MANILA, June 20, 2014—In what became their biggest meet up since the historic “Congress for a Peoples’ Agrarian Reform” of 1987, eighteen farmers’ groups, with their allies from various sectors, stormed the gates of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) building in Quezon City recently in a bid to urge President Aquino (PNoy) to make good on his 2012 State of the Nation’s Address (SONA) promise of redistributing all lands covered by the CARP.
Over 900 participants under the People’s Agrarian Reform Coalition (PARC) from both rural and urban areas, about 300 of whom were farmers, supporters from the academe, civil society, church, labor, youth, business, and government sectors shored up broad support for reestablishing land reform as a key item in the national development agenda, expressing collective dismay over the dire state of agrarian reform implementation.
“Agrarian reform is one area of governance that merits PNoy’s direct intervention and leadership. He cannot afford to stand on the sidelines of this issue,” said Jansept Geronimo of the Kilusang Magsasaka ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP)-KATARUNGAN.
According to Geronimo, the mandate given to PNoy by the Filipino people demands that he wield the political and economic will needed to see the program through.
“We have walked from our farms in Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon not only to expose the slow-paced implementation of the program but also demand the stopping of attacks on peasants through various forms of harassments and violence perpetrated by former landlords,” he shared.
Geronimo faulted PNoy and DAR secretary Virgilio de los Reyes for the snail-paced land distribution marked by a consistent failure to meet annual distribution targets, chronic underperformance and lack of political commitment.
Based on DAR’s own figures, of the total 710,000 hectares of lands originally targeted for distribution between July 2010 and June 2013, only 360,464 hectares or 51 percent of the annual targets have been distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries.
“We note that this official figure is an understatement, given that many areas have been arbitrarily removed from DAR’s targets, exempted from redistribution, or left out from the CARP balance altogether,” they said.
The groups lamented that there is no way to validate DAR’s official data because, allegedly, it has failed to provide the details behind its aggregated figures for the open assessment of the public.
In a statement, the farmers’ groups cited the following demands:
- Extend the land distribution component of CARP beyond June 30, 2014, either through legislation such as House Bill 4592 and its Senate counterpart or the release of an executive directive by President Aquino
- DAR should publicly disclose the true, complete, and detailed status of the implementation of CARP, including all stages of the land transfer component, the provision of support services, and financial transactions
- Provide extensive and accelerated support services, undertake capacity building, localized extension, etc., to farmer-beneficiaries
- Constitute a high level independent commission with legal powers to evaluate and audit the performance of CARP, investigate all circumventions of coverage, and human rights violations
The groups emphasized that despite the flawed implementation of R.A. 9700 (the CARPER Act) under the present administration, the passage of the law in 2009 represented a significant victory of the peasant movement against the landed elite.
PARC also stressed the importance of a stronger unity groups across the nation for rural development.(Raymond A. Sebastián)