Farmers bestow “Filipino of the Century” award to ex-labor leader
Manila, Philippines—Leaders of peasant groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Southern-Tagalog based Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK), the Central Luzon farmers alliance Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the Amihan peasant women federation and the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) will bestow the “Filipino of the Century” award to former Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran.
The award will be given on May 20 at the gate of the House of Representatives, where the farmers are currently holding a 54- day camp-out to press Congress to pass the Genuine Agarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill No. 3059 principally authored by the late militant lawmaker.
The awarding will coincide with the first death anniversary of the former labor leader who died from a freak accident while fixing the roof of his dilapidated house in San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan last year.
“The Filipino of the Century Award to former Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran is a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated 100 percent of his life to the collective interest and class aspiration of the Filipino workers and farmers,” KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores said in a statement.
“Beltran sees the realization of genuine land reform in the possible near future and the enactment of GARB or House Bill 3059 as effective social-economic and political instruments to address or eliminate the problems brought by hundreds of years of landlessness and social injustice across the country,” the KMP leader said.
“Ka Bel from the start rejected all the bogus agrarian reform programs enacted by landlord-dominated regimes since the time of former President Ramon Magsaysay up to the present administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was also opposed from the start to the 20-year old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and dismissed its extension as extremely reactionary, extremely pro-landlord and extremely anti-farmer,” Flores said.
For her part, Amihan national chair Carmen Buena, finally after 18 months of waiting, the House Committee on Agrarian Reform chaired by Rep. Elias Bulut (Apayao) finally set the first hearing on the Beltran bill on land reform.
Buena said on May 20, the committee will begin discussing GARB or House Bill No. 3059 co-authored by Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño, Gabriela party list lawmakers Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.
“We hope the committee, in the name of Beltran and the struggling farmers, will provide enough venue and time for the discussion and deliberation GARB. The debate on GARB should not start and let bogus resolutions and Jurassic bills such as Joint Resolution No.1 and CARP with reforms bill remove from the national scene of Philippine legislature,” Amihan’s Buena added.
Agrarian reform letters
In a related development, KMP vice-chairperson and Kasama-TK spokesperson Imelda Lacandazo and Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said farmers from Rizal, Cavite and Batangas provinces started delivering agrarian reform letters to all members of the House of Representatives, asking lawmakers to start the debate on the controversial land reform bill and pass GARB or HB No. 3059 on or before Congress ends its session on June 6.
“Each congressman will have his agrarian letter by this week. The letter contains our strong recommendation for all lawmakers to give us an audience to enable us to explain to them the pro-farmer and pro-people content of GARB and why its passage by the House of Representatives is historically, socially and politically necessary,” both leaders said.
However, Lacandazo and Hicap said they will think over a million times whether they will give or not an agrarian reform letter to retired Army Major Gen. and Bantay Party list Rep. Jovito Palparan.
“We don’t consider Palparan a member of the House of Representatives. His mandate is bogus and he is an extrajudicial killer of farmer activists and other political activists across-the-nation. As for the Arroyos—Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Macapagal-Arroyo, Negros Rep. Ignacio Arroyo and Kasangga party list Rep. Lourdes Arroyo, they will have their agrarian reform letter because we want to challenge the House of Arroyos as far as genuine land reform is concerned,” both leaders said.
“Let’s start the debate on GARB. We are ready to defend GARB in and out of the agrarian reform committee. The bill was filed on November 13, 2007 and it took the committee 18 months to proceed with the hearing. It may be a case of better than late than never, but still it is still unfair and unjust to have this bill sidelined for a long time,” the Pamalakaya leader added.
Pamalakaya’s Hicap asserted that GARB is the real social justice piece of legislation compared to the bankrupt CARP extension with reform bills pending in both houses of Congress.
Hicap said the meat of GARB is free land distribution, unlike in CARP extension with reform bill, the farmers will still be subjected to payment of monthly amortization, that in case they failed to pay their outstanding debts or obligations to the government, the awarded lands will be reverted back to the government, or to landlord or to any private entities interested in acquiring the land.
“In CARP extension with reforms, farmers will still be subjected to rigorous payment of lands awarded to them and would continue essaying their feudal roles as CARP beneficiary paying clients of the present landlord which is the government,” the Pamalakaya leader said.
Pamalakaya said an example would be the 153-hectare Hacienda Bacan in Negros Occidental currently owned by the Arroyos. Under the CARP extension with reform (CARPer), if even the lands are awarded to farmers, the beneficiaries will continue to pay monthly amortization, and in case they failed their obligations, the lands would be reverted back to the state, which has the right to sell the lands back to the Arroyos or to any private interest.
“Is that land reform? No it is not. That is real estate business,” the group said.
Pamalakaya said under GARB or House Bill 3059, the 153-hectares of the Arroyos will be classified as sullied lands, meaning lands acquired through dubious, corrupt and forcible means, and therefore should be subjected to outright coverage, compulsory acquisition without compensation to the Arroyos and free distribution to landless farmers of Hacienda Bacan.
The militant group also said the one-year indefeasibility period in CARPer was a either a misnomer or an intentional provision to allow big landlords to maneuver. Under CARPer, the titles of lands awarded to the farmer beneficiaries could be questioned by landlords in dispute.
“Landlords as proven by history always question the farmers’ insistence of their land rights twenty four hours a day, seven days a week and 360 days a year. This indefeasibility provision of CARPer is meant to allow landlords to stop any kind of land acquisition and distribution,” said Pamalakaya.
But under GARB, the farmers become the rightful person to till, explore and benefit from the land in the name of free land distribution and social justice, and any dispute or question about the land will be the official business of the state and the landlord as parties, totally liberating the farmers from any kind of hassle or problems. #