1953

Leaps and Milestones

Jeremias Montemayor establishes the Federation of Free Farmers in San Fernando, Pampanga to provide a radical but peaceful alternative to semi-feudal conditions in the countryside. The FFF issues its manifesto, which calls upon the Filipino peasantry to unite and fight for genuine liberation and development.

From 1953 to 1956, FFF chapters are organized in 28 out of 53 provinces, with a total membership of 40,000.

Ordeals and Sacrifices

One of the first cases of Jerry Montemayor as a new lawyer is a tenancy case involving his own mother and her tenants in his hometown in Bisocol, Alaminos, Pangasinan. The founder ends up defending the tenants against his own mother.

From 1953 to 1965, the FFF pioneers face many difficulties. Organizing peasant farmers has been associated with the subversive movement or with corrupt operators out to take advantage of farmers desperate with land-related problems. Working as volunteers, the leaders of the Federation have to spend time away from their families and to sacrifice their own money to do organizing work in the barrios.

The FFF’s first national office is part of a World War II-damaged building at the back of the old Ateneo law school along Padre Faura, Manila.

Many farmers see the organization as a provider of legal and other services and do not see the necessity of sustaining it financially.

Ideological Stance

The first leaders of the FFF are imbued with the Christian principles of service to the farmers and dedication to a noble cause. They endeavor to offer a Christian alternative of thoroughgoing but non-violent reform.

National Milieu

Early 50s. Agrarian unrest grips the rural areas, especially in Central Luzon. Soon, however, President Ramon Magsaysay will break the back of the HUK rebellion with a combination of military and socio-civic initiatives and reforms.

1954

Leaps and Milestones

FFF works out the resettlement of 2,500 landless families through the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration and the Land Tenure Administration.

FFF contributes to and supports the enactment of the Agricultural Tenancy Act (Republic Act No. 1199). The law, among others, strengthens the security of tenure of tenant-farmers and institutes a 70-30 sharing scheme in their favor.

FFF signs a pioneering master contract with landlord association Ding Macabalen of Concepcion, Tarlac. Though weakly implemented, the contract aims to regulate tenancy relations between FFF members and their landlords.

1958

Leaps and Milestones

Late 50’s to early 60’s: FFF expands into the Visayas, especially in Negros and Panay islands. It organizes strikes and other mass actions among the sacadas (seasonal workers), who are working in sugarcane plantations in Negros, to protest against their exploitative conditions.

Some hacienderos call the FFF as “Fire, Fire, Fire” for allegedly burning their sugarcane.
The Junior Free Farmers (JFF), FFF’s youth arm, is established.

1963

Leaps and Milestones

FFF files a class suit against Victorias Milling Company, Asia’s biggest sugar mill, and some 600 sugar planters in Negros Occidental to nullify the respondents’ milling agreement, which deprived some 30,000 sugar workers of their mandated share in milling proceeds under the Sugar Act of l952 (R.A. No. 809). The amount the workers seek to recover in the “Swindle of the Century” case reaches P500 million, the largest in Philippine judicial history.

President Diosdado Macapagal appoints FFF President Jeremias U.Montemayor as member of the presidential committee that will draft the proposed Agricultual Land Reform Code. The bill becomes law (R.A. No. 3844) on August 8, and (among others) converts sharehold tenants into lessees on a “proclaimed area” basis and created the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Ideological Stance

Early 60s. As the leaders gain experience in dealing with the peasantry, they realize social welfare activities and legal services are not enough to achieve lasting reform. The FFF must also engage strongly in socio-political action. Towards this end, they begin to reach out to other sectors, particularly the religious and the studentry. Grounded in the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, FFF leaders begin to apply these teachings to national concerns, such as the role of farmers in Philippine society, social justice, agrarian reform, economic development, and farmers’ empowerment.

National Milieu

Early 60’s: While the Philippines ranks second to Japan in economic development, semi-feudal conditions fester in the countryside. President Macapagal prevails upon Congress to enact the Agricultural Land Reform Code.

1964

Leaps and Milestones

The FFF, together with other national farmers and farmworkers organizations, sets up the Philippine Council for Agrarian Workers (PCAW). Jeremias Montemayor is elected President.

