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Solons deny landlord interests in blocking Carp bills

/ 07:49 PM March 09, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – Some lawmakers who were included on the supposed list of anti-Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp)  bills in Congress denied blocking the proposed measure to protect landlord interests, saying the agrarian program needs to be scrutinized first.

They were reacting to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, which cited a Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) document listing 44 congressmen, and women who were against House Bill 4296, which would extend the program for another two years, and House Bill 4375, which would create an Agrarian Reform Commission.

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Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer, who was on the list, denied protecting any landlord interests, adding that he does not know any landlord pressure in the lower chamber to block the bills.

“I don’t know that issue. For me, wala tayong pinoproteksyunan dyan. In fact, everything under my family is under Carp,” Ferrer said, noting that at least 800 hectares of his family’s land were placed under Carp.

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Ferrer added, however, that even landlords were not justly compensated under Carp.

“On the part of the landlords, (the issue is) just compensation. Mababa ang valuation ng land. Talagang may opposition dyan,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer said instead of the passage of the bill, Congress should focus on providing services to farmers who were awarded with parcels of land under the program.

“The Carp has been around for decades now and has failed miserably in bringing our farmers out of poverty. What has resulted is that the lands that were distributed to them have remained unproductive…” Ferrer said.

“I am not against Carp but the manner of implementation,” he added.

Asked for any landlord pressure in the chamber, Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, who was also on the list, said “I am not aware of such moves from my colleagues.

Garcia said the two bills need to be “extensively discussed and deliberated upon” by the House agrarian committee, of which she was a member.

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Negros Occidental Rep. Alberto Benitez urged the DAR to “produce the list and show its basis.”

Asked for comment on criticisms against the landed Visayan bloc in Congress, which he heads for supposedly blocking the bill, Benitez said “Makabayan bloc (is) also blocking the Carp. Why Visayan bloc only?”

Also included on the list were the seven-member Makabayan bloc, including Anakpawis Representative Fernando Hicap who represents poor farmers in Congress.

In a statement, Akbayan-allied groups condemned a so-called “landlord-Makabayan bloc alliance” to block the agrarian reform extension bills.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the apparent unholy alliance forged in Congress by the landlord bloc composed of Visayan congressional representative and the Makabayan bloc… This marriage of political expediency and opportunism serves as a stumbling block to the full implementation of agrarian reform… The Makabayan bloc seems keen on building a track record of sabotaging reform,” the statement read.

Sought for reaction, Hicap denied making an alliance with landlord congressmen, adding that the militant bloc opposed Carp extension because it is pushing for its Genuine Agrarian Reform bill.

“There is no unholy alliance. Anakpawis and the Makabayan bloc’s basis for opposing Carp extension is fundamentally different from the basis of landlord congressmen. Akbayan is pushing for the extension of a law that had already expired but had been proven bankrupt,” Hicap said.

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