“The agrarian reform dispute-cases of Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Looc in Batangas, Roxas-Araneta lands in Bulacan, among others, are concrete cases where landlords made use of the Carper to evade land distribution.” – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — As the countdown to the anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program begins, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) called on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to rethink their position on what it described as a “bogus and anti-peasant Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper).”
The KMP issued the statement after reports quoted Manila Auxiliary Bishop Rev. Roderick Pabillo as saying that at least 28 members of the 100-strong CBCP signed a letter requesting an audience with President Benigno Aquino III on behalf of farmers to seek his firm commitment on the implementation of the CARP. Pabillo also heads the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action – Justice and Peace.
In terms of agrarian reform, the CBCP said, the Aquino administration has got the worst distinction compared to other post-EDSA administrations.
In a report posted on the official CBCP news site, Pabillo said, the current Department of Agrarian Reform has been consistently underperforming in implementing agrarian reform, particularly in land acquisition and distribution (LAD). He said there is a huge backlog of 1,093,000 hectares from the targeted lands to be distributed. In 2011, he said, the DAR accomplished 54.6 percent of its national LAD target; and that there had also been no significant movement in the 135,199-hectare total provincial backlog as of January 2012 and no notices of coverage has been issued on large estates.
“The DAR performance for the first six months of 2012 is expected to be equally dismal,” Pabillo said.
The farmer leaders are hoping to dialogue with Aquino as soon as he returns from his official trips abroad.
For their part, the leaders of the KMP said that while they respect and support Bishop Pabillo’s stand on land reform, the church official should be made aware that the Carp is not a land reform program.
KMP spokesman Antonio Flores said the Carp has long been a government program manipulated by big landlords to strengthen control and solidify their monopoly over the lands. The Carper, he explained, only prolonged and expanded the control of landlords over land that should have long been given to farmers all over the country.
“It serves to water down the peasantry’s struggle for genuine land reform,” he said, adding that the the CBCP should rethink its position on both the Carp and the Carper.
“This anti-peasant law was originally designed and enacted by President Aquino’s family to exempt Hacienda Luisita and evade land distribution. We hope our bishops would not be deceived by President Aquino who is a landlord through and through in orientation and action when it comes to issues of land reform. Implementing the Carper to the hilt will only mean helping the President’s family to again stop the turn over of Hacienda Luisita to the farmer-beneficiares,” he said.
To strengthen his argument, Flores said, the CBCP should look at the relentless series of farmers’ anti-Carp rallies, strikes and other forms of protests against the government’s indifference to the plight of farmers and their demand for agrarian reform. Only recently the KMP and farmers of Hacienda held a protest in front of the Supreme Court again demanding that the High Court immediately resolve the pending high-profile agrarian cases involving President Aquino’s relatives and cronies. They also warned the SC against revering its ruling on Hacienda Luisita favoring the farmworkers.
“The agrarian reform dispute-cases of Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Looc in Batangas, Roxas-Araneta lands in Bulacan, among others, are concrete cases where landlords made use of the Carper to evade land distribution,” Flores stressed. “In the three years that Caper has been implemented and the 21 years of its predecessor Carp, majority of Filipino farmers remain landless and continue to suffer feudal and semi-feudal exploitation at the hands of big landowners.”
The KMP is pushing for the passage and approval of the House Bill 374 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB). It said that they are open for a dialogue with the CBCP and would submit an “eye-opening position paper” against Carp that will hopefully help the bishops in their discernment during their semi-annual meeting next month.
“We hope the CBCP hierarchy will not turn their back against the people by accepting our challenge and stop giving false hopes to farmers. We are more than willing to sit and discuss with them the issues on Garb and Carp,” he said.
Land dispute cases involving Aquinos
As for the high-profile agrarian cases involving President Aquino’s relatives, the KMP said, might be affected by Aquino’s tightening control over the SC. The group’s deputy secretary general Randall Echanis said Aquino’s influence over the High Court could mean having the cases resolved unjustly in the favor of the Aquino family, relatives and other associates.
Among the cases pending before the SC are the multi-billion coconut levy fund case involving Aquino’s uncle, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., the Araneta lands in Brgy. Mascap in Rodriguez, Rizal case involving Aquino’s 2010 running mate in the presidential polls and Department of Trade and Industry secretary Mar Roxas, and the Hacienda Looc dispute in Nasugbu, Batangas allegedly being grabbed by tycoon Henry Sy, one of Aquino’s top financiers in the 2010 elections.
Echanis reiterated his group’s apprehension that the SC might reverse its ruling on Hacienda Luisita.
“The valuation issue alone on Hacienda Luisita could drag for years. It may even outlive the Carp and even the Aquino regime. This case might even go back to the SC,” he said.
For its part, Malacañang has already said that officials will meet with farmers on the Carp issue in the coming days. A Philippine Daily Inquirer report also quoted Budget Secretary Florencio Abad promising that the Aquino government would complete the implementation of Carper by 2016.