Farmers vow hunger strike as agrarian reform bills being ‘held hostage’ in House
MANILA, Philippines–Farmers from various parts of the country threatened to launch a three-day hunger strike if Congress fails to pass two bills which will extend the implementation of the 27-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).
The hunger strike will commence on March 9 and end on March 11.
In a press conference, Alberto Jayme of Sulong Carper (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms), a national multi-sectoral alliance composed of church and farmers groups, lamented that even President Benigno Aquino III is helpless in pushing for the passage of House Bill No. 4296 and House Bill No. 4375.
The President has previously certified HB 4296 as “urgent” last June.
“It appears that no certification, even if it comes from the highest leader of the land, can easily influence landlord-politicians in Congress to give up their control over vast agricultural landholdings that should have long been awarded to us under the CARP,” Jayme said.
They also named “leaders of Carp killers” in the House of Representatives which are House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales, Negros Occidental 3rd district Representative Alfredo “Albee” Benitez and Iloilo City Representative Jerry Treñas.
Mylene Recodero, a farmer from La Carlota City said that she and her fellow farmers have experienced harassment from land owners for fighting for their right to own land.
Seventy-four bishops have backed the call to pass HB 4296 and HB 4375 into law.
“[W]e appeal to the President to certify urgent and to the members of the two chambers of Congress to immediately pass the two proposed laws,” said the prelates in an earlier statement.
HB 4296 will allow the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to issue notices of coverage and provide additional funding to accomplish land reform for another two years, while HB 4375 provides for the establishment of an “independent Agrarian Reform Commission.”
Sulong CARPER will hold protest actions at the House of Representatives and at the DAR office.
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