Local News: Catholic Bishops Throw Full Support to Farmers’ Call for Prompt CARPER Completion
Nineteen Catholic bishops led by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Jose Palma have expressed full support to the cause of farmers who have started a protest-march since June 1 urging President Aquino to act decisively for the mandated completion of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) until 2014.
The prelates of the Roman Catholic dioceses are calling on Aquino to be forthright in the implementation of CARPER.
The Task Force Mapalad (TFM) said this is the least that the President can do on the face of the dismal performance of land acquisition and distribution (LAD) by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) under Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes.
Archbishop Ramon Argu-elles of Lipa warmly welcomed the contingent of 250 farmers from Negros and 50 Batangas farmers at the pier and urged them to "vote with their feet in showing to Malacañang that the time to complete agrarian reform is now."
Aside from Arguelles, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Iloilo also blessed the Negros farmer-marchers when they stopped over in Du-mangas, Iloilo and said their quest for social justice should not be treated in a cavalier fashion by Malacañang and DAR.
Bishop Vicente M. Navarra of Bacolod also urged Aquino and De los Reyes not to backtrack on CARPER, a social justice program that is mandated by law, that ends in 2014.
Archbishop Antonio Lede-sma of Cagayan de Oro has also called for support to the hundreds of Mindanao farmers who started a march in Malaybalay City and, as of press time, heading for Cagayan de Oro en route to Manila on June 6. Bishop Ledesma is set to officiate holy mass for the farmers later today in Cagayan de Oro.
In Manila, Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo urged Aquino to pursue his campaign for reform by dismantling large estates, breaking up the chains that exploit and oppress landless peasants and emancipating them to become more productive.
Msgr. Felix Pasquin and Fr. John Tublain have also supported the demands of the marching peasants, all of whom would pound on the gates of Malacañang as they hold a pyrrhic celebration of the 24th anniversary of CARP on June 10.
"DAR’s failure to efficiently pursue its LAD function for several years caused a huge backlog of 1.093 million hectares of agricultural land as of January 2012, with 94 percent of the backlog privately-owned. In 2011, only 54.6 percent of the 200,000-hectare national target has been achieved," TFM confirmed.
DAR still has to issue notices of coverage (NOCs) on more than 300 haciendas in Negros Island, with the backlog of 135,000 hectares causing agrarian unrest in the island where landowners continue to brag that they supported President Aquino during the last elections.
There are still 30,232 hectares of land to be distributed in Bukidnon and 6,185 hectares in Davao Oriental.
Batangas farmers are calling on President Aquino to immediately revoke the conversion order and for the consummation of the notice of coverage (NOC) for a 124-hectare property formerly managed by Hennessy Development Corp. in Barangay Laiya Ibabaw in the municipality of San Juan.
"There has been no development in the area in the last five years and according to law, the land must be given to us already," said farmer-leader Vicente Ayap.
Mindanao farmers brave the rains and wind brought by typhoon Ambo, to join others in Manila on June 6.
"I know that the march to Malacañang is not going to be easy. But there is no other hope, considering the non-performing agrarian reform officers in Bukidnon the innumerable unfulfilled commitments of DAR in the last two years," said Roel Panuga, spokesperson of Alyansa Bukidnon.
"We want to ask the President himself to make a pronouncement on how he is going to complete the mandate of CARPER. This is his mother’s legacy, he should conclude it well," Panuga added.
In Davao Oriental, DAR has not declared null and void the anomalous CARP exemption order issued by DAR Region 11 on Haciendas Bitan-agan (285 has) and Bitoon (244 has). Both undistributed haciendas are still owned and administered by Pablo Rabat.
"Time is running out. And DAR does not show motivation to work on our case. What will happen to our petition after 2014?" said Organi Biong, chairperson of Davao Oriental Farmer and Farmworkers Association (DOFFA.)
"I am the son of a coconut farm laborer. I have worked in the coconut farms of the Rabat family since I was 7-years-old. But until now my family is landless," Biong added.
"My worries would even get worse if the President refuses to commit on completing CARPER backlog within his term," he bemoaned.*