Local News: FARMERS DEMANDING CARP IMPLEMENTATION NABBED BY COPS AFTER A RALLY
Seventy-one Negros Occidental farmers who staged a lightning rally in Talisay City were held by policemen on Saturday and prevented from seeing President Aquino, who was scheduled to attend a Liberal Party (LP) meeting in the city.
The farmers, all members of Task Force Mapalad (TFM), breached the tight security and brandished placards and distributed a manifesto demanding that the President take over the job of distributing 135,000 hectares of land in Negros to them.
Police swooped down on the rallyists after they held a 30-minute program to dramatize their demand for the quicker implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) in Negros Island.
The farmers were held by the police but freed 30 minutes later in what TFM believed was an operation designed to prevent them from being seen by Aquino, who has maintained that CARPER is proceeding apace under the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
TFM has formally asked President Aquino to act with dispatch on pending agrarian reform cases in Negros and assailed the purported approval of 11 stock distribution options (SDOs) that the Supreme Court (SC) had already ruled as a scheme by landlords to avoid CARPER coverage.
The protesting farmers insisted that Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes has been plodding on land acquisition and distribution (LAD) and noted that many of the haciendas in Negros had not been issued notices of coverage.
President Aquino’s taking charge of land distribution was raised by the farmers as they have grown disillusioned with the failure of DAR to pursue its land acquisition and distribution (LAD) function for several years, causing a huge backlog and raising fears it would not be able to fulfill its mandate by 2014.
By taking charge of the land distribution, the President will be serving notice that he is dead serious in pursuing agrarian reform and redeeming his pledge to accomplish the targets of the program.
Talisay City is one of the hotbeds of agrarian unrest in the country and demanded that he take a hand in distributing vast estates covered by CARPER.
Hacienda Anita, a 220-hectare estate, is located in Barangay Concepcion, Talisay City, and the farmers did not waste time by assembling there in the hope that they could see the President to air their appeal of revoking the SDO in the hacienda and distribute land to farmers like in the case of Hacienda Luisita.
The farmers decried the failure of De los Reyes to redeem his promise to distribute a big chunk of land in Negros in March.
TFM-Negros president Alberto Jayme scored DAR for increasing, rather than decreasing, its LAD backlog, saying the failure of the department to pursue its distribution function in earnest squanders the President’s political capital.
Not only TFM-Negros but also Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chief of the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), was dismayed by the DAR record.
"The Aquino administration has one of the worst records in land distribution," Pabillo stressed during a meeting with farmers camped out in front of the DAR main office in Quezon City.
Last Thursday, more than 1,000 Negros farmers also marched to the DAR office in Bacolod City to demand the breakup of sugar estates and criticize the slow distribution rate of CARPER nationwide.
Negros farmers are mounting another protest tomorrow in Bacolod City to press the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to break up sugar estates and distribute the land to the tillers.
Since July 2011, TFM claimed that DAR has not made a dent on its commitment to distribute 1.093 million hectares of agricultural land.
Ninety-four percent of these lands are privately owned. More than 33 percent of these are large landholdings, or properties 24 hectares and bigger.
Jayme stressed that in Negros Occidental alone, 135,199 hectares have not been distributed, and no notices of coverage (NOCs) had been issued on these estates.
A total of 39,604 hectares of estates 50 hectares and bigger are yet to be distributed under Phases 1 and 2A of the LAD, he noted.
For Phases 2B and 3A covering estates 25 hectares up to 49.9 hectares, Negros Occidental tops the list with 81,182 hectares still to be acquired and distributed, Jayme revealed.
Phase 3B, the last component of LAD, covers properties that are 5 hectares to 24.9 hectares. Exactly 14,413 hectares still have to be distributed among agrarian reform beneficiaries.
All told, Negros Occidental accounts for more than 10 percent of the total area under LAD, Jayme stressed.*