Quezon City, Philippines, 11 June 2014 — Fresh from renewing their unities and collectively expressing dismay at the government’s inability to seriously implement and complete agrarian reform, 200 farmers and allied organizations under the People’s Agrarian Reform Congress (PARC) once gain made a show of force at the Department of Agrarian Reform on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and on the eve of the country’s independence day.

The group gathered at DAR to protest not to celebrate the occasion, and to urge President Benigno Aquino III to act decisively for the continuation and completion of the nationwide land reform effort. 

What was just an event last June 6, which gathered 900 participants from both rural and urban areas, the PARC is now developing into the biggest and broadest coalition of advocates of agrarian reform aiming to manifest to the Aquino administration that agrarian reform is a key item in the national development and social reform agenda and an area of governance that merits his direct intervention and leadership.

The groups stressed that President Aquino cannot afford to stand on the sidelines on this issue. “His social contract with the Filipino people calls on him to wield much political and economic will needed to see the program through”, said the groups.    

“We have walked from our farms in Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon not only to expose the slow-paced implementation of the program but also demand the stopping of attacks on peasants through various forms of harassments and violence perpetrated by former landlords,” said Jansept Geronimo of Kilusan para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo and Katarungang Panlipunan (KATARUNGAN) and co-convenor of the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance.

“We call on President Aquino to ensure the passage of the House Bill 4592 and Senate Bill 1288 that aim to guarantee the completion of land distribution and coverage beyond June 30, 2014.”, said Rene Cerilla of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA).

“Land distribution under the Aquino administration has been executed at a snail’s pace, and marked by a consistent failure to meet annual distribution targets, chronic underperformance and lack of political commitment manifested by the present Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) under Sec. Virgilio delos Reyes. According to DAR’s own figures, of the total 710,000 hectares of lands originally targeted for distribution between July 2010 and June 2013, only 360,464 hectares or 51 percent of the annual targets have been distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries,” stressed the groups present at the June 6 event.

“We note, however, that this official figure is an understatement, given that numerous areas have been arbitrarily removed from DAR’s targets, exempted from redistribution, or left out from the CARP balance altogether. There is, furthermore, no way to validate DAR’s official data, given that the agency has consistently failed to provide the details behind its aggregated figures for the open assessment of the public,” the groups said of the DAR’s dismal performance. 

Among the various demands voiced by the farmers’ groups were:

  • Extend the land distribution component of CARP beyond June 30, 2014, either through legislation or the release of an executive directive by President Aquino.
  • DAR should should publicly disclose the true, complete, and detailed status of the implementation of CARP, including all stages of the land transfer component, the provision of support services, and financial transactions.
  • Provide extensive and accelerated support services, undertake capacity building, localized extension, etc., to farmer-beneficiaries.
  • Constitute a high level independent commission with legal powers to evaluate and audit the performance of CARP, investigate all circumventions of coverage, and human rights violations

Similarly, the groups emphasized that despite the flawed implementation of R.A. 9700 (the CARP Extension with Reforms/CARPER Act) under the present administration, the passage of the law in 2009 represented a significant victory of the peasant movement against the landed elite.

The farmers’ groups and agrarian reform advocates at the Congress also underscored the importance of a stronger unity among  groups across the nation for rural development.

“Now more than ever, we must come together and find inspiration from our previous victories,” the broad peasant movement said. 

“We must transform our collective rage over the weakness of administrations past and present into a strong unified force,” the groups said. 

The Peoples’ Agrarian Reform Congress was organized by twenty-eight organizations, representing farmers, labor, women, youth, academe, business, civil society organizations, the Catholic church, human rights and social justice advocates.#