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CBCP head urges ‘moral’ agrarian reform

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DAGUPAN City, Pangasinan, Nov. 12, 2014 — The head of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) asserts that the much-talked about issue of agrarian reform can only be justified when government’s appropriation of privately-owned property serves the higher cause of social justice.

CBCP president Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas (File photo)

‘Disguised confiscation’

In an official statement issued Nov. 12, Wednesday, four days before the 10th anniversary of the “Hacienda Luisita Massacre”, CBCP president Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan explains land reform merely becomes “disguised confiscation” by the State of private property when it casts itself off from this “moral mooring”.

“This also means that the underlying motive as well as the defining criterion for any enhancement, expansion or amendment of the agrarian reform law presently in place must be social justice,” he shares.

Unless it takes all the demands to heart, Villegas fears that a legislature that has not seen urgency in other matters of national concern involving social justice cannot credibly enact an enhanced or improved agrarian reform law.

Legal loopholes

According to the prelate, investigations into doubtful acquisitions by government officials of considerable land, often in “scandalous proportions”, only mean that the law has been violated.

Villegas laments persons otherwise disqualified from amassing vast tracts of land in contravention of the law have, in fact, done so.

“Genuine law reform and resolute law implementation must address this,” he stresses.

The 54-year old prelate says many pastors nationwide attest that farmer-beneficiaries have, through subterfuge, successfully alienated their acquisitions, defeating the purpose as well as the intendment of the program.

“While on the one hand, this speaks of a downright irresponsibility on the part of farmer-beneficiaries, it also suggests that they needed assistance from government, from the Church, from NGOs to succeed in their new roles as land-owners but sadly, at least according to their perception, received no such assistance,” Villegas states.

Empowerment

He points out that the nagging problems of the redistribution of land resources in the country cannot be solved by the mere passage of laws or the amendment of legal provisions.

“The Church, for one, is called to that charity that takes the form of empowering new land-owners so that they may truly enjoy the self-determination that characterizes persons as God’s free sons and daughters,” he adds. (Raymond A. Sebastián)


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