The House of Representatives has just passed a joint resolution which said that the land acquisition and distribution component of CARP would not expire on June 10 Tuesday but on December 31, 2008. Malacañang, for its part, signified that the resolution is an “urgent certified measure.” The Senate has yet to take up the matter.
What happened was a delaying tactic designed to muster more support for the beleaguered measure. However, there is a strong possibility that time may well run out on it. Despite all efforts from the Church and civil society supporters, as well as GMA’s increasingly ineffective intervention, the landlords and the Communist Party of the Philippines may possibly have their way in depriving the Filipino peasants a viable process to own their lands at present.
For all its defects, the Comprehensive Land Reform Law has historically been the only law that enabled a significant majority of the Filipino peasants to own the land they tilled. Against the frantic and sometimes violent objections of landlords, CARP implementation has now covered more than 70% of the initial target. The main effort therefore is to continue this trend and plug the loopholes created by the landlords.
To a large extent, this is covered by the present House Bill 4077 which targets five reform areas: 1) the funding and extension of land acquisition and distribution, 2) strengthening gender parity in the program and recognize women as program beneficiaries and mandating gender-responsive support services, 3) recognition of the exclusive jurisdiction of DAR in AR-related cases, 4) the reinforcement of legal standing of farmers in legal cases, and 5) the indefeasibility of CLOAs and emancipation patents.
Of course, as in any contentious legislation of a divided body as the Philippine Congress, there will be compromises. However, on balance, if a measure will improve the present situation, then there is a basis for supporting such a measure.
It is in this light that the position taken by those who advocate the so-called “Genuine Agrarian Reform Program” or GARP effectively weakens the interests of the Filipino peasantry. By advocating an extremely radical proposal of giving the peasants “free land”, they seemingly represent their highest interests. However, they well know that this will not get anywhere near a majority support in a landlord-influenced Congress.
What are they then after? The only political logic is a posturing for a “revolutionary” solution to the agrarian reform issue–which is represented by the CPP agrarian revolution proposal. The problem, of course, is that the battleground here is the parliamentary arena, specifically the Philippine Congress, not the “democratic coalition government” or even the “National Democratic Front” led by the CPP. By this position, the GARP advocates try to persuade people of the necessity for their “revolutionary” solution–only attainable, by their own admission, through a protracted “people’s war.”
There is an effective collusion between the landlords and GARP advocates in blocking the extension of CARP, although they come from different motivations. The former wants to hold on to the land; the latter wants to sharpen class contradictions. The former wants to maintain an archaic, feudal and regressive social system which has consigned millions of our peasants to poverty; the latter wants to foist an unrealistic, if seductive, vision in service of a failed strategy.
Failure to have an effective land reform program will certainly sharpen the divide between the rich and the poor, not only in countryside but in the whole country. No one will benefit from this but those who would want the failure of the post-Marcos experiment in democratic governance. Genuine democrats cannot afford to lose this one important battle.