Members of the progressive party-list bloc at the House of Representatives walked out of the session hall, December 17, as their colleagues adopted Joint Resolution No. 19. They said they decided not to be a party to the landlord-dominated House of Representatives’ “pretensions, and deception of the Filipino peasantry and the people” in extending the ‘bogus’ Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), which was further emasculated with the removal of the compulsory acquisition scheme.
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Members of the progressive party-list bloc at the House of Representatives walked out of the session hall, December 17 as their colleagues adopted Joint Resolution No. 19. They said they decided not to be a party to the landlord-dominated House of Representatives’ “pretensions and deception of the Filipino peasantry and the people” in extending the ‘bogus’ Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), which was further emasculated with the removal of the compulsory acquisition scheme.
Enacted on June 10, 1988, Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law was supposed to be implemented for 10 years. Falling short of its targets, the Agrarian Reform Law was extended by the Ramos administration for another ten years. It expired for the second time this June 2008.
In a joint statement, Anakpawis Representative and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) Chairperson Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño Jr. and Gabriela Women’s Party list Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan, said Joint Resolution 19 removed the compulsory acquisition scheme and deferred the acquisition of lands with pending notices of coverage, like the Arroyo lands in Negros.
“This is a shotgun legislation that has killed the anti-peasant CARP. This also further exposed the real character of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who certified the joint resolution as urgent, as the chief political representative of big landlords,” they said.
The legislators also condemned Arroyo’s allies in the House of Representatives for denying Mariano his right to interpellate during the presentation by the sponsors of the joint resolution.
In a separate statement, Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general said the joint resolution extending CARP for another six months as ‘grossly unconstitutional and morally bankrupt.’
“Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile said CARP is legally defective and that the Upper House decided to sign the resolution extending CARP for another six months to undergo a thorough review of the agrarian reform program. What kind of political and moral attitude is that? If CARP extension is legally defective, then throw it in the dustbin of history…” said Ramos.
In an interview with Bulatlat, Nestor Villanueva, 51, a farmer in Hacienda Yulo in Canlubang, Laguna said he and the other farmers have not benefited from the CARP.
Villanueva said their ancestors have been tilling the land in Hacienda Yulo since 1910.
He said that during the Aquino administration, they fought for the distribution of land but the Hacienda Yulo was exempted from CARP coverage as the landlord declared the land as non-agricultural.
In 1990, the Department of Justice issued Opinion No. 44 that stated that all lands classified before 1988 as non-agricultural are exempted from coverage of land reform.
The local government, said Villanueva, also declared the land as a forest reserve and watershed. He said, however, that a subdivision and a golf course have been built inside the hacienda.
Villanueva is among millions of farmers who have remained landless under the CARP. The KMP said the CARP is the source of all the troubles of landless farmers over the last 20 years.
The KMP and Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya or National Unity of the Fisherfolk Movement in the Philippines) said CARP has provided the legal basis for the denial of farmers’ land rights, and the landgrabbing spree of big landlords inside Fort Magsaysay and Hacienda Luisita, courtesy of the law’s fatal flaws and wide loopholes. “The 3,100 hectares in Fort Magsaysay were cornered by the landlord syndicates, while the 6,453 hectares in Hacienda Luisita were kept untouchable because of CARP.”
Citing the recent study made by the Sentro Para Sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra or Center for Genuine Agrarian Reform), KMP and Pamalakaya said that on September 2007 the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) reported that 5,049 emancipation patents (Eps) and 103,392 certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) were canceled, covering 204,579 hectares of land acquired under the agrarian reform program.
Both groups asserted that the figures they cited did not yet include pending cases of cancellation of EPs and CLOAs before the DAR. They noted that the agrarian reform agency, up to now, has been unable to determine how many land titles were canceled or revoked by DAR.
