SAYING it cannot remain silent on the cries of farmers, the Catholic Church on Monday called on President Benigno Aquino 3rd to complete his late mother’s unfinished legacy to provide lands to landless farmers as mandated by the Constitution.
Nueva Caceres Archbishop Roland Tria Tirona, head, National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace/Caritas Philippines, said almost three decades have passed since the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was implemented but justice remains elusive to thousands of farmers who are yet to own their land.
By rendering justice to the farmers, Tirona added, the President would be able to give meaning to the spirit of the EDSA Revolution that brought his mothe—former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino—to Malacañang though the support of the masses.
He said distribution of agricultural lands is mandated by the Constitution even without much-awaited agrarian reform as the Church has pushed for immediate passage of two agrarian reform bills that are pending at the House of Representatives.
“We will continuously appeal to the sense of justice and compassion of the President and the Congress. While we welcome his respect for subsidiarity of government agencies, he is also duty-bound to directly look after the rights of the poor which must precede his decisions and actions,” the archbishop added.
House Bill (HB) 4296 seeks to renew for two years 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.
HB 4375 seeks to create an independent Agrarian Reform Commission to review actual accomplishments of CARP and investigate circumventions and violations of the CARP Law with a view to cause these landholdings to be redistributed to qualified beneficiaries.
In June 2014, Aquino certified as “urgent” passage of HB 4296, although the House is yet to pass the supposed priority bill on third and final reading eight months after the President’s certification.
The HB 4296 counterpart measure, Senate Bill 2278, was passed last September.
HB 437 does not yet have a counterpart measure in the Senate and such needs to be certified by the President as a priority measure.
Rep. Teddy Baguilat said almost 300,000 hectares of land can still be subjected to land reform, a far cry from the 29,000 hectares declared by the DAR.
The top five provinces with coverable lands are Quezon with 62,998.24 hectares, Negros Occidental, 56,660.04 hectares; Leyte, 52,089.12 hectares; Aurora, 33,605 hectares; and Palawan, 8,812.57 hectares. Nueva Ecija is sixth with 8,808.11 hectares.