MANILA, Philippines—They risked their lives for his mother in the twilight of the Marcos regime and voted him for president in 2010 but now more than 5,000 peasants from across the country are marching on Manila because the Aquino administration supposedly has chalked up a record in agrarian reform that is worse than all the other post-Edsa administrations.
In an open letter, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo has asked President Benigno Aquino to meet with the peasants on the Lakbayan (national march) and listen to their concerns about the “consistent under-performance” of his administration in implementing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and CARPer (CARP with Extensions and Reforms).
He said the farmers would ask Aquino to use his “enormous political capital” to finally cause the distribution of the more than one-million hectares of farm land that are still “CARPable.”
“They will be coming to the nation’s capital to knock on the hearts and minds of the nation and call their attention to the gridlock in the CARP. They come at great risk and expense because they have nowhere else to go but to their President,” Pabillo said.
The farmers are from haciendas and plantations in Negros, Davao, Bukidnon, Bicol, Quezon, Batangas and other areas.
“The church has known them – these farmers risked their lives for Cory (Mr. Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino) and believed her promise that CARP would liberate them from the bondage of serfdom,” Pabillo said.
“They voted for P-Noy because he represented their last chance of realizing their dream of owning their own land,” he said.
Pabillo said records showed the Department of Agrarian Reform under Aquino has been “consistently under-performing” in implementing the CARPer, particularly its land acquisition and distribution (LAD) provision.
“This is shown by the huge backlog of 1,093,000 hectares of agricultural lands. In 2011, it only accomplished 54.6 percent of its national LAD target,” Pabillo said.
“In Negros Occidental, the current DAR only managed to distribute 1,798 hectares in 2011. The DAR will have to work at 20 times its current pace to meet its targets,” he said.
Pabillo said there has been no significant movement in the 135,199-hectare total provincial backlog as of January 2012, and no notices of coverage has been issued on large estates.
“The DAR performance for the first six months of 2012 is expected to be equally dismal,” Pabillo said.
“The current DAR administration has recorded the lowest CARP accomplishment when compared to all DAR-CARP administrations,” he added.
“With this appalling situation, farmers and tillers become restless and desperate. They fear the winds of August 2014, the end year of the extended period of CARP. They have fought for land reform for decades and fear that it will all be for naught,” he said.
Pabillo said the farmers would urge the President to fulfill the promise of CARP by distributing all the remaining “carpable” lands and by providing the necessary financial and other support services that would help them become successful owner-cultivators.
“This is the meaning to them of the President’s campaign promise of a “daang matuwid” and “P-Noy para sa mahirap.” Such a judicious use of political power also results in dividends of food security for all, of job creation and rural development,” Pabillo said.
At least 5,200 farmers began their March last Friday led by Task Force Mapalad (TFM) composed of landless farmers from 321 haciendas in Negros.
In Mindanao, 100 farmers from Davao provinces and Bukidnon marched from Malaybalay to Kisolon town, the first leg of their three-day journey up to Cagayan de Oro City, TFM said.