The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates welcomes and salutes the thousands of farmers in their 10-day journey from their homes to courageously assert their moral and economic right to the completion by 2014 of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extended with Reforms (CARPer).
In a developing country like the Philippines, “a redistribution of land as part of sound policies of agrarian reform is indispensable”. For a significant percentage of our country’s population, acquiring the land they cultivate is the only way for them to attain the fullest meaning of their dignity and their stepping stone to economic development. And not a few leaders have been victims of extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations for these dreams and objectives.
From Marcos to the present Aquino administration, land distribution was also seen as a political necessity, even if only to address it more as a political ruse than with political will. From then till now, this has been shown in the flagging and failing performance of the state’s obligation of conduct and of result in fulfilling the farmers’ human rights.
Even prodded by people’s protests last February 14, the Aquino administration, instead of accelerating the pace of implementing land acquisition and distribution (LAD) under the CARPer, has even debilitated the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the very executive agency tasked for this obligation, by downsizing its personnel which adversely affected the implementation of CARPer. The farmers pointed out that instead of facilitating, it has even made the process of implementation more tedious and litigious with the issuance of new rules and policies, such as the DAR Administrative Order No. 9 or the Rules for Survey and Field Investigation of Landholdings where DAR and Land Bank are Denied Entry. This has contributed to the huge backlog of 1,093,000 hectares of agricultural lands as of January 2012.
Inclusive growth should mean the movement of CARPer farmer-beneficiaries not to social marginalization but to social equality. This is the farmer-beneficiaries’ right to full human development. Concomitantly, it means addressing determinedly the age-old structural problem of landlordism, unhelpful Administrative Orders (AO 7 & 9 series of 2011) and inefficient budget implementation, long delays in the distribution of land titles and in the notices of coverage, such as the 135,000 hectares in Negros Occidental, as well as the lackadaisical performance of the current DAR Secretary.
PAHRA urges the President to use the same, if not surpass, the political will shown in taking away the corrupting obstacle to justice in the Supreme Court in addressing a
central Philippine concern of agrarian reform and the upliftment of farmer beneficiaries as integral components of social change.
PAHRA calls on all its members, partners, network and on people of goodwill to stand united with the farmer-marchers in their calls:
Hasten the land distribution based on CARPer law under the Aquino Administration;
Accelerate the distribution of the 1.093 million hectares backlog;
Speed up the Notices of Coverage of the remaining 135,000 hectares in Negros Occidental;
Strengthen, if not change, DAR leadership and mechanism to hasten CARPer implementation.