the national conventions which elects the National Policy Board (NPB). The NPB then selects the members of the National Executive Office (NEXO) which implements the constitution and board policies on a day-to-day basis.

Political and Legislative Involvement

The FFF also utilized its mass base and social reputation for pressure group activities, especially where farmers’ interests are involved. Althou-gh FFF has not established its own political party, before the proclamation of martial law, it was militant and considerably successful in general mass political action, such as lobbying for favorable legislation, organizing demonstrations and participating in rallies directed toward the implementation of laws enacted, production of and/or participation in radio and television programs to influence government action, and support of candidates who had shown their loyalty to the cause of farmers.

The FFF was responsible for considerable portions of the various agrarian legislative enactment’s since R.A. 1199, otherwise known as the Agricultural Tenancy Act of 1954, up to and including the last amendment to the code of Agrarian Reforms, enacted in 1971. Furthermore, the FFF inspired several Constitutional provisions and government measures on socio-economic reforms.

During the martial law period, the FFF continued to act as an influential instrument of the farmers in the development and application of a number of national laws, policies and programs affecting the nation as a whole and the rural population in particular. The organization cooperated with the government in the setting up of liaison offices for the articulation of farmers’ grievances, problems, and aspirations. It also organized several hundred barrio seminars and mass graduations cum rallies to which public officials were invited to explain government programs as well as to act on farmers’ request.

In the rural areas, the FFF continues to be a watchdog in the implementation of laws, promotes contact and understanding between members and government agencies and officials, and generates ideas for better legislation and government programs from the peasantry.