Aquino’s final approval on the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) confirms his pro-landlord stance, and that he has no genuine interest in pursuing genuine land reform in favor of landless farmers.
Peasant groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) condemned President Aquino for certifying the bill as urgent, insisting that the program did not lead to genuine land distribution and in fact, it increased the number of leasehold farmers nationwide.
Landless farmers mostly from Southern Tagalog island provinces say that they have been involved in CARP-related disputes in pushing for an end to the program.
KMP Chairman Rafael Mariano says that Aquino’s certification as urgent of House Bill (HB) 4296 is the landlord President’s belated attempt to push for the bill’s implementation for his fellow landlords in Congress.
HB 4296 looks to extend CARP for another two years by allowing the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to issue notices of coverage (NOC) up to June 30, 2016.
Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap though says that continuing CARP will be a “grand disservice and betrayal to landless Filipino farmers who are demanding for a new and genuine agrarian [reform],”
For the past 26 years, CARP allowed the concentration of vast areas of lands to big landowners and as a result, deprived millions of farmers of lands of their own to till.
“CARP as amended by CARPER law was a total failure in emancipating landless peasants from the bondage of the soil they till.” Hicap added.
It is apparent that CARP, along with other pro-foreign and pro-landlord policies upheld by the previous and current administrations has resulted to the continuing underdevelopment of local agriculture and impoverishment of farmers.
It also raises to question DAR’s motives for the anti-farmer policy, and if it does in fact, have a pro-landlord agenda.
DAR Secretary Gil Delos Reyes says that he supported CARP’s extension because it would be impossible to issue NOCs even on privately held lands.
It is well worth noting though that Delos Reyes is an appointee and ally of President Aquino, and the positive praises heard about him on the news generally come from Aquino’s supporters and cronies in government, media and academia.
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was designed to implement the redistribution of agricultural lands to farmers. Circumstances of peasant workers however show that CARP is only being used as a smokescreen for corruption and ‘agrarian pork’.
CARP is only true to newspapers, radio and television reports but does not happen in reality. In fact, this was revealed by the Department of Agrarian Reform Employees Association (DAREA) who are pushing for genuine land distribution along with different militant groups in the midst of attempts by big land lords to block its full implementation, particularly in Hacienda Luisita.
Hacienda Luisita has long been the unfortunate point of reference of how CARP has failed in ending the land monopoly of big landlords and foreign corporations in the country.
Three decades of CARP only allowed farm workers, in the case of Hacienda Luisita, to experience a wide range of deceit and terror at the hands of the Cojuangco-Aquino haciendero clan and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Sting Tapia of the Agrarian Reform Program Office says that big landlords are blocking the distribution of lands to small farmers. Among them are former Land Transportation Office Chief Virginia Torres and Rep. Noel Villanueva, who is a former mayor of Concepcion, Tarlac.
Tapia disclosed that the scheme of the hacienderos is to make it appear as though the land beneficiaries have pawned their land titles for unknown reasons, hence letting them control a large portion of land. Farmers were forced to pawn or sell the lands that should have been their property due to poverty.
Last February, Catholic Bishops are calling for DAR Secretary Gil Delos Reyes’ ouster, saying that its implementation of land reform has been snail-paced.
Malacañang denied the allegation, and said that DAR records showed that land distribution was lowest only in 2009 when it gave away 59, 495 hectares. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda also emphasized that De Los Reyes is an agrarian reform advocate.
However, it is impossible to believe that a supposed agrarian reform advocate would be in favor of a pro-landlord agrarian reform law such as CARPER.
It is therefore the height of hypocrisy that someone who claims himself an agrarian reform advocate would be an ally of President Aquino, who is in fact, the biggest landlord of them all.
The Department of Agrarian Reform today expressed confidence that it will be able to meet its targets of monumenting the lots and installing the beneficiaries of the Hacienda Luisita estate in the next few weeks. Monumenting involves the physical delineation on the ground of the beneficiaries’ CARP-awarded land by placing boundary markers or mujons.DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Paruñgao said as of the April 7 report from the DAR provincial office 5,947 farmlots, or 86.32 percent, have already been monumented. He added that out of these monumented lots, 4,478 or 65 percent have farmer beneficiaries already installed.
The DAR is confident that its self-imposed deadline for monumenting the lots and installing the farmer beneficiaries, which it has set for May, will be met unless outside forces obstruct its activities. Paruñgao also said that the DAR has been encouraging and assisting beneficiaries build organizations so that DAR would be more effective and efficient in channelling support service programs and resources of the department. “We are assisting the farmers beneficiaries in making their transition into owner-cultivators”, Paruñgao said, “We are helping them to organize themselves so that they are able to better organize farm production and marketing of their produce.”
He added that these organizations will also make it easier for the farmer beneficiary to access credit because the financial institutions are more inclined to provide loans and financial support to organizations than to individual farmers The provincial office of the DAR has been able to assist farmer beneficiaries create organizations in 8 of the 10 barangays in Hacienda Luisita. Paruñgao likewise said that in addition to helping the famer beneficiaries organize themselves, the DAR has encouraged the voluntary physical grouping of contiguous lots so that scheduling of use of farming machinery such as tractors would be more rational.
Meantime, Paruñgao said that the monumenting of the lots would have gone faster and therefore would have resulted in more farmer beneficiaries being installed had there been no instances of harassment of survey teams and ‘mujons’ being destroyed. He said that 5 persons were apprehended last April 3 while harassing a survey team that was plotting out a lot in the area. These perpetrators, allegedly members of AMBALA, were subsequently released pending the filing of appropriate charges. Paruñgao added that their act of harassment could constitute obstruction of agrarian reform. DAR has speeded up the monumenting of the lots in Hacienda Luisita. They have added survey teams to so that they will be able to install all the beneficiaries before the deadline and in time for the rainy season when farmers usually plant crops. He said that the act of obstructing the implementation of agrarian reform prescribes a penalty of 6 to 12 years imprisonment.