Farmers rally to push Carp extension

HUNDREDS marched to the House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon to appeal for the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) extension.

Banners such as “PGMA Reverse Ermita’s Decision,” “Land to the Tiller!” and “No to Killer Amendments” were raised by farmers, who walked from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office in Quezon City to Batasan.

But members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) blocked the farmers from entering the Batasan gates.

The holding of the rally Wednesday was in time with the celebration of the National Day of Carp extension. Simultaneous gatherings were likewise organized in other provinces.

One of the farmers’ main cries was the reversal of the decision of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

The Palace official earlier opposed the decision of the DAR and cancelled the titles given to farmers. They will instead return said lands to their original owners.

The Banasi Agrarian Reform Farmer’s Beneficiary (BARFBA), one of the groups present in the rally, said the office of Ermita ignored the Supreme Court (SC) decision, which says the lands under Carp cannot be intercepted by the government.

The group considered Ermita’s decision “against the law.” It also called for more funds in Carp, especially for the distribution of large tracts of land.

“If our President will continue ignoring us and will not enforce the law, we will lose our land and we will be forced to leave our lands… We will not let this happen! We fight for our right to our lands in a peaceful way,” the BARFBA statement read.

Other groups joining the rally were Akbayan, Reform Carp Movement, Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (Pcarrd), Mapalad Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bondoc Peninsula, Kongreso ng Malayang Manggagawang Pilipino, Paragos Pilipinas, Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan ng Kanayunan, and Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka.

House Bill (HB) 1257 aims to extend Carp to seven years but with significant reforms, of which measures include the revocation of non-redistributive schemes such as stock distribution option (SDO), voluntary land transfer (VLT), leaseback arrangements, and the reorganization of the DAR — the main implementing agency of the program.

Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, in the House session on Wednesday, called to hasten the passage of HB 1257.

Rodriguez is a co-author of the bill.

“When are we going to give justice to our farmers? When are we going to pass the Carp extension bill?” he said, after mentioning that farmers were outside the gates of Batasan.

“We should be able to discuss (the bill), irrespective of the result,” Rodriguez added.

The next House meeting on the Carp extension is set on December 10. The lawmaker said by that time, there should already be a votation since the deadline of the passage is on December 31. (Justine Paredes/Sunnex)

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