Duterte admin slowest in implementing land reform, Task Force Mapalad claims
In this file photo, agrarian reform beneficiaries work on a farm in Leyte.
Philstar.com, file
Duterte admin slowest in implementing land reform, Task Force Mapalad claims
Ratziel San Juan (Philstar.com) - October 2, 2019 - 1:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration recorded the lowest land acquisition and distribution in its first three years against comparable periods of other administrations, peasant group Task Force Mapalad said, citing government data.

The data, TFM said, was obtained from the Department of Agrarian Reform. The group compared the LAD accomplishment during the first three years of each administration’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program implementation since Corazon Aquino.

It then ranked each administration based on their average annual LAD accomplishment.

Former President Fidel Ramos, who led the list, set a record annual LAD average of 371,006 hectares. His LAD accomplishment is over 10 times greater than President Rodrigo Duterte’s average of only 30,592 hectares distributed yearly.

Since CARP was implemented in 1987 and Ramos was elected president in 1992, there was more land to acquire and distribute during his term.

Teresita Tarlac, president of TFM's Negros-Panay Chapter, said the statistics contradict the president's numerous pronouncements of fast-tracking agrarian reform and land distribution in the country.

“Before and after you won the 2016 elections, you never stopped assuring and inspiring us that you would implement CARP and complete the program’s land distribution phase,” she said, adding, however, that "agency’s dismal LAD record made your administration the slowest of all the administrations that implemented the CARP for the last three decades."

DAR: Record land distribution in 2018

Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones in August urged the department's central and field offices to resolve all pending cases before 2022.

“[Department of Agrarian Reform] has been hard at work to respond to the needs of our farmer-beneficiaries and the directives of President Duterte,” Castriciones said in a statement released to the media then.

A total of 905 cases were resolved by the DAR Adjudication Board, while another 9,896 cases were resolved by field offices, the department said.

The government's Anti-Red Tape Authority also commended DAR's service to farmers in a letter dated July.

Among DAR efforts is the launching of a "Zero-Backlog" program this year through its Agrarian Legal Sector to handle pending cases of previous administrations.

The department also said it set an all-time high record of 60,000 hectares of land distributed with CLOAs in 2018.

“I was informed by no less than (DAR Field Operations Office Undersecretary Karlo Bello) that this appears to be the highest CLOA distribution ever made in the history of Agrarian Reform Program since 1972," Castriciones said in a press briefing.

CLOAs from past admins

TFM, however, said that frequent awarding of certificates of land ownership award (CLOA) does not equate to a high land distribution accomplishment.

It also cited the experience of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in Visayas and Mindanao given CLOAs that were actually land titles subdivided from collective CLOAs awarded by previous administrations.

“While we appreciate the move of the DAR to issue individual CLOAs to CARP beneficiaries, we also hope that the department told the president that many of these CLOAs were part of the LAD accomplishments of past administrations and not new landholdings that were processed for acquisition and distribution to FBs by the current administration,” Tarlac said.

TFM data, which it said it obtained data from the DAR office in Negros Occidental, showed the province had a CARP LAD balance of more than 100,000 hectares as of June 2019.

The group said that agrarian unrest continues in Negros Occidental despite the president's understanding of the situation, and notwithstanding of the "nearly 80 municipal agrarian reform officers in 23 towns and cities" where TFM assists ARBs in their land claim.

Luisita farm workers claim continued harassment

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, in a separate statement, meanwhile sounded the alarm on alleged military harassment of organized farm workers at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

"Essentially, the Duterte government is using the military to intimidate AMBALA (Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita) and its members from asserting their rights to these lands. It is not different from the Aquino’s who he said exempted the land from distribution," UMA said.

Around 120 members of AMBALA, including former chairperson Florida “Pong” Sibayan, were forced by the military's 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion to surrender and to withdraw their alleged support for the Communist Party of the Philipines-New People's Army, UMA Vice-Chairperson Ariel Casilao, former Anakpawis party-list representative, said.

Membership in a farmers' group does not mean membership in or support for communist rebels.

The military accused members of AMBALA of colluding with the CPP-NPA and mobilizing its ranks to rebel against the government.

UMA said this had not been done during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III although it said there were other alleged attempts to suppress the rights of AMBALA members back then.

“Worse, it (the Duterte administration) is using the military to totally crush AMBALA and the struggling residents of Hacienda Luisita to pave the way for further land grabbing in the area.”

Originally a 6,453-hectare property of the Cojuangco clan of which former president Aquino is a member, portions of Hacienda Luisita land have since been sold to private firms.

While the Supreme Court issued a ruling to distribute thousands of hectares of Luisita land in 2013, it remains an area marked by agrarian unrest.

UMA said that land distribution remains a problem in Hacienda Luisita, claiming that this view is shared even by the military.

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