More Farmers to Join CARP Extension Campaign
The peasant federation Task Force Mapalad said more farmers from Davao and Bukidnon in Mindanao and from various provinces in Luzon are arriving in Manila to reinforce some 500 farmers from Negros Occidental who held a protest rally Tuesday morning near Malacañang to demand immediate passage of a law extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and the distribution of haciendas owned by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and his family.
Another peasant federation, Unorka, also said their contingents from Negros Oriental, Iloilo and Leyte will be arriving in Manila to join the campaign.
TFM president Jose Rodito Angeles denounced Malacañang, the presidential security group, and the police for dispersing the rallyists and arresting 16 farmers, saying it showed President Arroyo’s incapability to face the people and address their grievances.
“It appears that President Arroyo cannot anymore face the farmers. It shows how bankrupt her administration had become as far as agrarian reform issues are concerned,” said Angeles.
The Hunger for Land, Hunger for Justice Committee of various peasant advocate groups also condemned the arrest, saying that as a result of manhandling by police, 11 of the 16 arrested farmers suffered bruises and other injuries.
The arrested farmers were brought to the Manila Police headquarters on United Nations Avenue for investigation before they were brought to the Manila city fiscal’s office at 5:30 p.m. for inquest on charges of illegal assembly and resisting arrest filed by the PSG.
The farmers, however, were released hours later after Julio Cardinal Rosales and Father Anton Pascual of Manila Caritas offered to take them in custody.
Angeles, who was one of those arrested, thanked the Church and the Catholic bishops, for their support “not only in words but in deed.”
“We are more determined than ever to push forward the campaign for CARP extension. More and more farmers will come to Malacañang in waves to compel this administration to respect the Constitution and uphold its mandate of completing the redistribution of big landholdings under CARP,” said Angeles.
Angeles called on the President to do justice to the name of her late father, former President Diosdado Macapagal, who was known as the Father of Agrarian Reform, by ensuring the legislation of CARP extension with reforms and by fulfilling her promise of distributing Arroyo lands in Negros Occidental, particularly the 157-hectares Hacienda Bacan owned by her husband Mike Arroyo.
Angeles said Hacienda Bacan had already been paid for by the government in the amount of more than P40 million and the Department of Agrarian Reform had come out with the certificate of landownership award (CLOA) in July last year for the 67 farmer-beneficiaries of the hacienda, but the CLOA could not be registered because of intervention by Mike Arroyo.
“President Arroyo should make a clear stand on completing the distribution of the CARP backlog of 1.3 million hectares, of which 640,000 hectares comprise compulsory acquisition. She should also order the Register of Deeds in Bacolod City or the Land Registration Authority in Quezon City to register the CLOA so that DAR could formally award the hacienda to the beneficiaries,” said Angeles.
Angeles said they would no longer bother to ask Congress to pass the CARP extension bill because it would be an exercise in futility.
“Congress is dominated by legislators who are either pro-landowners or big landowners themselves. Besides, legislators take their cue from Malacañang when there are crucial measures to pass,” said Angeles.
He said the fate of CARP at present rests solely in the hands of President Arroyo, which is the reason why the farmers are knocking at the doors of Malacañang instead of Congress.
“The President is the one person left who can make CARP extension possible. She can compel her allies in Congress to pass House Bill No. 4077, which she had already certified as urgent,” said Angeles.
Angeles said pushing for CARP extension is one important way of doing justice to the name Macapagal.
“The former President showed political will in pushing for enactment of landmark legislation on agrarian reform. He pressured Congress into passing Republic Act No. 3644 by threatening to call for indefinite special session. We urge President Arroyo to do the same in the case of CARP extension,” he said.