SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Anakpawis Party list Rep. Ariel Casilao has filed a bill seeking to implement a genuine land reform program to address the four-decade old problem in the country.
Casilao said House Bill 555 or the proposed Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) would be a holistic approach to resolve the landlessness problem of poor Filipino farmers in the countryside.
“The main goal of GARB is to distribute the agricultural lands to the farmers at no cost to the beneficiaries,” Casilao said.
Casilao said GARB essentially propounds some of the more consequential social reforms that may help in the eventual resolution of the ongoing armed conflict in the country.
According to Casilao, the continuing land monopoly and control of a few landlord families shows that the bogus CARP was not meant to break land monopoly and was instead implemented only to appease peasant unrest in the countryside, a classic counter-insurgency stratagem to create an illusion of land reform.
Casilao said in more than four decades, the government’s agrarian reform has been marred with human rights violations against farmers who, in asserting their rights to the land, have endlessly been subjected to human rights abuses.
Casilao said peasant leaders have been charged with trumped-up cases and condemned to languish in prison, adding that, “peasants have been killed, individually, or by way of infamous massacres as what had transpired in Escalante in Negros, Lumil in Silang, Cavite; Palo in Leyte; Mendiola, Hacienda Luisita, and, very recently, in Kidapawan.”
Casilao said GARB will replace CARPER or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms that has been proven to be a bane rather that a boon for the Filipino farmers.
“The bill proposes free land distribution to all qualified beneficiaries. When enacted, the new agrarian reform law shall cover all agricultural lands, thus practically rendering land conversion illegal and revoking all previous unjust decrees on exemption and exclusion,” Casilao said.
He said the bill seeks to institutionalize a thoroughgoing program of State support and subsidy to land reform beneficiaries in all the important aspects of agricultural production, including the promotion of cooperativism.
Casilao said GARB would break up land monopoly and implement free, fair, just and equitable distribution of the lands within a five-year period and eliminate all forms of oppression and exploitation in the countryside and thereby usher the advent of genuine social justice.
The bill will transform the farmer-beneficiaries into efficient producers through the institution of an integrated, comprehensive, and holistic program of support services and other state subsidies that will nurture them toward improving their productive capabilities.
“This will increase the income of farmer-beneficiaries and raise their living standard through the promotion of cooperatives and other forms of mutual-aid as the main vehicle for improving their productivity,” Casilao said.
Casilao said the proposed bill will cover all lands operated as agribusiness plantations by transnational corporations (TNCs), commercial farms, agricultural estates including those which are presently under various schemes considered as alternative to land transfer, and aquaculture, pasture, cattle and livestock farms which are not actually, directly and exclusively used for livestock, poultry and swine as of the effectivity of this Act.
Under the bill, all agricultural lands already distributed by Presidential Decree No. 27 and Republic Act 6657, as amended by RA 9700, but have passed into the ownership, possession or control of persons or corporations which are not qualified beneficiaries as mentioned in this Act, including lands distributed but placed under various schemes and modes of accessing the land to foreign and local corporations.
All landless farmers who have not received any land from all previous agrarian reform programs, tenants and leaseholders in tenanted private agricultural lands.
The sale, mortgage, transfer or any conveyance or disposition of the lands awarded to farmer-beneficiaries shall be prohibited except where the transfer is by hereditary succession. In the case of transfer by hereditary succession, the land shall be given to the heir who is willing to personally till the land and the most needy among the children of the farmer-beneficiary.
If the farmer-beneficiary can no longer till the land for one reason or another, he/she shall turn over the land to the farmers’ organization or cooperative existing in the barrio or municipality. The farmers’ organization or cooperative shall then select the most qualified farmer-beneficiary with preference to the heirs who are most needy and are willing to till the land.
The State shall implement a program for the delivery of support services to farmer-beneficiaries which shall be based on a holistic approach to human and social development and integrated into the land distribution program with the long term end view of increasing the productivity of farmer-beneficiaries in order to transform them into cooperatives or organizations of efficient member-producers.
The program of support services shall consist of credit facilities, production support, post-harvest, market access and market price guarantees and such other services necessary to make their production viable and increase their income. The credit facility shall have an interest rate affordable to the farmer-beneficiaries and shall make full use of alternative collateral systems that do not put up as collateral the land of farmer-beneficiaries.