Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hunger Striking Farmers and Bishops Rebuke Joint Resolution on CARP Extension

Emancipate Farmers from the Gridlock of Political Indecision:
Hunger Striking Farmers and Bishops Rebuke Joint Resolution on CARP Extension
(A Statement Issued by the Hunger Striking Farmers and Bishops)

The hunger striking farmers and bishops are united in their analysis and rejection of the joint resolution being proposed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The farmers and bishops are not swayed by this palliative measure which contravenes the Constitution and does not respond to the call of the farmers.

The said resolution supposedly resolves to maintain "the status quo" on the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law as "its effectiveness extends until June 30, 2009". Setting an expiration date for the CARL is contrary to the constitutional mandate on the continuous implementation of the agrarian reform program until all agricultural lands in the country are covered and distributed to the landless farmers. Neither a resolution nor a law can terminate a program mandated by the Constitution. The Joint Resolution shows the pale resolve of our legislators to perform their mandate. It clearly exposes that the vested interests of the landed in government take precedence over the Constitution and the welfare of the farmers and over national accord.

While the Joint Resolution seeks to extend the implementation of land acquisition and distribution, it does not provide any funds for agrarian reform implementation aside from what is provided in the proposed 2009 National Budget. Without the Agrarian Reform Fund (ARF), the GAA budget is too limited even for a minimal acquisition and distribution of land under CARP. The farmers and bishops demand a more definite decision of extending financial support for CARP and institutionalizing needed reforms which are provided in HB 4077 and SB 2666.

It is ironic how the legislators complain about defective program implementation when the effective implementation of CARP had been historically blocked by interests of influential landowners, among who are members of Congress. The legislators cannot repeatedly ignore the command of the people and the law. They should not be allowed to feign blamelessness and claim non-accountability. Had they willed to do so, the legislators could have studied and incorporated the amendments proposed by the farmers during the past six months. They already bought time the last instance they proposed a similar resolution in June. As expected, such bogus measure resulted in the cessation of all land acquisition and distribution processes as the Department of Agrarian Reform could not boldly implement the very core of this supposed centerpiece program of the government.

What makes this second attempt different from the previous one such that it will suddenly ensure that the DAR will continue fulfilling its duty? The only difference is that this time things are worse as some legislators contemptuously insist on striking down compulsory acquisition without which the program will be at the mercy of landowner volunteerism. As such, CARP would be rendered virtually futile. The very reason for the need to reinforce CARP is the recalcitrance of owners of big landholdings—mostly families of powerful public officials- and the lack of support services to fuel agricultural production.

How could the legislators claim that they need material time to "study and generate consensus on appropriate amendments" and at the same time insist on eliminating the most critical components of the program? Do the legislators think they can convince the farmers that this resolution is being proposed to better the program and not to facilitate its termination? Do the legislators think the bishops cannot perceive that this measure is nothing but a quick fix meant to mislead? The Joint resolution is obviously being devised to merely placate the hunger strikers who demand accountability from the legislators who failed to take decisive action on the CARP extension with reforms in the last six months.

The farmers are convinced that the consensus the legislators contemplate is obviously that which will be acceptable to the landowners' bloc. The bishops discern that what is lacking in this situation is not material time but compelling resolve. And such resolve will not ferment in six months or a year. Such consensus ought not to be the consideration; it is the farmers' predicament which is of concern. In the final analysis, what is inevitable and what would surpass all this filibustering is the imperative of responding to the farmers who feed our nation, fulfilling the constitutional fiat and the policy behind agrarian reform. For the hunger strikers, the problem is not lack of material time but the acute lack of political will and resolve from the country's political leadership to ensure the compliance to the Constitutional mandate of pursuing agrarian reform until its completion.

The agrarian reform program was enshrined in the Constitution to address poverty and promote food security. It is a revolutionary and comprehensive measure which caters to the poor and will never see fulfillment unless the implementers of the law are forced to will themselves to submit to it. The legislators have been given sufficient time to respond and yet we find ourselves at this standstill yet again. It is high time to rouse them to action, to give them reason to accede to the imposition of law and national conscience.

17 December 2008

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