House defers CARP extension vote, enraged farmers protest

House defers CARP extension vote, enraged farmers protest

Article posted June 10, 2008 – 09:05 PM
MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Tuesday night
deferred deliberations on House Bill 4077 that seeks to extend until
2013 the implementation of the 20-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program (CARP).

Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo told GMANews.TV that the House instead
passed a resolution ensuring the availability of funds for the CARP’s
land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component until the end of the
year.

“The House approved a resolution to the effect that the budget for LAD
will be available until December 31, 2008, and not only until June 10,
2008,” he said.

Ocampo said the House would have six months or until December to
deliberate on HB 4077 and other proposed measures on agrarian reform.

“The deliberations will probably resume in July after President
(Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo’s SONA (State of the Nation Address),” he
said.

Though majority of House members present during the deliberations
favored HB 4077, the House leadership still decided to defer acting on
the bill, because Speaker Prospero Nograles reportedly wanted an
overwhelming support for the measure’s passage.

In Tuesday’s straw vote, 97 lawmakers favored the measure, while 82
rejected the bill. Fifty three House members were absent during the
voting.

Protest

The House’s failure to pass HB 4077 triggered protest among farmers
who attended Tuesday night’s legislative session at the Batasan
Complex in Quezon City.

Several farmers booed at lawmakers when it was announced that the
House would instead issue a resolution for the LAD budget.

Radio dzBB’s Rowena Salvacion reported that several farmers attending
the session jumped off the House gallery, prompting House security to
scramble and haul many of them away.

“Ngayon kitang kita na panalo bakit kailangan ipagpaliban. Ibig
sabihin nito, nagbababuyan dito (Now we see the CARP extension bill
winning, then they suddenly shelve it. Now it is obvious these
lawmakers are making a mockery of us),” a female farmer said.

Police also closed the gates of the complex after the farmers’
colleagues and supporters who were waiting outside Batasan started to
light torches to protest the House decision to defer acting on HB
4077.

The incident came a week after farmers stormed the office of Nograles,
who earlier promised to pass HB 4077 on or before June 10, the date
when Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL)
was signed by then President Corazon Aquino 20 years ago.

House Bill 4077

Under HB 4077, 60 percent of the proposed P100-billion fund would be
for LAD, while 40 percent would be for program beneficiaries
development or support services to farmers.

To protect a beneficiary’s ownership of the land, the bill would make
certificates of landownership award “indefeasible,” a year after the
CLOA’s registration with the Office of the Registry of Deeds.

Moreover, the measure seeks to guarantee the productivity of lands
awarded to farmers. Thus, HB 4077 requires the DAR to establish within
the five-year-extension, a minimum of three agrarian reform
communities in each legislative district with a predominantly
agricultural population.

The measure also has a provision that promotes “gender responsive
support services.” The provision requires the State to “recognize and
enforce the right of rural women to own and control land or to receive
a just share of the fruits thereof.”

This portion of the measure was the response to the gender inequality
between male and female FBs, which the CARL failed to address.

Not convinced

But other groups and lawmakers are not convinced of the reforms sought
through HB 4077.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño, for instance, claimed that the bill’s
enactment would “only mean the extension of a flawed CARP.”

He said the measure failed to include the acquisition and distribution
of other agricultural landholdings, such as livestock and poultry
farms, that were exempted from CARP through RA 6657.

Casiño also claimed that HB 4077 did not exclude “non-redistributive”
CARP acquisition schemes such as VOS, VLT, and SDOs or stock
distribution option, which gave leeway to landowners to circumvent the
law, and retain control of landholdings.

Another “flaw” of RA 6657 cited by Casiño is the 30-year-amortization
of FBs on the land awarded to them through the CARP. He said this “is
too burdensome to farmers who are not even provided sufficient support
services by the government.”

Casiño likewise criticized the CARL’s five-hectare and three-hectare
retention areas provided to landowners and their children.

Casiño, Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Masa want CARL replaced by
another “more progressive” measure: House Bill 3059 or the “Genuine
Agrarian Reform Bill” (GARB).

GARB contains the following salient provisions:
• Expansion of the definition of agricultural land to broaden its
scope and coverage of land distribution

• Abrogation of the alternative schemes to physical land distribution,
such as SDOs

• Expropriation of all private lands exceeding five hectares

• Completion of the distribution of lands within five years

• Distribution of lands to FBs at no cost, and issuance of full title
of emancipation

• Writing off amortization payments on lands distributed under
Presidential Decree 27 and RA 6657 and

• Full restoration of the canceled CLOAs, certificates of land
transfer, and EPs to FBs who fail to amortize on their lands. –
GMANews.TV
All Rights Reserved. 2006 (c) GMA Network Inc.

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