June 10, 2008 (MALAYA) THE government's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program is expiring today.

Farmers who consider it a failure said they will hold a funeral service at Mendiola Bridge; those who think otherwise said they will continue to put pressure on Congress to hold a special session to extend the program, while the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said it will hold a mass, also for extension.

CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said they want CARP extended in principle but without any funding yet pending the submission of a report on how its funds were spent. Lagdameo said the CBCP National Rural Congress committee will sponsor the mass this morning at the National Shrine of St. Michael and the Archangels near Malacaņang. Expected to attend are pro-CARP extension legislators, government officials and other advocate groups. Its organizer is the CBCP's National Rural Congress committee.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said they will not mourn the bogus CARP's death. "In fact, we have considered this anti-farmer program dead since Day One," KMP chairman and incoming Anakpawis congressman Rafael Mariano said.

Farmers from Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Central and Northern Luzon who are allied with KMP put up a sign saying "Farmers' Camp Against CARP Extension and for Genuine Agrarian Reform" at the Department of Agrarian Reform last night, and would march from the DAR to Mendiola Bridge today. KMP said the sham CARP, the country's 11th agrarian reform program, deserves to be sent to the archives along with its 10 predecessors.

The group said the "bogus" CARP failed because like past agrarian reform programs, it catered to the interests of big landlords and foreign agro-corporations to maintain monopoly and control over vast tracts of land. It added that DAR failed to account for how its funds were spent in 20 years, failed to account for how many farmers were displaced, and how many lands were grabbed due to CARP-granted exemptions, reclassification, conversion, bigay-bawi scheme, and non-land transfer schemes like the stock distribution option, joint ventures, contract growing and the likes.

KMP claimed that even the DAR records indicated that from 1979 to Dec. 31, 2003, there were 2,885 approved applications for conversion involving 40,485.9124 hectares of agricultural lands, while the National Statistics Office in 2002 cited that 827,892 hectares of agricultural land had been converted to other uses.

According to IBON Foundation, more than 2,000 Emancipation Patents and Certificates of Land Ownership Award, covering 380,000 hectares of land, were cancelled by the middle of 2004.

"The bogus CARP will continue to be a milking cow of big landlords as 60 percent of the P100 billion budget (should the extension push through) will go to just compensation, and with the notorious bigay-bawi scheme, taxpayers' money will only go to big landlords," Mariano said as he pushed for the approval instead of House Bill 3059, or the "Genuine Agrarian Reform Act" filed by the party list bloc in the House.

Farmers from Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Calabarzon) led by Samahang Magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama TK) held a rally outside the Ayala Land office in Makati to protest alleged land-grabbing by the Ayalas of 97 hectares of Hacienda Fule and 7,100 hectares of Hacienda Yulo in Calatagan, Batangas.

Kasama TK secretary general Orly Marcellana said they have protest camps in Cavite, Laguna and Quezon and have also sent a delegation to Batasan to convince lawmakers not to support any extension for CARP.

Task Force Mapalad said its members are still pushing for a special session that will hopefully be declared by President Arroyo today or tomorrow. "We've been filling the House gallery for two weeks now. Those who held a sitdown strike at (Speaker Prospero) Nograles' office, that was us. On Tuesday (today), there will be a mob at the House composed of our members and other groups and we also have allies who will stay at DAR," he said in Filipino.

TFM said they expect a thousand more from the Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon, Rizal, Batangas, Laguna, Iloilo to show full support for the extension. "Sana huwag hayaan ni PGMA na mamatay sa kanyang kamay ang repormang agraryo, para lahat ito ng mga magsasakang walang lupa sa buong bansa," the group said. - Randy Nobleza with Gerard Naval

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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