[Press Release] Farmers to PNoy: CARPER completion not termination

MANILA, October 18, 2011 – Farmers’ groups today hit the President for lack of leadership and clear signal that demonstrate his determination to complete and implement agrarian reform.

Protests came after PNoy failed to mention asset reform in his keynote address at the National Anti-poverty Commission’s Sectoral Assembly yesterday.

“Ang agrarian reform ay bunga ng pagbubuwis ng buhay ng mga magsasaka. Ito ang iniwang legacy ng kanyang ina sa mahihirap” (Agrarian reform is the fruit of sacrifices of the farmers. This is his mother’s legacy to the poor) said Evangeline Mendoza, president of PESANTE, whose members are currently holding barricade in a Yulo Estate in Canlubang Laguna.  PESANTE is pitted against the Yulos and the Ayala Land, Inc.  The latter’s real estate and luxury home projects have displaced thousands of farming families in the area.

Talks about the looming CARPER termination started swirling when a presidential executive order instructing DAR to downsize its personnel came to the attention of civil societies and agrarian reform advocates early this year.

“Agrarian reform cannot and should not end by 2014 because there are still a lot of pending cases that have run for 40 years now, like that of hacienda Yulo.  Agrarian reform is one of the most effective mechanisms to stem rebellion in the countryside.  We don’t want to take up arms because it is not the solution to our problem, but still, a lot of farmers are now losing hope because of the way this government has treated us,” she said.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, National Director of CBCP-NASSA attributed the problem to the president’s conspicuous silence on agrarian reform.  “The poor performance of DAR in land acquisition and distribution reflects the absence of clear signal and support of the President for agrarian reform,” he said.  Pabillo questioned DAR’s lackadaisical performance in land distribution which only figured to 140,000 hectares as opposed to 200,000 hectare-target of DAR for 2011.  “The same was true for 2010 when DAR only managed to distribute 107,000 hectares out of it 200,000 annual target,” he added.

Atty. Christian Monsod, a known agrarian advocate, said that DAR needs to accomplish 440,000 hectares by end 2012 and 300,000 hectares a year in 2012 and 2014 to keep up with its backlogs and finish the 1.1 M hectares of land that remains undistributed.   Monsod, who co-convenes the Sulong CARPER coalition with Pabillo, also raised issue about the budget.  He disclosed that contrary to CARPER law, the government only provided about P55 billion for the first three years of CARPER (including 2012) as against a requirement of P90 billion or a shortfall of about P35 billion.

Congress interpretation

“There is prevailing misconception in Congress that agrarian reform will be terminated by 2014,” said Rep. Kaka Bag-ao of AKBAYAN partylist.  “But constitutional mandate will not end by 2014.  Only the budget will expire, not the program.  In other words, all the other components, like resolution of agrarian disputes, provision of support services as well as the distribution of lands with notices of coverage, will go beyond 2014,” she added.,.

Bag-ao was among those who helped draft the CARPER bill and lobbied for its passage.  She reiterated the need for DAR to provide support services to agrarian reform beneficiaries.  “At the moment, government has failed in giving sufficient support to farmers. DA cannot assume the responsibility since their credit scheme is not socialized and therefore way beyond the capacity of small peasants to repay,” she lamented.
“Doomed to failure”

Monsod said that the president’s lack of political will has triggered wide-ranging demoralization in DAR.  “DAR is seeking the leadership of the President.  Without that, CARPER is doomed to fail.  The local DAR is demoralized. If agrarian reform will be terminated in 2014, they are already looking for other jobs and fearful of being sued by landowners whose cases they handled.”

Monsod said this was the time for the president to show leadership to avert social and political unrest.  “EDSA is now 25 years behind us but the state of inequalities is still the same.  Unless government intervenes, the poor will always be left behind,” he said.  Pabillo meanwhile pointed out PNoy’s huge role in improving the morale of the DAR personnel and fast tracking the implementation of CARPER.  “DAR and DA are under him. He also has many allies in Congress.  He can finish agrarian reform by 2014 if he only displays political will for it,” he said.

Restlessness in the countryside

“The President is currently enjoying a positive trust rating. But instead of basking in his popularity, he should put his positive ratings to good use by attending to the concerns of landless farmers and other victims of human rights violations.  He should not be complacent because history will be his unforgiving judge,” warned Pabillo.

Mendoza intimated that disappointment with the government has pushed some farmers’ groups to contemplate insurgency.  “We don’t see this as recourse, but we cannot also blame some of them,” she said.

Farmer-leader Elidelyn Paclibar of Task Force Mapalad said that PNoy should heed his “bosses”, referring to Aquino’s famous line Kayo ang Boss ko!  She warned that farmers will not stand by and allow the government to kill the program.  “Kaming magsasaka, sanay sa hirap, sanay magtaya ng buhay,” (We, farmers, are used to hardships. We are used to sacrificing our lives) Paclibar ominously added.

Alberto Jaime, president of TFM that has membership extending to Mindanao, warned, “huwag nyang hayaang humawak kami ng baril.” (He should not wait for us to take up arms).  #

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