1966

Leaps and Milestones

The Free Farmers Cooperative, Inc. (FFCI) is founded as the FFF’s economic arm.
Jeremias Montemayor’s book, Ours To Share, seeks to apply Catholic social teachings to Philippine socio-economic conditions. Together with another book, Philippine Socio-Economic Problems (published in l97l), they become the “bible” of many social activists.

1966-1972

Ordeals and Sacrifices

The involvement of young activists and the religious brings new vigor, ideas and resources into the organization. As the FFF expands rapidly, it has to deal with a mushrooming list of legal and organizational problems and challenges. In the early 70s, the divide between the so-called “technocrats” and some veteran leaders becomes more pronounced.

1967

Leaps and Milestones

The Federation starts conducting the 35-day Leadership Formation Course (LFC) for organizers. At the same time, it intensifies its orientation work among religious, youth and other sectoral allies.
FFF joins the International Catholic Rural Association, based in Rome, Italy and the International Federation of Plantation, Agricultural and Allied Workers (IFPAAW) based in Geneva, Switzerland.
FFF starts organizing in Davao Oriental, then in other areas of Mindanao. Hundreds of pre-membership seminars, called mini-LFCs, are held, resulting in a strong mass base in the South.

Late 60’s

Ideological Stance

The FFF has developed a fairly comprehensive ideological platform, which is incorporated into its Leadership Formation Course, its mini-LFC, pre-membership seminars and other educational activities.

National Milieu

Following Vatican II reforms, the Church in the Philippines shows greater interest and involvement in social action.
There is an increase in mass demonstrations and other forms of unrest especially among youth and peasants, culminating in the declaration of martial law.

1968

Leaps and Milestones

FFF’s two-month picket before the Bureau of Lands in Agrifina Circle resolves many long pending land cases, resulting in the distribution of thousands of hectares of public and private lands to members. Responding to FFF demands, President Ferdinand E. Marcos creates the Presidential Coordinating Committee on Social Justice and Agrarian Reforms (PCCSJAR), which institutionalizes an inter-agency approach to action on critical land disputes. The PCCSJAR is the forerunner of the Presidential Action Committee on Land Problems (PACLAP) and the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems (COSLAP), which are later on also created upon the insistence of the FFF.

1968-1972

Numerous demonstrations, pickets and other mass actions are undertaken by FFF and allied groups throughout the Philippines. In the remote Anakan Lumber Company logging area in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, several hundred FFF members and their family members stage their version of “people power” by lying in front of the company’s bulldozers to prevent the demolition of their homes and farms. A number of FFF organizers are assassinated, such as Pedring Aquino of Doclong 1st, San Clemente, Tarlac and Lucio Abello of Matalom, Leyte.

1970

Leaps and Milestones

Pope Paul VI appoints Jeremias Montemayor together with then Karol Cardinal Wojtila (now Pope John Paul II) as Consultor, and later Member, of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

1971

Leaps and Milestones

FFF establishes the Dilag ng Kalipunan, its women’s arm, and helps organize the Federation of Free Teachers (FFT).
FFF leaders Camilo Sabio and Gaudioso Buen of Davao and Timoteo Ruben of Misamis Occidental are elected delegates to the l97l Constitutional Convention. FFF leaders play a key role in setting up a political party, the Kapisanan ng mga Malayang Mamamayan (KAMAYAN), which fields several hundred candidates in the l97l local elections.
As a result of the FFF-led 84-day picket before Congress, the Code of Agrarian Reforms of the Philippines (R.A. No. 6389) and its financing statute (R.A. No. 6390) are enacted. R.A. 6389 converts the entire country into a “land reform (leasehold) area,” and creates the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Ideological Stance

The FFF enters the electoral arena. Three FFF leaders became Constitutional Convention delegates. Scores of FFF members join the local elections.

1972

Leaps and Milestones

FFF, together with the Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU) and the Philippine Confederation of Trade Unions (PHILCONTU), form the national labor-peasant alliance, Kapulungang Anak-Pawis ng Pilipinas (KAPP).

FFF and its allied organizations publish Toward a Filipino Ideology, which presents the detailed philosophy and program of the movement.

President Marcos signs into law the Tenant Emancipation Decree (P.D. No. 27) on October 2l, in the presence of FFF leaders in Malacañang.

1972-1974

Following the proclamation of martial law, many FFF chapters (especially in Mindanao) shift their attention to organizing self-financed and self-managed cooperatives.

