The Inbox

Inequality persists as Aquino fails to push CARP, advocates say

Agrarian reform advocates call for the removal of DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes.

By Jonathan de Santos, VERA Files

Civil society groups say President Benigno Aquino III has been unable to narrow the gap between rich and poor in the country, and that he has failed to wield agrarian reform to close that gap.

Aquino’s critics came out recently to urge him to speed up the distribution of land to the landless, as the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reform (CARPER) nears its end.

“Time is running out. The extension period of CARP is a narrow window of opportunity for the country,” the groups said.

Lawyer Christian Monsod of Sulong CARPER said he had hoped that President Aquino would fulfill the promises left by his mother, former President Corazon Aquino. He said, though, that with the slow pace of reform, and with the deadline looming, “inequality today is the same as it was in 1986.”

Cory Aquino rose to power on the crest of a pro-democracy movement in 1986, and one of the first laws passed under her term was the original Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law that aimed to distribute land to the rural poor.

Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello said the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) was only able to distribute 103,732 hectares of land in 2011 when it needs to distribute 320,242 hectares a year from 2001 until 2014 when the law extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program lapses.

Reforms overlook agrarian issues

Bello, whose party is friendly with the Aquino administration, said the President has made “significant strides” in government reform and poverty alleviation. “Unfortunately, those successes have not been matched by advances in agrarian reform,” he said.

Akbayan's Walden Bello

Without successful agrarian reform, President Benigno Aquino III's “reform program will be incomplete and fragile,” Bello said.

He added that distributing land, securing farmers' property rights, and providing farmers with government support will help drive the economy and reduce poverty in the countryside.

“I do not see how the DAR can deliver,” he said.

In a statement, 27 other agrarian reform advocacy groups—including DAR's own employee association—said agrarian reform has seen a “crisis, paralysis, and retreat” under the Aquino administration.

The groups said DAR, under Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, has been mismanaged and has shown lackluster performance.

“With the way things have unfolded, agrarian reform's exit and death seem inevitable under the Aquino administration at the expense of farmers, farm workers, rural women, and the rural landless in general,” they said.

They added they have lost “faith and confidence” in de los Reyes, whom they called the weakest link at the DAR. “We want him out of DAR,” the groups said.

De los Reyes, in a telephone interview with VERA Files, said it was unfair for the groups to conclude that DAR has been performing poorly.

He said past DAR secretaries were able to distribute more land because of the nature of the land awarded to farmers. Those, he said were mostly government-owned land—which meant the government paid nothing and there were no problems with land titles—or land that had been turned over to the government voluntarily.

What the DAR has now been working with are properties under compulsory acquisition, which was met with resistance from land owners. He said the DAR had to settle the titling and the technical descriptions of these properties because the government has to pay for the land.

He added paperwork for some of the land distributed in the past was done under collective titling. “For example, 200 hectares distributed to 100 farmers are covered under just one title,” he said. He said the DAR no longer does collective titling of land.

It did not help, either, de los Reyes said, that the bureaucracy was not ready to handle the more difficult task of distributing compulsorily acquired land. “The system was not ready for it,” he said.

“We looked for the problem and the solution,” de los Reyes said. Among those solutions, looking through each claims folder and updating the DAR's database of cases.

Despite the criticism, de los Reyes said DAR's field personnel have been delivering results and that is is unfair to say that the department has not been doing its job.

Clock ticks for land reform

Agrarian reform advocates like Romeo Royandoyan of Centro Saka, one of the signatories of the statement calling for de los Reyes's ouster, said they had initially given de los Reyes their all out support.

Royandoyan said it now seems that the government cannot implement CARPER, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms, even by 2016.

Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr, representing the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action- Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA), said his group is feeling “discontent” at the slow pace of agrarian reform under the Aquino administration. He added CBCP-NASSA supports the call to make agrarian reform a priority in the national development agenda and to remove de los Reyes from office.

De los Reyes said, though, that even though DAR is racing against the 2014 deadline, land reform will not necessarily end when CARPER lapses. He said DAR has sent out Notices of Coverage to land owners whose property fall under CARP. “Cases pending by June 30, 2014 are still covered,” he said.

He added land distribution is even more inclusive now because even farmers who are not connected to organization can be awarded their own plots of land.

(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ‘Taklub’ wins jury prize in Cannes
    ‘Taklub’ wins jury prize in Cannes

    The Yolanda-inspired film “Taklub” has won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The advocacy film, which had a successful premiere last Tuesday under the festival’s Un Certain Regard section, is directed by 2009 Cannes best director Brillante Mendoza and top-billed by Nora Aunor. The award cited the film’s sensitive portrayal of individuals and communities in the Philippines fighting to continue living despite natural disasters exposing them to suffering and death. …

  • Orphan tops chemical engineering board exam
    Orphan tops chemical engineering board exam

    A 21-year-old orphan from Capiz topped the chemical engineering board examinations held this month. Remington Salaya, a cum laude graduate of the Central Philippine University in Iloilo, ranked first in the board examinations with a score of 83.30 percent. Out of 405 chemical engineering graduates who took the exam in mid-May, 239 passed. …

  • A sunset party for APEC delegates
    A sunset party for APEC delegates

    Greeted by the beat of Ati-atihan drummers, delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade ministers meeting enjoyed a welcome dinner and cultural presentation at sunset yesterday. Dubbed FuntaSea, Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa’s Banyugan Beach was transformed into a fantasy island, complete with mermaids, fire dancers, and choreographed paraws (sailboat) representing the best of Boracay. With APEC meetings being held all over the Philippines, each presentation is conceptualized …

  • UN chief urges peaceful solution of sea dispute
    UN chief urges peaceful solution of sea dispute

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for a peaceful solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China’s increased assertiveness has alarmed its smaller neighbors. In Manila, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. appealed to China to respect various international agreements on freedom of navigation and aviation. Coloma’s call came in the wake of an incident Wednesday where Chinese naval forces warned a US …

  • Phl seeks transparency, inclusivity in Asean-China Center
    Phl seeks transparency, inclusivity in Asean-China Center

    Philippine Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Elizabeth Buensuceso has called on participants of the ASEAN-China Center (ACC) brainstorming session to vigorously work on promoting ASEAN-China relations under the principles of inclusivity, transparency and centrality. The brainstorming session, attended by the ACC’s joint council and joint executive board members, also involved a midterm review of ACC’s work since its establishment in 2011. The ACC aims to promote …

  • Lebanon tightens rules on HSW repatriation
    Lebanon tightens rules on HSW repatriation

    Distressed Filipino domestic helpers in Lebanon may find it more difficult to return home. The government of Lebanon has tightened the rules on repatriation of distressed household service workers (HSWs), Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz reported yesterday. Citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Baldoz said the Lebanese government opted to re-impose a previous policy requiring investigation into every case of HSWs who ran away from their employers and sought …

  • Army execs face attrition over promotion quota
    Army execs face attrition over promotion quota

    Dozens of Philippine Army officials may be removed from the service due to a promotion quota system in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang. In a letter to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, he requested that the 30 percent promotion quota – which means that only 30 percent of those eligible for promotion in a given year will actually be promoted – in the Army be raised to 50 percent. Under the military’s attrition law, middle-grade officers …

  • Philippines backs support for small enterprises at APEC meet

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top trade official on Saturday called for support for the integration of micro, small and medium enterprises in global trade, which he said would help reduce poverty and inequality in the Asia-Pacific region. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options