The same Sentra study showed that landlords all over the country ‘profited immensely from the implementation of CARP.’ Citing data from the Land Bank of the Philippines, Sentra revealed that from 1972 to 2005, the compensation to 83,203 landowners for 1,348, 758 hectares has already reached P 41.6 billion ($833,500,300 at the current exchange rate of $1=P46.91) in cash and bonds, or an average of P 500,463 ($10,668) per landlord. In 2005, P 4.6 billion ($83,507,306 at the 2005 exchange rate of $1=P55.085) went to the compensation of landlords.
The two groups said the Congress should have instead passed House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill authored by the late Anakpawis party list Representative Crispin Beltran and co-authored Mariano, Ocampo, Casiño, Maza and Ilagan. The bill seeks to cover all agricultural lands and distribute these lands to landless farmers across-the-nation for free.
In an interview with Bulatlat, Mariano said the joint resolution has further worsened the ‘bogus’ CARP.
He said that the resolution effectively removed even the token distribution of land under CARP.
The joint resolution extends the CARP for another six months, stating that private owners of agricultural land may enter into voluntary offer to sell (VOS) or voluntary land transfer (VLT) schemes. Mariano said it is unlikely for landlords to offer their land to landless farmers. “Even if they do, landlords can easily withdraw from the VOS,” he said.
Land grabbing, eviction
The legislators further said, “This sham joint resolution further strengthens the landlords’ monopoly and control over vast tracts of agricultural lands in the country and will surely lead to the massive eviction of peasants and land-grabbing in the countryside.”
Mariano explained, “Mapupuno ang kamay ng DAR ng petitions for exemptions, land-use conversion, cancellation of CLOAs and EPs.” (DAR will be flooded with petitions for exemptions, land-use conversion, cancellation of CLOAs and EPs.
He said landlords could also pressure local government units to issue zoning ordinances declaring agricultural land as non-agricultural or enter into corporative farming and other non-land transfer schemes.
Under the CARP, the KMP and Pamalakaya revealed, the scope for land distribution had been eroded from time to time. From the original 10.3 million hectares in 1988, the scope was adjusted down by 21.76 percent to 8.1 million hectares.
Globalization, Charter change
Mariano said that the VOS and VLT schemes conform with the World Bank model, “The willing to sell, willing to buy formula without government intervention is what the World Bank calls market-assisted land reform,” he explained.
“This suits globalization. Eventually, 100 percent foreign ownership of land would be allowed through Charter change,” he added.
Mariano said that after six months, foreign corporations and local landlords would have lorded over vast tracts of land, leaving little or nothing at all for distribution to landless farmers.
Attacks against farmers
Mariano said further that the CARP extension would intensify attacks against farmers. “Landlords will continue to criminalize farmers fighting for their land. Killings will also increase.”
He added, “Sa loob ng six months, ilan ang magsasakang pwedeng paalisin o paslangin? Karanasan natin iyan eh.” (In a span of six months, how many farmers would be evicted or killed? This has been our experience.)
According to human rights group Karapatan, 467 peasants have been killed under the Arroyo administration, while 10 were killed this year.
Mariano said that while the government uses bogus agrarian reform programs as a means of deception, repressive measures are also used against farmers.
The peasant-lawmaker said that the landlord-dominated House Representatives proved once again that it is anti-peasant.
Mariano said the peasants have to continue relying on themselves in the struggle for genuine land reform in the countryside. He called on farmers to draw lessons from the struggles of farmers from the Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Looc, Central Mindanao University in Bukinon, among others.
He said that amid threats of eviction, these farmers asserted their right to stay in the land they have been tilling for decades. The Hacienda Luisita farmers, Mariano added, have tilled more than 1,000 hectares of land in defiance of the Cojuangco landlords.
As Villanueva, the farmer from Hacienda Yulo, puts it, “Sa pamamagitan ng lakas ng magsasaka, maipapatupad ang tunay na reporma sa lupa. Kung taumbayan mismo ang may gusto, walang hindi kakayanin.” (Only through the strength of peasants would genuine agrarian reform be implemented. If the people so desires, nothing is impossible.)