Friday, December 19, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]
By Sammy Martin, Reporter
MEMBERS of the House of Representatives on late Wednesday evening adopted “in toto” the Senate version of Joint Resolution 19, which extends the effectivity of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) until June 2009.
However, the extension of CARP until June 2009 is without the compulsory acquisition of new lands for redistribution to landless farmers.
The Senate on Wednesday night adopted the joint resolution in a 14-0 vote before going on recess for the Christmas break.
Malacañang said that it respects the collective judgment of both the Senate and the House in passing the joint resolution that extended CARP for another six months.
Voting 111 to 34 with one abstention, the House adopted and approved on third reading the resolution at 11:14 p.m. Wednesday. Without the approval of the joint resolution by both chambers of Congress, the agrarian reform program would have expired on December 31, 2008.
After Speaker Prospero Nograles announced the voting results and banged his gavel that signaled the start of the Christmas break for Congress, members of Task Force Mapalad expressed their disgust over the latest joint resolution of Congress.
The members of that group have been on hunger strike for 18 days, which ended Thursday upon the prodding of Catholic bishops. The protestors wanted an agrarian reform program that would continue land acquisition for distribution.
The joint resolution allows the use up to June 30, 2009 of agrarian reform funds to provide support services for lands already acquired, and to complete the processing of lands already given notice of acquisition.
Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, withdrew his signature from the resolution because he does not favor an agrarian reform program without compulsory land acquisition.
Earlier, members of the progressive party-list bloc walked out of the session hall when the House leadership resolved to vote without hearing the interpellation of Rep. Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis Party-list.
In a telephone interview, House Majority Leader Rep. Arthur Defensor of Iloilo said that Congress would not hold a special session over the holidays to deliberate the bill seeking to extend the agrarian reform program for another five years.
He said a special session is virtually impossible after both chambers of Congress approved on Wednesday Senate Resolution No. 19 which would extend CARP until June 30, 2009 without new acquisition of lands.
Kaya Natin support extension
Five local government executives who are part of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership led by Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City, Gov. Eddie Panlilio of Pampanga and Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela have expressed support for the pending bill to extend the CARP for another five years.
The group lamented that majority of the country’s farmers continue to live and subsist on less than P100 a day despite the fact that the farmers are responsible for securing the country’s food supply.
However, Panlilio cautioned against the moves of some Congressmen to amend the current CARP law wherein the provision for land acquisition by the government would be stricken out. Under that circumstance, only lands voluntarily surrendered by landowners for the agrarian reform program could be distributed to farmers.
Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd said President Arroyo is prepared to hear the grievances of the farmers regarding CARP extension.
“The Palace is always prepared to answer or respond to their concerns. We met them before asked what their problems were and we were able to address their concerns well but not totally,” he said.
Opposition criticizes extension
The United Opposition (UNO) on Thursday said the decision of Congress to remove the compulsory acquisition component of agrarian reform program’s extension showed legislators yielded to the interest of President Gloria Arroyo.
“Congress has effectively yielded the comprehensive agrarian reform program to landed interests, and no less than the family of Mrs. Arroyo will benefit from this action,” Mayor Jejomar Binay of Makati, also the president of UNO, said in a statement.
Describing the decision of Congress as “clearly contradicting the social justice provision of our Constitution,” Binay said the clear winners of the decision were no less than the family of Mrs. Arroyo and other big landlords, and not the farmers.-- With Cris G. Odronia