By Delon Porcalla Updated December 21, 2008 12:00 AM
[ philstar.com ]
Administration congressmen led by Speaker Prospero Nograles defended the lawmaker-son of President Arroyo on insinuations he led the approval of a “watered down” version of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in the House of Representatives.
Nograles insisted Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, the eldest son of Mrs. Arroyo, is just one vote in the 238-member chamber.
He said Arroyo, just like his colleagues in the House, voted on their own judgment on the issue.
Nograles said Arroyo and the rest of the majority who voted on the joint resolution on CARP “made their own collective decision not just one sector or group.”
Nograles denied claims made by Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo alleging it was the younger Arroyo who spearheaded the move to kill CARP.
A senior lawmaker, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, said Ocampo’s allegation against Arroyo was an “insult to House members who use their own mind and conscience in deciding on pending legislation.”
Suarez called the allegations “utterly baseless, unfair and irrational.”
“To say that we were led by Mikey to dismiss the CARP is completely insulting to us. The plenary voting results are based on the discernment of individual House members. No one can dictate to us on what particular stand we should take,” Suarez reiterated.
“We always think of what is best for the people and the nation during the voting process.”
Suarez, chairman of the House committee on oversight, added Arroyo has always demonstrated his keen support for the CARP extension.
“He firmly believes that farmers ought to own the land they till.”
“To accuse him, therefore, as the leader of the landlord lobby in the House is as ridiculous as it is repulsive,” Suarez said.
Suarez defended Arroyo and called on critics to bring the issue before the courts if they cannot accept the decision of Congress to adopt the joint resolution extending CARP for six more months.
Another administration stalwart, Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez, said Ocampo’s allegation was absolutely baseless because Arroyo has no power nor intention at all to spearhead the dismissal of the CARP extension measure.
“Even if he is the son of the President, granting for the sake of argument that he has that power, it is highly illogical that he would spearhead such move knowing that the drive for genuine agrarian reform is the legacy of his late grandfather, President Diosdado Macapagal,” he said.
Alvarez, chairman of the House committee on trade and industry, said critics should respect the decision of the House and Senate to extend the CARL until June instead of resorting to name-calling to demean lawmakers.
“We’ve made a decision and they should respect it, otherwise they should bring their case to the court,” he said.
The Senate and the House of Representatives separately approved Tuesday the joint resolution to extend CARP for another six months.
But critics said the passage of the joint resolution does not implement the original intent of the CARP law because it would only cover agricultural lands that owners would voluntarily sell or distribute to farmers, or which are called voluntary offer to sell (VOS) and voluntary land transfer (VOT).
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of the joint resolution, said the exclusion of private agricultural lands was a “virtual requiem for the program.”
Lagman said the approval of the joint resolution, adopting the proposal to exclude private agricultural lands became “a preview of the eventual demise of CARP.”
Lagman originally proposed to extend CARP to five years to allow the government to complete its remaining land acquisition and distribution program for the farmers.
But the House had approved a “watered down” version of the joint resolution by adopting the proposal to exclude private agricultural lands, as some lawmakers proposed the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component of the CARP must be stopped while the resolution is in effect.
The Senate also approved the joint resolution, adopting the proposal that there would be no new land acquisition under the CARP even if it were extended by Congress for six months.
Some congressmen led by Ocampo, however, walked out of the plenary session during the approval of the joint resolution extending the CARP.
Ocampo and Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño slammed the approval of the joint resolution by claiming it was a “shotgun legislation that has killed the anti-peasant CARP.”