House OKs bill condoning debts of agrarian reform beneficiaries
MANILA, Philippines — The condoning of agrarian reform beneficiaries’ (ARBs) outstanding debts is one step closer to becoming a law as the House of Representatives has passed a bill emancipating farmers from financial woes on third and final reading.
In the session on Monday, 245 lawmakers voted in favor of House Bill No. 6336 or the New Agrarian Emancipation Bill, which is expected to remove financial burden from ARBs.
None of the lawmakers present voted against it, while only one abstained.
Before the bill’s passage, there was fierce discussion about whether ARBs can actually use the lands awarded by the government — whose loans were forgiven by the government — as a collateral for bank loans or for mortgages.
During one of the hearings on the bill, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said allowing the transfer of the land after 10 years for commercial purposes defeats the purpose of the bill, as the land intended by the law to be at the hands of farmers would fall on the hands of business interests.
Lagman suggested that if the awarded land is really up for sale or transfer, it should be given to the relatives of the ARB, or to another deserving ARB.
“I would suggest a longer period and that also, lands covered by the Agrarian Reform Law should not be subject to mortgages. What should be mortgaged should be the products of the land, but not the land itself, because once the farmer fails to pay the mortgage or indebtedness, that would be the end of agrarian reform with respect to the farmers,” he said in the hearing last November 9.
Under the latest version of the said bill, the awarded land cannot be “sold, transferred, or conveyed except through hereditary succession, or to the government or to the LBP (Land Bank of the Philippines), or to other qualified beneficiaries through DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform), for a period of ten years from the issuance of the Certificate of Condonation.”
If it is transferred, immediate relatives of the ARB can reclaim the land from the LBP in the following two years.
“The children or the spouse and in their absence, the immediate successor in interest, of the transferor shall have a right to redeem the land from the Government or the LBP within the period of two (2) years,” the bill stated.
The latest version also took into consideration Lagman’s fears, with specific provisions stating that the land cannot be subject to conversion or mortgage 20 years after the Certificate of Condonation has been given.
“The awarded agricultural lands under this Act shall not be subject to conversion and any form of mortgage and encumbrance for a period of twenty (20) years from the issuance of the Certificate of Condonation or CLOA,” the bill added.
With this development, it would now only take the Senate’s passage of a similar bill and the President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s signature to make the condoning of ARB debts — a promise of the Chief Executive — a reality.
The said bill is one of the 18 bills approved on third reading by the House on Monday — two days before it is set to go on a break for the holiday season.