House Speaker told: Start the ball rolling on new agrarian reform bill

House Speaker told: Start the ball rolling on new agrarian reform bill

Instead of having himself hostage by the 20-year old defunct CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) House Speaker Prospero Nograles should start the ball rolling on the proposed Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059 by directing the House Committee on Agrarian Reform to schedule the long-overdue hearings for what supporters called a “real social justice piece of legislative agenda”.

“GARB was filed on November 13, 2007. Today is January 21, 2009. How long it would take the Nograles leadership for it to tackle this very important bill? It is like the case of justice delayed, justice denied,” the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a press statement.

“Speaker Nograles is politically, morally, legally and constitutionally obliged to send marching the order to all members of the concerned committee and to all members of House of Representatives to begin the discussions and debates on GARB, nothing more, nothing less,” added KMP.

GARB, which is backed by KMP, Kasama-TK and staunch allies like Pamalakaya fishers group, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Amihan peasant federation was authored by the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran, and co-authored by Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño and Gabriela party list lawmakers Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

Some 150 farmers belonging to KMP and its regional chapter Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) are scheduled to meet Speaker Nograles today.

According to KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores, aside from GARB, the farmers will also raise local agrarian issues they are confronting at present, as well as the ongoing legal offensive undertaken by the state security forces against leaders and political activists of different militant organizations in Southern Tagalog.

The KMP leader was referring to the trumped-up charges filed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police against 72 leaders of various organizations in Southern Tagalog.

Flores asserted that GARB so far is the only progressive proposed piece of agrarian reform bill in the entire history of Congress. He said the heart and soul of GARB is free land distribution to all landless, land-lacking and willing-to-till farmers all over the country, which is not present in any previous agrarian reform laws and programs in the Philippines including CARP.

KMP and Kasama-TK also said just compensation will be given to landowners, except those involving sullied landholdings, or land holdings acquired to fraud, deception, intimidation, or the use of force or violence, and landholdings whose landowners employ oppressive and exploitative practices on their tenants, agricultural workers or other farmers tilling the land.

Flores added that enlightened landlords will be allowed to maintain five hectares under GARB provided that they will till the land and will not employ and exploit landless farmers or agricultural workers. #

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