LUCENA CITY—Leaders of the Bondoc Peninsula farmers in Quezon province on Monday dared Agrarian Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes to be decisive and hasten the distribution of land to beat the deadline of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Jansept Geronimo, campaign officer of the Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization Services, an alliance of farmers’ organizations in the province, said De los Reyes should stop talking and just distribute the lands to the farmers.
Last week, De los Reyes declared he did not see an urgent need to extend CARP for another five years as proposed in a pending pill in Congress.
DAR, he added, could still effectively fulfill its mandate of redistributing land to farmers even after the CARP extension with reforms law, or Carper, is terminated on June 30, 2014.
But Geronimo said De los Reyes’ statement was just “another rehash promise from a beleaguered government bureaucrat.”
“The proposed extension of CARP for another five years is a testament to the lackadaisical performance of DAR under Secretary Virgilio De los Reyes. This is contrary to the repeated claims of the Secretary himself that the agency is on track in completing its land distribution task,” Geronimo said.
He said the farmers would continue to suffer if the extended period would also be managed with the same slow pace of land distribution.
The Quezon farmers have long been fighting to place under CARP the big tracts of lands in the Bondoc Peninsula area, particularly in San Francisco, Buenavista and San Andres towns.
The farmers, decrying harassment and intimidation, often ended up in court facing charges for qualified theft of coconuts and trespassing cases filed by landowners.
Geronimo cited a case in San Andres town late last month when paid guards of a landlord accompanied by village watchmen forcibly took 500 coconuts gathered for copra by 75-year-old farmer Guillermo Lascoña. The old man was arrested by policemen on charges of grave threat.
Maribel Luzara, president of the Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bondoc Peninsula, called on President Aquino not only to support the extension of CARP but to also help the more than 50 Bondoc Peninsula farmers facing court cases filed by their landlords.
She said most of the farmers are in hiding because once caught, each would need at least P60,000 as bail for each count of the unfair charges of qualified theft.