POSTSCRIPT / October 19, 1997 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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How much is a Torres title? How much is a farmer’s life?

HE who has less in life must have more in law, says one of the memorable affirmative declarations of the late President Ramon Magsaysay in the 50’s. Five presidents later, however, it seems that he who has less in life has even less in law.

By authority of an absentee (endlessly traveling) president, Executive Secretary Ruben Torres routinely reverses well-studied decisions of the Department of Agrarian Reform awarding land to deserving tenants.

As a result of the latest Torres turnover, Higaonon farmer-tenants of the 144-hectare Quisumbing estate in Sumilao, Bukidnon, are slowly dying in a hunger strike called to protest Torres’ taking back the land awarded to them by the DAR. 

The emaciated farmers have agreed after meeting with President Ramos upon his return from abroad to just fast (biscuit and water) while a Cabinet committee fashions a compromise solution.

But the farmers insist they will accept nothing less than a reversal of Torres, who they said not only took away their land, but is in effect also taking their lives.

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HOW much is a Torres land title?

We don’t know, but peasant leader Jaime Tadeo shares information that the bargain price in Malacañang is P45 per square meter, or around P500,000 per hectare (presumably the pre-devaluation rate).

The Quisumbing deal is not the first. There have been several other reported cases, involving some 575 hectares, of DAR rulings reversed by Torres in favor of wealthy landowners.

If we multiply the total area involved by the P500,000-per-hectare reported going rate for favorable Malacañang decisions, it suddenly becomes clear why President Ramos has been saying that there is an economic boom.

Mukhang boom na boom talaga si Torres, di po ba?

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IT is obvious that there are mercenaries in the Ramos administration lusting after the Marcos hoard of gold and currency. Their unusual interest in helping launder the secret deposits and railroading an immoral compromise with the Marcoses gives them away. 

How to unmask and flush them out? One way is to launch a serious campaign to postpone until after the 1998 elections the consideration of any settlement with the Marcoses.

Like the Cha-cha or charter change campaign before it, the proposed compromise (Marcoses to keep 49 percent of the loot and be exempted from suits) makes the sticky hands of some of the advocates sweat in excitement. So deny them that golden opportunity to make a killing.

But will Ramos & Co. be amenable to freezing negotiations for a speedy compromise and having the next administration handle any proposal to settle the Marcos cases? No way!

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THERE is an intriguing theory that the Marcos gold alone is enough reason why Gen. Fidel V. Ramos will want to stay on and, kunwari by accident of time, preside over the disposition of the Marcos fortune. You know, one for you, one for….

Imagine, if the Ramos boys would be able to force a compromise on the $13-billion Marcos gold hoard before the May 1998 elections! Money would line the paths leading to the poll precincts and on to the Palace. The Ramos camp could then make anybody, even Ruben Torres, president.

With all that money, elections might not even be necessary, since Mr. Ramos can just short-cut everything and stay on as a benevolent dictator. What about the Constitution? Oh, we can rewrite that piece of paper later.

With all that moolah and Mr. Ramos delivering his promised Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year, even Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino won’t be able to block a Ramos Reprise.

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THE United States can be expected to look the other way if their boy, the true-blue West Pointer, will also see it Uncle’s way ‑ like allowing access and basing (not bases) arrangements, logistical infrastructure and services in Mindanao and a benign occasional presence in Subic.

Washington’s approval or at least tolerance is crucial to any attempt of Mr. Ramos to stay on, especially if a holdover raises constitutional questions. 

Could this holdover plan be the reason why Mr. Ramos has seen to it that no presidential aspirants from the Lakas-NUCD stands out as a worthy replacement? Is this why the Palace has raised the bugaboo of a possible Estrada presidency to scare the people into falling back on Ramos as the only effective foil to Estrada?

We are tempted to reiterate our theory expounded in an earlier column that former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa is just Plan B, with Ramos-II being Plan A. We sense that Mr. Ramos has not allowed any partymate to rise to presidential proportions, because he has not given up that dream of being president when the Philippines steps into the next millennium.

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