Visayan Farmers, Landlords say CARP a Failure; Urge Overhaul

In Region 6, farmers and landowners agree on one thing: The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program has been a failure. Farmers and their organizations point to the absence of real land distribution, while landowners cite the lack of support services for them and for agrarian reform beneficiaries.

BY KARL G. OMBION
Bulatlat.com

BACOLOD CITY — “More than mere extension, CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) needs a thorough overhaul to ensure genuine distribution of lands to the tillers. The DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) failed to distribute the targeted 1.3 million has. of land after 16 years. Even those supposedly ‘distributed lands’ were problematic. Many of those distributed by the DAR to farmers were taken back by landowners, with the CLOA (Certificate of Land Ownership Award) and EP (Emancipation Patents) cancelled, or were converted for other purposes and thousands of farmers were ejected.”

This was the reaction of Richard Sarroza, chairman of the Negros chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Philippine Peasant Movement) to pending bills seeking to extend the CARP beyond 2008 until all target lands are covered.

Sarroza said CARP is full of loopholes that provide for “substitutes for land distribution” like the stock distribution scheme, joint venture, and the leaseback or corporative scheme which he said is mainly promoted by landlord-businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco in various parts of the country to ensure that vast tracts of land under his control.

He said Negros is witness to the bloody confrontations between CARP farmer beneficiaries and landlords or their proxies.

He cited the case of CLOA holders of Hacienda Naval, Barangay Talaban, Himamaylan who for years have allegedly been prevented by Jose Mari Javellana’s henchmen from taking over the 144-ha. plantation. The same situation exists, he said, in Hacienda Kiwi, Hinigaran where CLOA holders are prevented from taking position of the land by “armed goons” of the haciendero.

In all these cases, the DAR and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are ”helpless” in implementing the land distribution, he said.

This means that contrary to the government line, the problem stems not only from insufficient funds but from the law itself, Sarroza said.

Rage

Sarroza also expressed rage at reports that P27 billion of the P35-billion ill-gotten wealth of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos had been “practically squandered.” He also cited admissions by no less than administration officials that the fund supposedly intended for the CARP is almost spent.

“The lack of documents to support and justify the Arroyo administration’s disbursements of the Marcos ill-gotten wealth, whether these were truly devoted to CARP or not, once again speaks of misuse at the very least and embezzlement at worst,” he said.

Nilo Arado, secretary-general of the militant Panay-wide farmers’ alliance PAMANGAS, also called for comprehensive assessment of land reform implementation, and the auditing of an estimated P250 billion in funds supposed to have been spent for land reform.

Arado urged the creation of an independent body which would include representatives of farmers organizations to investigate and assess land reform implementation before deliberating on its extension or termination.

The Negros chapter of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) has also issued a declaration that the CARP was a failure.

“CARP is a gross failure,” said Bayan-Negros secretary-general Felipe Gelle. “It failed to dismantle land monopoly, killed hundreds of farmers and farm worker beneficiaries; and worse, brought only false hopes to the agrarian sector.”

“The chief cause of failure is the government itself which in reality never made agrarian reform a priority program; but instead only used it as a means to diffuse rural conflict, confuse farmers, let farmers fight among themselves – while allowing government banks, landlords and DAR personnel to make profitable business out of land dealings, which ultimately however reconcentrate land back to landlords,” Gelle added.

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