Probe land reform program, farmers ask Church leaders

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LUCENA CITY, Philippines—The militant farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) has called on the Catholic Church leadership to not just focus on government land reform statistics but to look into the use of billions of pesos in government funds in Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“We challenge the Catholic Church hierarchy to go beyond monitoring the so-called land distribution under CARP. We challenge them to show solidarity and link arms with CARP victims, to live with those who continue to suffer CARP-sponsored landlessness and violence,”KMP chair Rafael Mariano said in a statement Saturday.

Mariano said the Department of Agrarian Reform accomplishment figures were “fabricated lies.”

Mariano urged the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to look into where the huge agrarian reform budget went with P192 billion so far paid by the government to landowners from 1988 to 2012 for land acquisition and distribution.

Another P150 billion was budgeted from 2009 to 2014 but vast tracts of land still remained undistributed, Mariano said.

CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas had earlier announced that the Church would monitor the distribution of land to ensure that they would to go to their intended beneficiaries.

Villegas had said the government’s task should not end with the distribution of the land but that it should ensure that the farmer-beneficiaries enjoyed their newly acquired properties and made them productive.

The bishop lamented that many beneficiaries who did not have the means to make their land productive had resorted to selling their property due to the lack of government support.

Mariano urged the CBCP to also look into the land distribution records in the Department of Agrarian Reform of the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, several big haciendas in the Bondoc peninsula in Quezon, Hacienda Looc in Batangas and other huge estates in other parts of the country.

After 26 years of CARP, Mariano said the big landlords continued to control vast haciendas and he believed “it is high time to replace it with a new, radical and genuine agrarian reform program.”

The KMP has been pushing for the passage of House Bill No. 252, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), which seeks the free distribution of land to landless tillers.–Delfin T. Mallari Jr.

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