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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Defend, Extend and Reform CARP, and Revamp the DAR Bureaucracy

Where UNORKA and PEACE Stand vis-a-vis the Fight for CARP Extension with Reforms

The fate of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is to be determined by December 31, 2008 by legislators who have the capacity to play gods. Enemies of CARP want a New Year without it, while those for CARP wish to celebrate the New Year along with a newfound hope for better lives for rural folks who nurture the land to feed the nation.

We, UNORKA and PEACE, both identify ourselves with those for CARP extension. More specifically, we belong to the broad community that pushes CARP not only to be extended but also reformed. But, most specifically, we take a stand that seems to separate us from the rest: We defend CARP towards its extension and reform and, simultaneously, we push for concrete and lasting reforms in the DAR bureaucracy.

We defend CARP because it was legislated from out of the sweat and blood of farmers. Though not perfect, the program has positive provisions that measure up with the landless tillers' constitutional rights.

Pushing for its extension is a way of defending it, more particularly its principles and positive provisions, around which palpable gains were attained for the landless.

But we do not stop there. We want the kinks and loopholes in the law ironed out and patched off. We join others demanding for meaningful reforms, degree of which depend on the outcome of the battle of interests between the extensionists and terminationists.

While we actively join the fight for CARP Extension with Reforms, we have taken it upon ourselves to carry on the fight for a bureaucracy rid of inefficiency, complacency, and graft and corruption. For CARP has been weak as it is today primarily because of these three problems that is embedded inside the bureaucracy. Time was when CARP delivered palpable gains to the landless because of the DAR leadership that complemented the commitment and capacity of its personnel. This is not to mention the existence of strong social pressure from below that reinforced CARP and DAR strengths.
However, the gains seemed to disintegrate into naught with the advent of new leaders that gave "political appointments" a bad name. CARP's performance came to a halt and later got embroiled in a number of political controversies, including the billion-peso fertilizer scam and the anomalous nationwide hybrid seeds dispersal and irrigation projects that were ill-implemented.

Because of the lack of good governance in agrarian reform, problems multiply and reach unmanageable proportions: a) Reversals in the form of CLOA cancellation, exemptions, and land use conversion, as reinforced by the DOJ Opinion No. 44 and Supreme Court's exemption rulings, b) Land cases that remain unresolved and worse escalate to higher legal battles, and c) Violations of farmers' multi-faceted human rights, as manifested in a series of killing of farmers and continuing harassment of farmers asserting their land rights, among others.

We reiterate our stand. We unceasingly defend CARP towards its extension and reforms. And at the same time, we unceasingly push for concrete and lasting reforms in the bureaucracy. We may have the bureaucracy's leaders, at the very least, as our allies in the defense and extension of CARP. But we definitely lose them in the fight for reforms that are directed at them.

Along with our struggle for the extension of CARP and reforms in the DAR bureaucracy, is our fervent fight for a new year with newfound hope for authentic reforms in the countryside and in society.

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