Quezon City— On the 25th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), farmers, farmworkers and agrarian reform advocates call on President Noynoy Aquino III’s commitment to completing the task of agrarian reform began by his late mother during his 2012 State of the Nation Address, “You will have land”. Almost a year later, farmers and farmworkers under the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA) ask the president, “Anyare, P-Noy?”.

SARA leaders stress that uncertainty remains as to whether the government is capable of completing the land and distribution component of the program, which expires in June 2014. This uncertainty is not helped by the changing targets of DAR. The newly published report, “The State of Agrarian Reform under President Benigno Aquino III” prepared by Focus on the Global South together SARA cites data from DAR stating “that at the end of 2011, the official land acquisition and distribution balance was 961,974 hectares belonging to 107,639 landholdings, (but) as of January 1, 2013, according to DAR website, the official land acquisition and distribution balance is now only 879,526 hectares. This means that the Department needs to distribute 439,763 hectares per year starting January 2013 to finish LAD by December 2014. Using these new figures, DAR estimated that the NET LAD Balance (or actual distributable lands) now amounts merely to 704,526 hectares. Of the Net LAD balance, 182,121 hectares are tagged as problematic (with pending cases, technical problems, etc.). This leaves us only 522,405 hectares (from previous figure of close to one million) that DAR will work on for redistribution.”

Further, DAR reports cite that only 16,000 hectares of land were distributed from January to March 2013. “Kung ganito kabagal ang pamamahagi ng lupa, aabot ng kulang-kulang 14 na taon ang LAD!,” stressed Ka Elvira Baladad, farmer leader from Save Agrarian Reform Alliance. (At this snail-pace land distribution, it will take close to 14 years to complete land acquisition and distribution [LAD]) 

The government is now looking at a June 2016 deadline (end of Aquino’s term) instead of June 2014 even with this further reduced target. SARA leaders stress that DAR changes (decreases) targets without accounting for the rationale for such changes. If one looks at what have been distributed in terms of hectares since 2011, the figures will not tally with the new target.  

SARA leaders also criticize DAR for the policies it instituted, which rather than fast track the land distribution process, slowed it down. An example is Administrative Order no. 7, series of 2011, which states that land will be distributed within 180 days if there are no protests for exemption or exclusion by land owners. If there are protests, DAR will not cover the land until the land case has been resolved under the Office of the President.

“Sa aming karanasan, laging may protesta ang mga panginoong may lupa. Sinasalamin lamang ng ganitong polisiya ang pagkabigo ng DAR na pagbutihin ang kanyang trabaho.”, added Baladad. (In our experience, landlords always file protest to exclude their lands from the program. This type of policy reflects the failure of DAR to improve on its job.”

Farmworkers from Hacienda Luisita attest to the slow implementation of CARP and CARP extension with reforms (CARPER). “Sabi ni Sec. Virgilio delos Reyes, aabutin lang ng anim hanggang isang taon ang pamamahagi ng lupa sa Hacienda Luisita. Pero Hunyo na ngayon, naghihintay pa rin kami.”, lamented Renato Lalic, president of the Farmworkers Agrarian Reform Movement (FARM)-Luisita. (According to Sec. Virgilio delos Reyes, it will take six months to one year to distribute Hacienda Luisita. It is now June, we’re still waiting in vain.)

“Sa 6,212 na manggagawang bukid na bibigyan ng lupa, ang tantya namin ay 95% na ang nagsangla ng lupa. Kung hindi ito pagtutuunan ng pansin ng DAR, papalya ang CARP/ER sa Hacienda Luisita”, emphasized Lalic, who’s also an identified agrarian reform beneficiary of the landholding.  (Out of the 6,212 farmworkers that will be given land, we estimate that 95% have already pawned their lands. If this will not be given attention by DAR, CARP/ER will fail in Hacienda Luisita.)

Contrary to DAR claims that it is easy to distribute government-owned lands, farmers from Dingalan, Aurora who have been tilling their lands for more than four decades are facing problems of insecurity. “Nahaharap kami sa nag-uumpugang bato sa loob ng mahigit na 4,527 ektaryang Military Reservation.  Sa kabilang banda, inaangkin ito ng military, sa kabila ay pamilya Roxas. Kami ang naiipit.”, said Rudolfo Ruiz, chair of Task Force Military Reservation. (We are stuck between a rock and a hard place inside the 4,527 hectares of Military Reservation. On one side, the Philippine military claims ownership over the land, on the other, is the Roxas family.)

SARA leaders assert that a successful agrarian reform calls for security in land tenure as well as provision of appropriate and enough support services and public investments for both women and men agrarian reform beneficiaries. The gains under CARP/ER will come to a naught if farmers are left to fend off for themselves after land has been awarded to them.

Today, SARA leaders renew its resolve and commitment to intensify the clamor for government to fulfill its obligation under the Constitution. The economic growth bandied about by government will mean nothing for millions of Filipino farmers if agrarian reform, an equity and social justice mechanism, remains an unfinished business.#