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.