By Billy Javier Reyes and Kremlin Montenegro
Manila, Philippines-Six of the biggest rural based groups in the country– the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Amihan peasant women federation, the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Anakpawis party list on Tuesday proposed to editors and organizers of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s presidential debate to take up the issue of Hacienda Luisita and the state of land reform in the second staging of the presidential forum.
In a press statement Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap appealed to Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot and editor-in-chief Leticia Jimenez-Magsanoc to have land reform issues discussed in the 2nd edition of the Inquirer presidential debate.
“We submit this humble appeal to the collective leadership and political wisdom of those behind the Inquirer presidential debate. Majority of the presidential wannabes are landlords and feudal chiefs of vast landholdings all over the country, so there’s already conflict of interest as far as land reform is concerned. We hope this proposal would merit the approval of the organizers,” said Hicap.
The Pamalakaya leader noted that the first edition of the presidential debate held yesterday at UP Diliman and attended by 2,500 people was a success, although there are more important questions that should have been asked to determine if public interest is really in heart and political mind of every candidate, rather than use the occasion as opportunity for political mudslinging against and between presidential wannabes.
Pamalakaya’s Hicap suggested a working title for the Inquirer regarding their proposal. “How about “how do you solve a problem like Hacienda Luisita as title of the next presidential debate?”
The Pamalakaya leader recalled that on June 8, 1989, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, then Senate Minority Leader of the Corazon Aquino controlled Senate delivered a privilege speech questioning the late President Aquino’s insertion of Stock Distribution Option (SDO) in her outline for the land reform law.
Sen. Enrile said former President Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order No. 229 enabling the Aquino presidency to preside over the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), the body that placed and approved to place the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita under the SDO scheme.
“Senate President Enrile could be invited as resource speaker for the presidential debate on Hacienda Luisita,” Hicap suggested.
Pamalakaya said the debate should also include discussion on the plans of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)to distribute some 200,000 hectares of land to qualified farmer beneficiaries this year under the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Reforms (CARPer) with the return of the compulsory acquisition scheme in the five year extended land reform law.
“Secretary Pangandaman is the point person of landgrabbers and the land speculators in and out of Malacanang and in and out of the agrarian reform department. His statement suggests false hopes and political blackmail rolled into. He wants to convince landless farmers that everything is ok under CARPer which is not true,” the group said.
In its website (www.dar.gov.ph) the agrarian reform agency expressed optimism that the department will attain 200,000 hectare land distribution target for 2010 due largely to the restoration of compulsory acquisition as one of the modes of acquiring lands under Republic Act 9700 or the CARPer law. He said the increase in the budget of DAR will hasten the distribution of land to agrarian reform beneficiaries.
“First the target is too low compared to the more than 6 million hectares of prime agricultural lands concentrated in the hands of landed monopolies like big landlords, private corporations and multinational plantations and military landlords in AFP military reservations,” the group said.
Pamalakaya said based on the data provided by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the country has 14.1 million hectares of prime agricultural lands, of said total 9.9 million hectares are farmlands and about 4 million hectares more or less are devoted to livestock production which were exempted from land distribution since 1988.
“There are about 7 million hectares of prime agricultural lands or more are concentrated in the hands of the few, and we DAR has no proof that five million hectares or more of these lands were already distributed to farmer beneficiaries under the reactionary CARP regime,” the group said.
Pamalakaya noted that in the September 2007 report of DAR, that following data were uncovered: 5,049 emancipation patents (EPs) and 103, 092 certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) were cancelled by the agrarian department covering 204,579 hectares of land. But think tank Ibon Foundation said at the middle of 2004, DAR cancelled 2,000 land titles of farmers involving 380,000 hectares of land. #