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Senate to pass CARP extension bill before sessions end


Updated May 25, 2009 12:00 AM [ philstar.com ]

MANILA, Philippines - Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri assured farmers yesterday that the Senate will pass a bill seeking to expand the agrarian reform program before Congress goes on recess on June 5.

Speaking over radio, Zubiri said the bill would be approved after second and third reading within the week.

“We are not thinking of a joint resolution to extend for another six months the CARP Law,” he said. “We have contingency for that scenario.”

Zubiri said many landowners whose properties have been covered by the previous CARP have yet to be paid by the government.

“We are not communist and just take away the lands from them,” he said. “We want just compensation for the landowners.”

Farmers, Catholic bishops and non-government organizations will hold a rally in front of the House of Representatives in Quezon City tomorrow to pressure lawmakers to immediately pass the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reform bill.

Speaking over Catholic Church-run Radyo Veritas, Father Anton Pascual, Caritas Manila executive director, said protesters will march to the Batasang Pambansa after a Holy Mass, celebrated by Bishop Broderick Pabillo, in St. Peter’s Church on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.

“What we are afraid of is that Congress would rush its passage at the last minute so that farmers and church workers cannot watch out for and question so-called killer amendments or poison pills,” he said.

Pabillo is the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action Peace and Justice head.

The rally organizers expect to mobilize two million protesters for tomorrow’s mass action.

Meanwhile, farmers and fisher folk will charge Speaker Prospero Nograles and top security officials of the House of Representatives before the Commission on Human Rights for Friday’s violent dispersal of protesters at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.

The complainants are the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), and Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK).

Police officers and security guards at the Batasan dismantled the groups’ makeshift camp in front of the Batasan gates and reportedly beat up some farmers.

The groups had been camping outside the Batasan for over a month and pushing for the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).

Charges of human rights violation will also be filed against House Secretary-General lawyer Marilyn Yap, Sergeant-at-Arms Brig. Gen. Hortacio Lactao, and Legislative Security Bureau executive director Isabelito Flores, as well as police and security guards who took part in the violent dispersal.

KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos said the camp-out protest was peaceful and the rural people were exercising their democratic rights, when the House leadership and the office of the House secretary-general ordered the dispersal of protesters.

“We were told to remove the right side of the camp-out to allow the people to see the seal of the House of Representatives,” he said.

“We followed that agreement. But it seems the militarist quartet of Nograles, Yap, Lactao and Flores were all determined to remove the camp-out and terrorize the peasant activists, that’s why they did not honor the agreement and went on with their extreme project of state brutality and state fascism against the well-organized and well-disciplined farmers and fisherfolk.”

Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice-chairman for Luzon, said the protesting farmers and fisherfolk numbered about 150, mostly women, children and elderly people.

During the dispersal nine people were seriously injured and brought to East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City, he added.

Injured were Antonio Flores, 60, spokesperson of KMP; Marlyn Marbella, staff of KMP; Rommel Forbes, 18, of Nnara-Youth; Oscar Lapida Jr., 47, of Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog; Merly Ortega of Calatagan, Batangas; Jeffrey Duran, 15, of Cavite; Ronnel Arambulo, 27, member of Pamalakaya-Rizal;and Biboy Nayve, 16, and Roldan Padit, 21, both members of Anakbayan-Cavite.

“The violent dispersal of rural people as authored and orchestrated by Nograles and his company of political charlatans and militarist hooligans certifies that the House of Representatives is not the House of people’s representatives, but House of agents of state terrorism,” France said.

Meanwhile, farmers belonging to the peasant federation Task Force Mapalad (TFM), who were hurt during a dispersal Thursday at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), have filed a complaint against Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and DAR security guards before the CHR.

Based on their complaint, the TFM farmers accused Pangandaman of using “excessive force for no apparent reason.”

The farmers said they were merely telling the security guards that they wanted an audience with Pangandaman to discuss “urgent concerns” when the security guards allegedly started to beat them.

The move by former lawmaker Herminio Teves to evict the 30 farmer-beneficiaries installed in his former 60-hectare property in Negros Oriental and the processing of 18 landholdings under voluntary offer to sell (VOS) scheme in Negros Occidental, are among the urgent concerns they wanted to discuss with Pangandaman, he added.

Edna Sobrecaray, TFM spokesperson, denounced Pangandaman for “acting like a thug and treating the farmers like disposable rugs.”

“Maybe he thinks that if he can beat a well-to-do person at the golf course, he can beat the poor and humble farmers outside his office,” she said. – Katherine Adraneda, Dennis Carcamo

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