CARP is the 27-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
One of the reasons up to 60 percent of the people of our country remain very poor is the failure of land reform. Some 90 percent of the Filipino poor are in the agricultural sector. The unjust conditions suffered by our farmers, some of whom are landless peasants who should own the land they and their grandparents have tilled, accounts for the failure of our economy to be as prosperous as those of Thailand, Malaysia and even Communist Vietnam.
They have done what we knew should be done as early as during that period of our history when we were an American colony getting ready for independence (our Commonweath Period)–Do massive land reform. Make the farmers own the land they till. Since then land reform was supposed to have been carried out by every presidential administration but failed to do the job.
So, 27 years ago, when we were already the independent Republic of the Philippines for 42 years, our massive agrarian reform problem–evidenced by the landlessness and poverty of majority of our farmers–was still a fact of life. During the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino, in June 1988, the 8th Congress of the Philippines passed and President Cory Aquno signed the CARP law. Proper funding was allocated so that the government agencies involved in solving the land reform problem, mainly the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), would succeed in emancipating the landless farmers from their bondage and poverty by making them landowners.
Today, however, after the extension of the life of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program had expired in 2014, it is necessary to keep the CARP alive by the passage of two new laws.
For according to Roman Catholic prelates concerned with the farmers’ plight, some708,000 hectares of agricultural landholdings have not yet been awarded to farmer-beneficiaries of the CARP, and “there is an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million hectares being claimed by the DAR as distributed [that]‘are not under the control of farmer-beneficiaries and are suspect as evasions of the law such as lands under collective CLOA (certificate of landownership award) and long-term leaseback agreements and lands distributed as VLTs (voluntary land transfers) and VOS (voluntary offer to sell).’ ” Note that the Cojuangco-Aquino Hacienda Luisita’s questionable land reform was of this kind.
“Unless these transactions are voided and the land distributed to legitimate farmer-beneficiaries, the landowners and the DAR personnel complicit in the evasions will be rewarded for defying the law,” the group of 81 bishops said in their manifesto supporting the passage of the laws to keep CARP alive.
Farmers’ organizations, specially the national peasant federation Task Force Mapalad (TFM), have demonstrated for the passage of House Bill 4296 and House Bill 4375 that will keep the CARP going for two more years. Last week they delivered snails to lawmakers opposed to the passage of the bills. And yesterday they returned to the Batasan and dumped sacks of rotten vegetables to symbolize “the rotten conscience” of lawmakers doing the landlords’ bidding and moving against CARP.
In yesterday’s TFM demonstrations, farmers carried giant photos of three House members whom they identified as among the leaders of the “CARP killers” in Congress. They are from the Visayan bloc. They identified the “anti-CARP triumvirate” as House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II, Rep. Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez of the third district of Negros Occidental, and Rep. Jerry Treñas of the lone district of Iloilo City.
“These are the leaders of the anti-CARP bloc in Batasan who are opposing and blocking the passage of twin measures House Bill 4296 and House Bill 4375. They will move heaven and earth to stop a social justice program like CARP so that landlords can continue oppressing us and earning millions of pesos from the fruits of our labor,” said TFM Negros Cahpter president Alberto Jayme.
“Decades of greed have made these lawmakers, who either come from landlord-families or are in cahoots with the latter, desensitized to our sufferings. Their decaying souls can no longer feel our pain as they continue to treat us like slaves tied to the haciendas where they amass wealth and power,” Jayme also said.
On October 29 last year, Pope Francis made a statement at the World Meeting of Popular Movements held in the Vatican asking governments to make land reform both a requirement and a commitment. He said it was a moral obligation to address the poverty and landlessness of peasants.
John Paul II also made similar strong calls for agrarian reform.
Last Sunday, 81 prelates of the Catholic Church — including the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Archbishop Soc Villegas, again called on BS Aquino and Congress to pass the two bills that seek the extension and overhauling of the implementation of the 27-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
The statement, signed by 15 archbishops, 59 bishops, and seven Church administrators, asks the administration and the the members of the Senate and House of Representatives to “give new life and glorious finish” to CARP.