November 11, 2014

The Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA), a peasant-led umbrella coalition of people’s organizations, NGOs and human rights organizations, challenged the newly released Agricultural Indicators Systems by the Philippine Statistics Authority. The data which came from the Department of Agrarian Reform claim that “the cumulative accomplishment of DAR-CARP from 1972-2013 was 4.599 million hectares benefitting 2,698,182 farmers who eventually became owners of the land they were cultivating.

But SARA leaders doubted the data based on the experiences of its members. “What percent of the accomplishment is distributed but uninstalled? Registered but not distributed? Distributed but with no support services? Distributed but reversed? The devil’s in the details,” asked Ka Trinidad Domingo, spokesperson of SARA and farmer leader from Nueva Ecija.

“There is a reported 826,947 hectares of land distributed under the Voluntary Land Transfer/Direct Payment Scheme (VLT/DPS), which accounts for 18 percent of the total land distribution accomplishment from 1972-2013. The VLT/DPS scheme is highly dubious as it has been used to circumvent the program with landlords handpicking the farmers loyal to them who enter into a voluntary agreement for the direct transfer of lands to the latter, and then later on, consolidating their lands,” Domingo said.

SARA leaders added that the reported figures do not include the suspicious deductions of another 1 million hectares from the land distribution target made under the Ramos-Garilao Administration in 1998. In 1988, CARP’s original land distribution target was 10 million hectares of arable agricultural lands, which was later on reduced to 8 million hectares, and now, according to the AIS study, it’s only 5.43 million hectares. Where are the remaining 5 million from the original target?

The data do not really reflect the realities on the ground. “In the case of Yolanda farmers, DAR Region 8 has reported that it has distributed 11,685 land titles to about 8,000 farmers, but upon verification on the ground, Yolanda survivors were surprised to learn about this. Their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) are being withheld motu propio by DAR,” said Danny Carranza, secretary general of KATARUNGAN, a co-convenor of SARA.

More significantly, the accomplishment reports of the DAR-AIS/PSA continue to remain questionable because of contradictory figures from the Land Registration Authority (LRA), as shown in the table above. There is a visible difference in the figures claimed by DAR-AIS/PSA and the actual figures of 253,935.37 hectares registered with land titles in the LRA. The figures reveal a remarkable deficit of 62,981.63 hectares from the actual official accomplishments in land distribution of the current Aquino administration. (see table)

But while DAR is good at issuing macro data, it has consistently failed in giving details to these data. Since 2010, DAR has consistently reported nationally-aggregated data that are difficult to validate for rural advocates and farmers’ organizations.

SARA reiterates its call for the formation of an independent high-level commission to properly audit the accomplishments of previous and current DAR- and other CARP-implementing agencies with regard to land distribution, the installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries, and the provision of support services to farmers.

In tandem with these calls, SARA also supports the passage of House Bill No. 4375, “An Act Creating the Agrarian Reform Commission” (filed by Representatives Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Island and Leni Robredo of Camarines Sur), and the congressional bills mandating the continued issuance of the Notices of Coverage (House Bill No. 4296 filed by Representative Teodoro Baguilat of Ifugao and Representative Cresente Paez of COOP-NATCCO Partylist and Senate Bill No. 2188 filed by Senator Gregorio Honasan II).

With barely two years before he steps down, SARA leaders urged President Aquino to make the creation of the Agrarian Reform Commission his administration’s priority and ensure that Congress pass the bill for the continuation of land distribution, which he already certified as urgent.

SARA further appealed to the President to present a clear roadmap for reaffirming the social justice goals of the agrarian reform program. Failure to do so will be tantamount to deliberately neglecting his sworn duty to uphold the interests of the Filipino people in general and the rural poor in particular.

Contact: Mary Ann Manahan, SARA Secretariat, +63.9062983206 / [email protected]