NAGA City, Camarines Sur, March 8, 2015—The head of the Catholic Church’s advocacy, humanitarian, and development arm calls on President Benigno S. Aquino III (PNoy) to make good on the promise of his mother, former President Corazon C. Aquino, to render justice to the farmers, stressing the “spirit of EDSA Revolution is totally empty” without much-awaited agrarian reform.
In a statement, Cáceres Archbishop Rolando Tría Tirona, who also directs the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice, and Peace (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines, reminds the Aquino administration the distribution of all agricultural lands to landless rural peasants is a constitutional mandate the government has a duty to enforce.
As one of the leading clergymen who signed the letter to Aquino pushing for the immediate passage of House Bill 4296 and House Bill 4375, the Carmelite prelate says the Church cannot remain silent hearing the cries of farmers.
According to him, NASSA/Caritas Philippines is one in decrying the injustices thousands of peasants, most of whom still landless, have suffered for almost three decades since the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was implemented
“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 shares.
HB 4296 seeks to renew for two years the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)’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 the actual accomplishment of CARP and investigate circumventions and violations of the CARP Law with a view to cause these landholdings to be redistributed to qualified beneficiaries. HB 4375 does not yet have a counterpart measure in the Senate and such needs to be certified by the President as a priority measure.
“Today, we express our prayers and support with the religious groups, lawmakers and civil society organizations as the peasants will intensify their campaign to extend and overhaul the implementation of the 27-year old CARP,” Tirona adds.
In June 2014, PNoy certified as “urgent” the passage of HB 4296, although the House has yet to pass the supposed priority bill on third and final reading eight months after the chief executive’s certification.
Meanwhile, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. assured farmers of his unequivocal support to HB 4296’s passage.
The Senate had already done its part by passing Senate Bill 2278 in September. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)