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2010-2015 Sona Promises: Kept/not yet kept

Sona promises: Has Aquino fully enacted agrarian reform?

By: - Research Section Head / @Inq_Researchers
/ 08:20 PM July 25, 2015

State of the Nation Address 2015

ANGRY messages are attention-grabbers in the protest rallies of militants demanding genuine reforms, like this one during the 26th year of the  Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program  in June held by farmers near the Aquino residence on Times Street in Quezon City. LEO M. SABANGAN II

ANGRY messages are attention-grabbers in the protest rallies of militants demanding genuine reforms, like this one during the 26th year of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in June held by farmers near the Aquino residence on Times Street in Quezon City. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

President Benigno Aquino III has promised to complete the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the centerpiece program of his mother’s administration, before he steps down in 2016. The President has been accused by militants of shielding his family’s Hacienda Luisita from the implementation of agrarian reform.

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As a presidential candidate in May 2010 elections, Mr. Aquino vowed to redistribute the family-owned hacienda in accordance with the law enacted in June 2009 extending CARP for five more years.

BACKSTORY: Aquino asked to reform DAR to complete agrarian reform targets

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Apart from Hacienda Luisita, he pledged to complete the distribution of privately owned lands comprising some of the most productive agricultural estates that have so far escaped coverage of the program promulgated by his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

Months after assuming office, Mr. Aquino said he had “adopted a hands-off policy” on the Hacienda Luisita dispute, saying he had divested himself of his interests in the sugar plantation.

In November 2011, the Supreme Court, voting 14-0, ordered the distribution of the hacienda. In April 2012, the Supreme Court rejected with finality a bid by the family of President Aquino to secure at least P5 billion in compensation for the hacienda, affirming the November ruling basing the value of the sugar plantation in 1989 at around P196 million.

Here are President Aquino’s promises concerning agrarian reform and Hacienda Luisita.

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Promise: Complete CARP by 2016: “My mother initiated the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. It is only just that this program sees its conclusion during my term.” (Sona 2012)

As of June 2014, 466,164 hectares had been distributed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), while 351,886 ha had been distributed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

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As of June 2014, the total CARP balance was 835,228 ha—716,520 for the DAR and 118,768 for the DENR.

The DAR aims to distribute 198,631 ha this year, and the remaining 385,748 ha next year. The DENR plans to complete the distribution of 118,768 ha this year.

BACKSTORY: Half of Luisita tillers now have own farms

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Promise: Turn over Hacienda Luisita lots beginning September 2013 (Sona 2013)

In September 2013, the DAR announced that it would finally begin distributing land titles to more than 6,000 farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita.

As of June 2014, 5,982 farmworkers (out of 6,212) had received their certificate of land ownership awards.

But some farmworkers have been disqualified as land reform beneficiaries, among them leaders of the group that filed the landmark case that led to the distribution of Hacienda Luisita. The DAR said the 125 farmworkers were disqualified for their failure to sign and swear to the required application to purchase and farmer’s undertaking (Apfu), a document containing a list of the obligations of beneficiaries, including paying amortization, under the law.

Some beneficiaries have also reportedly started selling their 6,600-square-meter lots to an Isabela-based Chinese-Filipino businessman. Under the law, the sale of land covered by CARP is prohibited for 10 years after the land has been distributed.

Last month, reports said the President’s family had ceded the Luisita sugar mill Central Azucarera de Tarlac to a new company owned mainly by the family of Cito Lorenzo, who served as agriculture secretary in the Arroyo administration. The move has led to mass layoffs and temporary closure of the mill.

READ: Aquino kin give up sugar mill

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Promise: Serve all notices of coverage (NOCs) for land covered by agrarian reform “in the next year.” (Sona 2013)

As of June 2014, the DAR had issued NOCs for 27,756 landholdings (227,382 ha), while 3,898 landholdings (35,021 ha), out of more than 60,000 landholdings subject to compulsory acquisition, were not issued NOCs due to problems with land records, among others things.

The President certified urgent the NOC Extension Bill, which proposes to extend the issuance of NOCs, receipt of voluntary offers to sell and initiation of petitions for coverage beyond the June 30, 2014, deadline of the extended CARP law.

BACKSTORY: Farmers vow hunger strike as agrarian reform bills being ‘held hostage’ in House

But the bill that would extend CARP are still pending in Congress, where it is reportedly being blocked by wealthy landed lawmakers. Last month, the Negros-based farmers’ group Task Force Mapalad filed a complaint against Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Bantug Benitez, accusing him of using his influence over the Visayas bloc of lawmakers to keep vast farmlands under his family’s control outside the coverage of CARP. Source: Sona 2014 Technical Report, Inquirer Archives, dar.gov.ph

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TAGS: agrarian reform, Benigno Aquino III, Sona 2015, SONA report card, State of the Nation Address
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