Ordeals and Sacrifices

The declaration of martial law results in the arrest of many FFF leaders in the provinces. The FFF leadership works overtime to secure their release.
There are reports of members burning or burying their FFF membership booklets or T-shirts because of fear of harassment by the military and the Constabulary.

The changed political situation exacerbates the earlier tensions within the FFF. Although the FFF National Policy Board (NPB) has taken a stance of “critical collaboration” with President Marcos, a small but influential group of officers want the organization to be more critical of, or adversarial to, Marcos.

Ideological Stance

The FFF movement’s philosophy and program are formalized in the document, Toward a Filipino Ideology.

1972-1981

72-81. Throughout the martial law era, the FFF remains consistent in its role of upholding peasants’ rights and interests especially in the area of land reform, cooperative development, and political representation.

Under the FFF’s policy of “critical collaboration”, it supports policies and programs assisting farmers (e.g., PD 27) but denounces abuses and other irregularities in government (military/Constabulary wrongdoings, imposition of Samahang Nayon program, coconut levy scam, etc.).

The FFF enters into linkages with other peasant and labor groups in order to have a stronger voice and protection vis-à-vis government.

This period also ushers in a dramatic upsurge in FFF’s economic activities through the organization of cooperatives.

National Milieu

Martial law is declared on September 21.

1973

Leaps and Milestones

73-82. FFF is instrumental in the issuance of various laws such as P.D. No. 3l6 and subsequent amendatory laws (penalizing harassment/ ejectment of tenant-farmers), P.D. No. 946 (prescribing new rules of procedure in agrarian courts), Letter of Instructions No. 474 (mandating zero-retention in tenanted rice/corn lands under certain conditions), L.O.I. No. l260 (establishing the Integrated Social Forestry Program), P.D. No. 1467 (establishing the Philippine Crop Insurance Program), Executive Order No. 561 (creating the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems), and E.O. 621(creating the Bureau of Rural Workers under the Department of Labor).

Ordeals and Sacrifices

Things come to a head during the NPB meeting in Palo, Leyte when several board members/leaders are arrested by military agents on grounds of national security. The NPB grants “emergency powers” to the president, Jeremias Montemayor, and ratifies his decision to separate some 20 officers from the FFF. This development is negatively received by several erstwhile supporters of the FFF.

Externally, the martial law regime pushes the nationwide organization of pre-cooperative associations called Sama-hang Nayon, which some FFF leaders interpret as part of an over-all plan to weaken or eliminate farmers’ organizations potentially or actually opposed to Marcos. The FFF takes the lead in working with other cooperatives and peasant organizations to preserve their autonomy and existence.

1974

Leaps and Milestones

FFF becomes a founding member of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP). Jeremias U. Montemayor is elected one of the vice presidents.

1975

Leaps and Milestones

75-80. A nationwide revitalization program is carried out through refresher seminars for members and leaders and social awareness seminars for other sectoral groups (including the police and the military). In these seminars, dialogues between farmers and government representatives are held to present and secure action on members’ concerns.

The FFCI decentralizes and becomes the Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives, Inc.(FFFCI).

1978

Leaps and Milestones

FFF gives advise and support to Col. Virgilio David, military supervisor of the Philippine Coconut Authority, who exposes the coconut levy “scam”.

Jeremias U. Montemayor is elected Assemblyman, representing Region I, to the Interim Batasang Pambansa (IBP).

1979

Leaps and Milestones

FFF lawyer Camilo Sabio files an impeachment case against Supreme Court Justice Antonio Barredo in connection with the FFF’s “Swindle of the Century” case against Victorias Milling Company.

Ordeals and Sacrifices

The martial law government initiates the organization of another group based on agrarian reform beneficiaries, apparently in reaction to FFF’s growing criticism of the defective implementation of agrarian reform.

National Milieu

Interim Batasang Pambansa is inaugurated under a semi-parliamentary system.

1981

National Milieu

President Marcos formally lifts martial law, but retains stand-by legislative powers.

1983

National Milieu

Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino is assassinated, lighting the fuse of national upheaval.

1984

Leaps and Milestones

A national plebiscite approves an amendment, introduced by Assemblyman Montemayor, to the Constitution, mandating the State to formulate and implement agrarian and urban land reform and housing programs.

