Lacierda hit for lack of concern on plight of landless peasants
Farmers ask Palace spokesman if it would take too much effort for PNoy to again express his support for passage of CARP bills
Thousands of farmers who remain landless despite the 27-year implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform on Tuesday criticized Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda’s apparent lack of concern on the plight poor peasants, whose future is being threatened by the resistance of some lawmakers led by House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II to extend and reform the implementation of CARP.
“While we understand that President Benigno Aquino III had already done his part by certifying the bill seeking CARP extension as priority measure, we, with 74 Catholic bishops, again appeal to PNoy to defend us amid the stubbornness and apparent greed of some lawmakers in Congress blocking CARP’s extension and reform,” said Alberto Jayme, Negros Chapter president of national peasant federation Task Force Mapalad (TFM).
Jayme said farmers were hurt when Lacierda was quoted in the media on Monday as saying that Roman Catholic bishops should pressure Congress, and not the executive branch, about passing agrarian reform bills.
“We would like to tell Mr. Lacierda that peasants did that many times. The last time was when we went to Batasan on February 24 to talk to House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II. But instead of him having a dialog with us, security men at Batasan pushed and dragged us out of Congress like,” the TFM leader said.
“Also, the bishops and other peasant leaders already personally appealed last year and last month to House leaders led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who assured farmers that Congress would push for House Bill 4296’s passage. But up to now, despite the assurance, Congress has done nothing. Worse, Rep. Boyet Gonzales is doing the opposite, killing the CARP bill that his party-mate PNoy wants passed as soon as possible,” added Jayme.
TFM asked Lacierda if it would take too much effort for the President to reiterate his support for the passage of the bills extending and reforming CARP, “which is among the centerpiece social justice programs of PNoy’s mother, President Cory Aquino.”
“Makakabigat ba sa Pangulo na muling sabihin na sinusuportahan n’ya kaming mga maliliit na magsasaka? Masyado bang mabigat na muling ulitin n’ya ang apila n’ya sa mga mambabatas na ipasa na na nila ang panukala para di kami tumanda at mamatay sa sobrang hirap at gutom dahil wala pa rin kaming sariling lupa?” said 68-year-old Dorita Vargas of Hacienda Canticbil-Manalo in Brgy. Robles, La Castellan, Negros Occidental.
Vargas was among the farmers personally promised by PNoy to have land soon. The President made the promise in 2012. But up to now, Vargas and her fellow farmers in the hacienda remain virtually landless. Only five hectares out of the 126-hectare landholding had been distributed to 16 farmers including Vargas, or just about 3,000 square meters per farmer-beneficiary of the CARP. The law mandates that each CARP beneficiary be awarded of up to three hectares of agricultural landholding.
TFM farmers said Mandaluyong City Rep. Gonzales and landlord-politicians led by congressmen from the Negros bloc, whose families and allies maintain control of vast landholdings or haciendas in the province, as among the “biggest bottlenecks to CARP.”
“It’s both puzzling and disturbing why despite the full support of Liberal Party pillars PNoy and Speaker Belmonte to CARP through HB 4296’s passage, their fellow LP stalwart, Rep. Gonzales, appears to be opposing the stand of his party-mates and party bosses. It may be good to ask whether Gonzales is a member of another party and the leader of another majority whose platform opposes social justice and poverty alleviation through agrarian reform,” said Jayme.
“Maimpluwensya ang mga tumutol sa CARP sa Kongreso. Kailangan namin ng tuloy-tuloy na suporta ng Pangulong Aquino para mapagtagumpayan namin ang aming pakikibaka. Sana ang sinimulan na CARP ni Pangulong Cory ay huwag mamatay o patayin sa ilalim ng administrasyon ng kanyang anak,” said Vargas.
Farmers are urging Congress to immediately pass twin measures House Bill 4296 and House Bill 4375.
HB 4296 that seeks to renew the Department of Agrarian Reform’s authority to issue notices of coverage and provide adequate funding for support services to agricultural landholdings that have not yet been placed under CARP.
H.B. 4375 seeks to create an independent Agrarian Reform Commission to review the actual accomplishment of CARP and investigate circumventions and violations of the CARP Law with a view to cause these landholdings to be redistributed to qualified beneficiaries.
HB 4375 does not yet have a counterpart measure at the Senate and needs to be certified by the President as a priority measure.
In June 2014, Aquino certified as urgent the passage of HB 4296 but the House has not yet passed the supposedly priority bill on third and final reading eight months after the chief executive’s certification. Senate has already done its part by passing the counterpart Senate Bill 2278 last September.
March 03, 2015
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