Farmers demanding land tell Duterte at rally: You broke our hearts
BACOLOD CITY—At least 50 Negros Occidental farmers borrowed images from Valentines Day to demand distribution of land and accuse the Duterte administration of failing to fully enforce the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in the province known for fierce opposition to land distribution among estate owners.
The farmers carried red cardboard pieces cut into shapes of broken hearts during their protest on Monday (Feb. 15).
The protesters, belonging to the Task Force Mapalad (TFM), held a rally in front of the provincial Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office in Dawis in this city.
“You’ve broken our hearts, our dreams, Mr. President, because you failed to deliver what you promised,” said Teresita Tarlac, president of TFM’s Negros-Panay chapter.
Protesters were apprehensive about holding a rally because of the pandemic, but extreme hunger aggravated by a sharp increase in food prices prompted them to go out and call attention to their plight, according to a TFM statement quoting Tarlac.
“Hunger and the lack of adequate nutrition will make us vulnerable to illnesses, which in turn will make us susceptible to COVID-19,” the statement said. “We have no other choice but to fight for our right to land, to our right to food and nutrition, so we can shield ourselves from diseases, including COVID-19,” it said.
“President Duterte has to see CARP as the most viable solution to our problem. He must give us our land now,” TFM added.
Duterte, in North Cotabato in January 2020, reiterated his promise to finish during his term the implementation of CARP by distributing more lands, especially in Negros Occidental, where the backlog in land distribution was highest, TFM said.
But the group said it was clear from DAR records that there was a yawning credibility gap between Duterte’s promises and actual delivery.
“While the DAR has been projecting to the media that it is doing its job, the truth is the current administration does not only have low and unmet land distribution targets,” said TFM.
“It is also, on record, the worst CARP implementer,” the statement quoted Tarlac as saying.
Data from the DAR showed that in 2020, the department was able to distribute only 18,789 hectares of agricultural landholdings nationwide or nearly 40 percent short of its 30,154-hectare target in 2020, TFM said.
“The nationwide balance is still about 500,000 hectares,” said Tarlac.
She said if the DAR target was to distribute only more than 30,000 hectares every year, it would be impossible to distribute all lands on the distribution list by the time Duterte steps down in 2022.
“It would take the DAR over 15 years or three more administrations after the Duterte administration before it completes land distribution nationwide,” Tarlac said.
“Worse, missing the target means land distribution will be forever or never,” she added.
From 2016 to 2020, or during the last five years of the Duterte administration, total land distribution accomplishment was just 142,806 hectares, said TFM citing numbers based on DAR data.
The accomplishment, TFM said, was “just equivalent to a yearly average of 28,561 hectares—the lowest ever in the history of CARP.”
From 2010 to 2015, or during the first five years of former president Benigno Aquino III, the DAR distributed a total of 525,151 hectares of agricultural landholdings under CARP, or an annual average of 105,030 hectares, TFM said, again citing DAR data.
“The DAR, under the Duterte administration can’t say that COVID-19 is the culprit because its performance has always been anemic since 2016,” said Tarlac.
TFM said there are many landholdings that could already be distributed and needed only paper work. Many of these lands are in Negros Occidental.
Tarlac said DAR and other agencies had finished surveying the lands and “field work required for these estates to be acquired for CARP has already been accomplished.”
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