“It is time to put an end to the more than 40 years of deceptive, anti-farmer, and pro-landlord land reform that is being implemented by the Aquino government.” – KMP
By RITCHE T. SALGADO
CEBU CITY — More than 200 peasant leaders from 16 regions and 65 provinces of the country gathered here this week to discuss decades-long issues that continue to hound the agriculture sector.
Antonio Flores, newly-elected secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), revealed that based on reports from their regional and provincial chapters, landlessness brought about by new forms of land-grabbing such as land conversion and abuses on farmers’ rights remain to be the top concerns that continue to hinder the development of the sector.
He believes that the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and its renewed version, CARP-Extension with Reforms (CARPer), is nothing but a sham that is being used by rich land-owners and agricultural corporations in legitimizing abuses against farmers, majority of whom have for generations been working on the land that do not “legally” belong to them.
KMP believes that in order to solve the issue of landlessness and to stop abuses, government must show sincere efforts in addressing the problem by scrapping the bogus CARPer Law and replace it with the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).
Authored by Anakpawis party-list representative Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, GARB aims to bring the true essence of agrarian reform into the country, which is to give land to the farmers.
In contrast, under CARP, government buys the land from landlords at bloated prices, and then sells it to the “farmer-beneficiaries” who are required to pay every month for 30 years with yearly interest of six percent.
“CARP is the most expensive and the longest-running agrarian reform program in the world,” said KMP deputy secretary general Randall Echanis.
By 2005, the Land Bank of the Philippines have approved P41.6 billion ($1.014 billion) as compensation to landowners affected by CARP, and for CARPer, government has allocated a budget of P150-billion ($3.658 billion) for its five year implementation from 2009 to 2014. Another P150-billion ($3.658 billion) is to be allocated based on the proposed extension of the program until 2019.
Echanis, who is also the third nominee of Anakpawis, said that despite this, CARP remains to be a failure and the effort of government to extend it for five more years after CARPer’s expiration in 2014, only shows that the government is not concerned over the welfare of farmers who make up majority of Filipinos.
Mariano agrees, saying: “Another extension of CARP is the height of callousness of Aquino, a notorious cacique, to deny our rights to the land in the face of the Filipino peasantry’s collective clamor for genuine land reform.”
Echanis said the implementation of CARP is nothing more but a sham, giving farmers a sense of false belief that they could finally own the land that they till.
“It is nothing more but a way for then president Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino to ensure that the Cojuangco’s Hacienda Luisita and other vast haciendas in the country would be protected from land distribution,” said Echanis.
He said that ever since CARP was implemented, human rights violations against farmers have intensified. This includes extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
According to human rights watchdog Karapatan, during President Benigno Aquino III’s term alone, from July 2010 to December 2012, there were 137 victims of extrajudicial killings, 77 were peasants; 25 were indigenous people, whose struggle is also mostly agrarian; and 13 from the urban poor, majority of whom were also farmers who have been displaced because of land conversion.
Of the 14 cases of enforced disappearances, meanwhile, 11 were from the peasant sector.
“Farmers asserting their rights to the land are subjected to human rights abuses, agrarian struggles and peasant leaders are being criminalized, incarcerated, and worse, are being massacred,” the KMP said in a statement.
“Simultaneously, CARPER serves as a counter-insurgency program to drive away farmers from the militant and life and death struggle for a genuine and truly distributive agrarian reform,” it continued.
Echanis admitted that as much as they want, they could not stop the increasingly intensifying attacks against peasants asserting their rights to land. However, what they could do is to put forward the struggles of the peasants through mass actions that they plan to intensify in the coming years.
These campaigns would include the bungkalan (land cultivation), an assertion of a peasant group’s right to cultivate the land; lakbayan or long marches; camp-outs, and peasant barricades, among others.
Echanis also said they plan to intensify their campaign for the passing of GARB. However, he clarified that they have no illusion that it will even pass the House of Representatives.
“Majority of the members of the House of Representatives are large landowners, so it is expected that they will protect their interests,” Echanis said.
“Still we will push for GARB’s passage because that is the right thing to do. More than pushing for its passage in Congress, we would also continue to take this campaign to the streets, engaging our members, who compose majority of Filipinos,” he said.