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Filipino farmers demand true agrarian reform
Publication Date : 01-07-2014
More than 1,000 farmers marched on the Philippine Presidential Palace yesterday to mark the expiration of what they called a “bogus” Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and to call for the free distribution of land to farmers.
The march from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office in Quezon City to Mendiola near the palace was joined by farmers from Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Bicol.
The marchers, led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), noted the unsettled disputes involving the 6,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita, the 8,650-ha Hacienda Looc in Nasgbu, Batangas, south of Manila, and the 3,500-ha Araneta Estate in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, north of Manila. Hacienda Luisita is owned by the family of President Aquino.
The marchers burned a 10-foot effigy of the President wearing a US flag on arriving at Mendiola.
“We want to send a strong message to the President and the proponents of the CARP extension bill that we have had enough lies, deception and violence inflicted by the sham CARP on the peasantry,” said KMP chair Rafael Mariano.
Mariano assailed House Bill No. 4296, which granted a two-year extension to the 26-year-old CARP, saying the act was “nothing but an exercise in futility.”
Independent labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said the CARP had been the “longest-running” and “most expensive” land reform program in the world.
“It has not resulted in the distribution of land to farmers but only legalized the concentration of land in the hands of a few landowning families,” said KMU chair Elmer Labog.
The Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (Sara), for its part, sought on Monday an independent audit on the performance of the DAR and other agrarian reform-implementing agencies.
Sara, an umbrella coalition of farmers seeking effective agrarian reform, said a “high-level independent commission of upright and publicly credible citizens with legal powers” would reveal the true gains of CARP.
The commission is among the major demands raised during the June 6 People’s Agrarian Reform Congress.
“DAR’s reports remain questionable and are padded. We need an independent evaluation of DAR’s and other CARP-implementing agencies’ past and present performance to determine the state of agrarian reform in the country,” Sara spokesperson Trinidad Domingo said.
“Where are the exact lands that still need to be distributed? What happened to the farmers who were given land? How much land reported by the DAR as accomplishments are truly in the hands of farmers, who have received adequate support services? These are questions the DAR has declined to answer,” Domingo said.
The groups criticised the DAR’s performance which they said had slowed down rather than fast-tracked land distribution. They said farmers’ rights were also routinely violated by landlords.