Farmers demand for CARP extension, urge DAR to shape up

A group picketed the DAR regional office while another called a press conference here Wednesday as farmer organizations from around Mindanao expressed dismay over the failure of agrarian reform in the country almost two decades after the creation of CARP.

The separate actions, however, meant similar demands –the extension of CARP after the end of its 10-year extension period next year and for the DAR to shape up, cleanse its ranks of alleged crooks, and speed up land distribution before 2008.

More than a hundred farmers belonging to Task Force Mapalad from Davao Oriental came for the DAR picket and "greet" officials in the event marked with a month-long celebration focused on "success stories."

The group tried to padlock DAR’s gates, staged a die-in picket, and did a symbolic blood compact to show frustration and discontent over the department's alleged incompetence to beat the deadline to implement land distribution with piling backlogs.

Task Force Mapalad is the same peasant federation with two members in Negros Occidental who died in a spate of killings in Hacienda Velez Malaga in La Castellana town.

The group was allowed to enter the compound for a dialogue with Rodolfo Inson, DAR regional director, late afternoon as picketers decry DAR's failure to subject haciendas (agricultural estates) owned by "influential and untouchable" landowners to CARP.

Inson told MindaNews in a telephone interview they did their job but they have to balance the concerns of both the landowners and the beneficiaries following due process.

The group has demanded DAR to "do its homework," citing 19 years of waiting for land redistribution and those who got their land titles were subjected to harassment and violence allegedly espoused by affected landowners.

The group cited inconsistencies in the implementation with beneficiaries detained in Governor Generoso town, Davao Oriental for occupying an area covered by a Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) DAR gave.

The group showed slow process of coverage of five haciendas in the province, including estates owned by the Bitoon, LN Lopez, Maonao, Tolentino, and Yrasuegui families.

TFM Davao organizer Abel Nayal said in statement that DAR has become a hostage to the interests of elite landowners and accused the Arroyo administration of putting agrarian reform in the sideline.

Nayal said it is DAR's responsibility to ensure the safety of farmers in acquiring their land against landlords who allegedly use force to resist agrarian reform.

The group demanded adequate support services, including credit to agrarian reform beneficiaries in non-agrarian reform communities as well as areas that received limited support.

"Most of all, we demand the extension of CARP implementation beyond 2008 and urge DAR to take a sprint to the line before the 2008 deadline," a statement from the group said.

On the other hand, a group of eight leaders of farmers' organizations from five regions in Mindanao met the press at a conference room in the office of the Alternative Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM) to urge DAR to speed up its land acquisition and distribution targets.

The group also called for the immediate resolution of all agrarian cases under DAR’s adjudication board before June next year.

"We strongly demand the DAR to internally clean its rank first and validate its so-called accomplishments," the group said in a press statement.

The group alleged that most of the lands distributed under Voluntary Land Transfer and Voluntary Offer to Sell as fraught with anomaly.

The group also called for lifestyle check of DAR officials, some of whom they accused of conniving with landowners causing the delay of agrarian reform process.

The group also considered cases filed against farmer-beneficiaries filed by landowners as a major stumbling block to agrarian reform.

The group's spokesperson, Harold Berayo, from KASAMA KA-Mindanao, said they desire more the real agrarian reform wherein farmers will own, have access to and control of their land without the current hardships encountered by farmer beneficiaries.

The group outlined at least 12 proposed amendments to Republic Act 6657 (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law) and policy thrusts they will pass to advocacy groups in order to be integrated in bills poised to be filed for the extension of CARP once Congress opens session in July.

CARP was created by the enactment of RA 6657 in June 1988. When the law expired in 1998, and with the government not even halfway through the program, Congress passed RA 8532, which extended the program for another 10 years.