The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and civil society pressed for Malacanang to extend by two years the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) which is set to expire in June this year.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, said that the government has been underperforming in land acquisition and distribution.
Pabillo and that the government should give two more years to meet its target, especially since close to one million hectares of land is still pending for coverage five months before the program will expire.
Christian Monsod of Sulong CARPER joined the CBCP in push for a legislation that will provide additional time for the Department of Agrarian Reform to complete the issuance of notices of coverage.
Government data revealed that DAR was only able to issue NOCs covering 314,422 hectares from the 1.2 million hectares of agricultural lands covered by CARP from July 2010 to July 2013.
The church leaders said giving CARP two more years will coincide with the remaining two years of Pnoy’s term and “will assure a lasting legacy of the centerpiece program of former President Corazon Aquino.”
They also asked the President to create an independent commission to audit the performance of DAR as well as order a comprehensive investigation of human rights violation and alleged land-grabbing cases in rural communities.
“Among other purposes, the (proposed) Commission would look into the lands that avoided or circumvented the law, such as the use of dummies in Voluntary Land Transfers (VLTs), unwarranted exemptions and conversions, excessive retentions, fake “joint ventures”, and take steps to have them declared null and void and subject the lands to coverage and distribution,” the group said.
The group also expressed apprehension over the alarming increase of human rights violations and land-grabbing incidents involving land redistribution cases.
“As CARPER’s land acquisition and distribution component approaches its deadline, more attacks against small farmers are taking place. Between 2012 and 2013, there has been a 4.6 percent increase in the number of cases filed at the Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, while numerous cancellations of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA’s) have occurred, most notably in Quezon province,” they added.
Both the church and advocates group requested the government to condone all unpaid amortizations of delinquent farmer-beneficiaries and make future land distribution free of charge.
They said that freeing the farmers from the burden of paying amortization is a “matter of social justice.”
“The inability of the farmers to meet their amortization payments arises mainly from the underfunding of CARP which resulted in inadequate support services and capacity-building of farmer beneficiaries. The farmers have been on the short end of these shortcomings and the condonation and free distribution will inject new life into what objective analysts consider to be the least successful, if not abject failure, of the Philippine agrarian reform program compared to those of other countries in our part of the world,” they said.
Funding for CARP should have been P255 million for its first 20 years of implementation but Congress only allotted P175 billion.
Meanwhile, P150 billion was earmarked for CARPER but actual budget fell short.