On the occasion of the 25th anniversary oft the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), Task Force Mapalad (TFM)organized a peaceful protest in line with the non-violent approach upon which the organization relies .
It was back in 1988 when President Corazon C. Aquino launched the CARP. Now, 25 years later, almost 3,000 Human Rights Defenders of TFM gathered at the Lagoon in Bacolod City on June 10 in order to claim their rights.
After marching along the City Hall and the Fountain of Justice the participants gathered in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform and collectively acclaimed the Government’s president carrying banners with the following motto: „Pinoy, Fulfil your Promises, Pinoy, no more excuses“.
After the protest, TFM had organized a dialogue with several officials of the Department of Agricultural Reform (DAR) to support their claims and demands with arguments and facts. As of today, it has still only be a fraction of the Promised Land that has been transferred to the farmers. This is why they demand from President Benigno Aquino III to keep up to his promises and install the missing lands effectively implementing the agrarian reform program. „We will no longer wait for the president to act; we will move him to action“ says TFM Negros Präsident Alberto Jayme.
Even if those Human Rights Defenders we talked to during the demonstration have high expectations in President Aquino, they are also aware of the fact that „it has been 25 years of the government’s CARP and still vast haciendas remain undistributed“.
Fulfill your promises
Due to this unbearable situation, TFM alredy organized several protests and other actions in the past, such as the hunger strike in Manila last year, which seeked to remind the President of his poor performance in the area of agrarian reform and agricultural productivity.
The example named above was one of the rare achievements when it comes to major concessions from the President, as he agreed to interact personally with the Human Rights Defenders during a meeting in Manila in June 2012. As a result of that encounter, he made some promises to the protesting TFM-Members. Among other things, he ensured a large annual budget allocation and promised to mobilize the military and the police to guarantee a peaceful installation of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARB). However, the most important commitment was to „fully implement CARP by 2014“.
In his online short biography President Aquino also acknowledges his „willingness“ to bring the CARP forward: „My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have travelled far on the right path.“
Regarding his poor balance fulfilling his promises there is not much hope for the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries and Human rights defenders that he will finally stick to his own believe and accelerate the implementation of the CARP.
No more excuses
By the time the former President ended his legislature, the Government had in total only distributed a small fraction of land. Summing up the land that was not transferred then plus the land Aquino himself must distribute during his governing period, he is still in charge to perform the installation of over 1 million hectars of assigned land during his term. Yet until december 2012 he was not even close to this number. The government had distributed only a humble 21% which represents the worst score since the CARP was launched in 1988.
On top of that, the advocacy group Sulong-Carper revealed that the Aquino administration had been trying to cover its failure by pretending to have distributed more land than they had in reality. Sulong-Carper’s letter to President Aquino May 28, 2013 argues that his administration claimed to have distributed 113,866 hectares last year but official records of the Land Registration Authority (LRA) showed that the government only distributed 59,837 hectares.
This is the main reason for the scepticism surrounding the President current promises of 1 million ha. to be installed until the CARP funding expires in June 2014. The prospect is consequently often assessed as remote.
Inspite of this failure, the Department of Agrarian Reform still claims to have „undertaken enough measures and reforms necessary to complete the land distribution“. According to DAR Undersecretary for Operations, Jose Z. Grageda, the DAR „remains optimistic that the balance of „carpable“ lands will be acquired by the DAR and distributed to qualified beneficiaries before June 2016“. Furthermore they presented the recently distributed Hacienda Victoria (Nach einem Jahr warten: Menschenrechtsverteidiger können ihre Felder wieder betreten ) as „part of the DAR´s ongoing efforts“. From the ARB´s perspective, the case Victoria rather represents an exeptional case of succesful installations.
Furthermore, Aquino accepts that some DAR employees who are not in favor of the ARBs do not feel pressured by the government to implement its orders.
The current situation concerns TFM as the June protest march shows: „The DAR´s failure to efficiently pursue its function for several years caused a huge backlog.“ The slow pace of some DAR officers might lead to the assumption that the agrarian institution just wait to be laid off with a compensation payment by the end of the CARP funding.
TFM member Gerry said during the protest: „We do not only hope that the President will stick to his promises but we expect him to act immediately. We are already organizing the next nationwide protest campaign in case Aquino does not react. He must do everything in his power to show that he means business!“
The HRD of TFM have proven once again their commitment to the use of non-violent protest. Like the Protest march in 2011 which was also accompanied by IPON fortunately the protest march was not interrupted by any inconveniences and the HRD were able to protest peacefully.
However, IPON is concerned about the insufficient commitment of the DAR and the President towards human rights. As during the process of distribution many land conflicts arise and HRDs are especially endangered a quick implementation of the CARP and a succesfull distribution of land is necessary to improve the human rights situation in Negros Occidental.