Philippine extended land reform law will spur reversals not reforms

Editorial: The Pamalakaya Times
Philippine extended land reform law will spur reversals not reforms

Last week, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the recently passed law that extends the life of the twenty year old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or the Carper law, which she hyped as a landmark piece of legislation.

The signing of the extended land reform law was witnessed by a crowd of farmer beneficiaries, agrarian reform officials and employees mobilized by the local agrarian reform agencies and local government officials and key leaders of the legislative branch headed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, House Speaker Prospero Nograles and bill author Senator Gregorio Honasan.

President Arroyo said reforms are well placed in the extended land reform law to ensure farmer beneficiaries will be able to get parcels of land that they have been waiting over the last two decades and that enough provisions for support services were incorporated to help them raise productivity and increase dwarfed incomes by hundreds of percent to alleviate poverty in the rural areas.

RA 9700 according to Arroyo aims to distribute 1.2 million hectares of still undistributed private lands to more than 700,000 farmer beneficiaries in the next five years from 2009 to 2014, which her government regarded as a fitting tribute to former President Corazon Aquino, whose term the CARP was conceived.

But a study session on the possible impact of Carper law to Filipino farmers revealed the new land reform law has nothing to offer but wholesale denial of peasant land rights, across-the-country land reform reversals and the land reform law will usher a heighten era of political repression in the countryside rather that completes the cycles of social justice.

Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, the farmer activist turned lawmaker opined that the Carper law is so far the worst and most reactionary and anti-Filipino farmer law that was ever crafted by Philippine legislation since 1946 or 63 years since the first agrarian reform program was introduced by the Manila government in the post World War II era.

“The Carper law is not a social justice piece of legislation. It is a shotgun piece of lawmaking that seeks to perpetuate social injustice and landlessness in the country. It is more deadly than the previous land reform law. How can you expect land reform in the new agrarian reform law if its’ running objective is to distribute lands to landlords, real estate agents, land speculators and foreign investors?” the 49 year old farmer legislator said during the study forum on Carper law.

Mariano asserted that “the so-called industrialization” in the Carp extension with reforms (Carper) was a “gross distortion.” The peasant lawmaker, who is a veteran of farmer led street protests since the 1908s asserted that “the industrialization in Carper is not based on the free distribution of lands to empower farmers but on the anticipated influx of foreign agribusinesses and massive land-use conversion.

The peasant legislator further reduced the Carper law into a legal monster that would fortify feudal exploitation in the rural areas all over the Philippines. Citing the newly signed law’s Section 1 “Declaration of Principles and Policies,” Mariano said, “the sell-out of vast tracts of agricultural lands to local and foreign agribusinesses and land-use conversion are now elevated as state policies.”

“The State shall promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform, through industries that make full and efficient use of human and natural resources, and which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets: Provided, that the conversion of agricultural lands into industrial, commercial, or residential lands shall take into account tillers’ rights and national food security.” the law stated.

The same section of the law also states that “the State recognizes that there is not enough agricultural land to be divided and distributed to each farmer and regular farm worker so that each one can own his/her economic-size family farm.”

“Aside from conditioning farmers that there is not enough land for distribution, Carper hardened non-land transfer schemes like stock distribution option, land lease deals, and joint ventures, that further opened our agricultural lands to global land-grabbers,” Mariano said.

Four of the biggest rural based organizations in the country—the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the fisherfolk alliance Pamalakaya, the agricultural labor group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and the peasant women federation Amihan agreed with Mariano’s critical views and analysis demolishing the myths of the extended land reform law.

In a joint statement sent to Manila based reporters, the four groups said the signing of Carper law by President Arroyo is an across-the-nation tragedy, further dismissing the extended agrarian reform law as collective death certificate to millions of landless farmers in the Philippines. The groups said, the Carper law by design, by nature and by purpose merely strengthens the feudal power of the landlords in the countryside.

Opponents of the extended land reform law have sounds arguments in rejecting the Carper law. The compulsory acquisition in Carper is just a myth. Under the extended agrarian reform law, the Filipino landlords and their foreign clients, including multinational corporations currently leasing agricultural lands for export production enjoy vast powers and privileges to protect their landholdings and even expand it through landgrabbing and other means of deception.

After acquiring the seal of approval from the landlords, the farmer beneficiaries should go to the city or municipal judge to swear under oath that he or she will perform his or her obligation and duties to pay for the monthly amortization and she or he will make the lands productive.

“What if the landlords reject them as farmer beneficiaries? What will happen to the farmer beneficiaries? The Carper is a throwback to the old medieval feudal Europe where farmers are working as slaves and obliged to treat landlords as if they are heaven sent or agents of God. This is extremely revolting,” the groups echoed.

Critics of the extended land reform law further likened the Carper law into a huge “no trespassing billboard” preventing farmers and other agrarian reform beneficiaries to till the land and enjoy the fruit of their hard work. They said the extended land reform law has no substantial reforms to speak and was merely cloaked on sweetened phrases just to make it appear acceptable to farmers.

The Carper law will intensify denial of farmers land rights and will usher a heightened era of political repression in the countryside. This law will subject the struggling farmers to an endless cycle of landlessness and state violence in partnership with the landlords courtesy of provisions criminalizing the peasant fight for genuine agrarian reform.

Given this development in the Philippine agrarian landscape, we expect the Filipino peasantry to rise above the occasion and wage a more determined and more raging battle in and out of Congre

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