Private property ownership is a state of mind

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

Part 1
IN dealing with the topic, I make a deliberate abstinence from orthodox Marxist thought. This is a must if a truly objective result is to be had from an inquiry into the concept of private property. With collaboration from Friedrich Engels and eventually added elaboration from Vladimir Lenin in the course of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Karl Marx so brilliantly inquired into the subject matter that his findings – delineated in exquisite detail in Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto – over the past nearly two centuries have been regarded, particularly by the so-called working class, as gospel truths, so to speak. When you yourself make an inquiry on the subject matter premised already on the assumption that Marx spoke the truth, are you being scientific?

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I find it necessary to dwell on the issue at this particularly time because I can perceive a resurgence of media discussions on the subject of the ruling one year ago by the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague, the Netherlands favoring the Philippines’ claim to portions of the South China Sea (or the West Philippine Sea, depending on where you stand in the controversy) as mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). Though sovereignty had not been at issue in the PCA proceedings, a lot of people seem to be of the mindset that the arbitral body had ruled on the matter and that the Philippines having been declared winner in the case is upheld as the rightful owner of the contested areas of the South China Sea.

So, on the PCA ruling, nothing has been decided in regard to questions of who owns the sea claimed by the Philippines as its own. But since people tend to view the ruling as deciding on the issue in favor of the Philippines, the matter has to be handled with utmost circumspection.

In other words, granting that the PCA had ruled on the issue of ownership over the contested portions of the South China Sea, would such ruling mean the Philippines must now exercise prerogatives accruing to an owner over it?

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has been quoted in the media as stating thus: “You cannot own something unless you can defend it.” In light of the immediately preceding question, this Enrile statement puts the Philippines on the balance. Okay, the Scarborough Shoal is owned by the Philippines; so are the Spratlys, etc. So what? Can the Philippines defend the contested areas?

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte came out in the press admitting that Chinese President Xi Jinping had threatened to go to war with the Philippines if it insisted on implementing the PCA ruling, that is, asserting ownership of Philippines-claimed areas in the SCS but over which China had already embarked on land-reclamation projects, physically possessed, built infrastructure on with evident resolve to defend those areas come what may. The President placed the Chinese threat in the most pragmatic terms: “What can I say? Sasabihin ko ba, okay let’s go to war. Kaya ba nating giyerahin ang China?” Or words to this effect.

This was the precise quandary I found myself in sometime in 2012 in regard to my property in Antipolo City. I have been in open, actual, physical, adverse possession of the lot, roughly consisting of one hectare right along Sumulong Highway. Back in 1968 or thereabouts, when I began visiting the lot, intending to turn it into a farm for planting to fruit trees along with vegetables, the lot, together with another area consisting of some four hectares, was a veritable patch of unwanted cogon. Sumulong Highway, though already operational on the plains ofhilly Antipolo terrain, had not yet cut across to the town proper from the Marcos Highway route, thereby rendering my particular lot unreachable by road, except a narrow carabao path on which I would walk from the town to reach my place.

I remember I was in my mid-twenties and still a bachelor when I began settling in the area, constructing a bamboo-and-nipa hut on a slope close to a stream, among many that flow into the fabled Hinulugang Taktak. I had dropped out of my civil engineering course at the Mapua Institute of Technology in favor of the pursuit of writing, a resolve that got me contending, I would say, with the muses until I could no longer resist.

In that hut, shaded by bamboo groves, two century-old mango trees and similarly aged acacia, I would write on and on, in-between routines of toil with the earth in the day, and in the evenings pounding the typewriter lit by a small kerosene lamp improvised from used coffee glass and secured with electrical tape on the typewriter top (for a very long period no electric power was available in the area).

When I got involved in the national democratic movement at the advent of the seventies, the place became handy for revolutionary purposes, like teach-ins and discussions groups (DGs so-called) and a source of kakawate and bamboo poles for posting revolutionary slogans on and using as implements for rioting against police in rallies and demonstrations.

Beginning in1985, when I started making a name in movies, I signaled my full-scale ownership of the lot by constructing thereon a concrete house out of the initial bamboo-and-nipa affair I erected there back in 1968. By 1989, the house had grown into a concrete two-story structure with a total of 275 square meters floor area. This was the house that over the years would host meetings and conferences of top organs and leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines; it was in this house that major components of the Rolando Kintanar scenario of city insurrections – as opposed to the Jose Maria Sison continuing strategy of protracted people’s war – were hatched and implemented.

Now, is this digressing from the main story? We are here talking about private property ownership.

In fact, the story of my house – and of the revolutionary occurrences therein over at least two decades – is one substantial meat of this present intellectual adventure.

(To be continued)

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