Ordeals and Sacrifices

Jeremias Montemayor loses re-election in the Batasang Pambansa elections due to “junking”.

1986

Ordeals and Sacrifices

Jeremias Montemayor declines the invitation to nominate – on behalf of the peasant sector – President Marcos as Kilusang Bagong Lipunan candidate in the snap presidential elections. The FFF takes a neutral stance in the elections.

National Milieu

The “People Power” revolt at EDSA brings Cory Aquino into power.

1987

Leaps and Milestones

Jeremias Montemayor seeks a Senatorial seat during the 1987 elections.

Ordeals and Sacrifices

Jeremias Montemayor runs, and loses, in the senatorial elections as an opposition candidate.

Ideological Stance

FFF adopts a policy of greater organizational self-reliance.

National Milieu

87-92. A new Constitution is approved. The Aquino administration is wracked by several coup attempts.

1988

Leaps and Milestones

The NPB chooses to implement a more self-sufficient posture by capitalizing on internally generated resources instead of relying on external assistance. The situation is aggravated by business difficulties encountered by a number of FFFCI affiliates.

National Milieu

The “Mendiola Massacre” prods the Aquino administration and Congress to fasttrack the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (R.A. No. 6657).

1990

Leaps and Milestones

FFF leader Alfonso V. Laguna is appointed to the Board of Administrators of the Cooperative Development Authority by President Corazon Aquino.

1991

Ideological Stance

Jeremias U. Montemayor plays an active role in the Plenary Council of the Philippines – II. He underscores the fundamental role of lay persons and their organizations in reforming and developing Philippine society.

1992

Leaps and Milestones

President Fidel Ramos appoints FFF Secretary-General Leonardo Montemayor as Peasant Sector Representative in the House of Representatives (Ninth Congress).

National Milieu

A peaceful transition marks the ascent of Fidel Ramos as President.

1994

Leaps and Milestones

FFF deplores “uneven playing field” under the World Trade Organization and airs doubts that government can adequately fund “safety nets” during the Senate debate on ratification of the GATT-Uruguay Round Agreements.

President Ramos confers Presidential Golden Plow award to the FFF for outstanding contributions to the agrarian reform program.

National Milieu

After intense debates, the Senate ratifies the GATT-Uruguay Round Agreements and Philippine membership in the World Trade Organization.

1995

Leaps and Milestones

Leonardo Montemayor is reappointed to the House of Representatives (Tenth Congress). President Ramos also appoints former FFF vice president Glicerio J. Tan as Peasant Sector Representative.

1996

Leaps and Milestones

Second edition of Toward a Filipino Ideology is published.

1997

Leaps and Milestones

FFF and allied groups establish the peasant party-list group, Alyansang Bayanihan ng mga Magsasaka, Manggagawang-Bukid at Mangingisda (ABA).

Ordeals and Sacrifices

Following the appointment of Leonardo Montemayor to the House of Representatives in 1992 and 1995, the FFF prepares for active participation in the legislature through its party-list group, ABA.

National Milieu

1997-1998

97-98. The Asian financial crisis rocks the economy.

1998

Leaps and Milestones

ABA places second in the first party-list elections and is represented in the Eleventh Congress by its first nominee, Leonardo Montemayor.

FFF successfully hosts World Farmers Congress in Manila. Leonardo Montemayor is elected Vice President of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers.

1999

Leaps and Milestones

President Joseph Estrada appoints Raul Montemayor as Board Chairman of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.
President Estrada awards Presidential Golden Plow Award to Jeremias Montemayor.

2001

Leaps and Milestones

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appoints Leonardo Montemayor as Secretary of Agriculture. Dioscoro A. Granada, ABA’s number two nominee, assumes Montemayor’s congressional seat.

National Milieu

President Joseph Estrada is unseated, following an aborted impeachment trial and EDSA II “people power” demonstrations. Gloria M. Arroyo assumes the presidency.

2003

Leaps and Milestones

Leonardo Montemayor is elected FFF president.
The ABA enters into coalition with the urban poor party-list organization, Adhikain at Kilusan ng Ordinaryong Tao (AKO).

The Supreme Court orders the proclamation of the ABA as one of the winners in the May 200l party-list elections. Dioscoro Granada is proclaimed ABA representative in the Twelfth Congress.