Aquino lacks political will for land reform – priest

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Fr. Edu Gariguez

MANILA, Feb.  6, 2014—The huge backlog in land allocation and distribution show the Aquino administration’s lack of political will to implement land reform, the Church’s social action arm said 

Fr. Edu Gariguez of the National Secretariat for Social Action—Justice and Peace (Nassa) said the government has not done enough to cause genuine agrarian reform in the country. 

“The issue lies in the [lack of] political will and the resolve of the Aquino government to pursue this social reform agenda,” Gariguez said. 

Around 200 farmers from different provinces picketed the Department of Agrarian Reform on Tuesday to protest the agency’s “effectiveness” in implementing land reform and services. 

The farmers from Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Bondoc Peninsula, Hacienda Dolores in Pampanga and Rizal also demanded the overhaul of the DAR leadership. 

Gariguez noted there have been repeated calls for the removal of DAR Secretary Virgilio Reyes from his post. “But it seems he is really a sacred cow,” he said. 

“Maybe they really intend to fail CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) because they want an ineffective management of the program,” the priest said. 

“And this is alarming because we want to know: is the Aquino government really determined in pushing for reform agenda, especially for the poor?” Gariguez added. 

The Nassa also expressed reservation over the DAR’s assurance that it will continue distributing lands to farmer-beneficiaries even if CARP expires in June this year. 

According to Gariguez, they see a bigger problem once CARP expired this year and there is nothing comforting with the statement of DAR given its performance since 2010. 

“As it is right now, DAR is already acting very slowly (in implementing CARP). Without a law, all the more it will not happen,” he added. 

Reyes earlier said that land acquisition and distribution may proceed for landholdings with pending proceedings even after June 2014. 

In a letter sent to President Benigno Aquino III last week, several bishops fear that the CARP balance of 1.2 million hectares will not be completed within the timeframe set in the law. 

The bishops also appealed to the government to extend CARP for at least two more years to complete the program’s implementation. (CBCPNews)

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