Monday, June 16, 2008

Extending a milking cow, or is it?

THE big majority of legislators are landed or at least conveniently under the influence of those who own tracks of them. This being the case, anything that will go against the interest of landlords, or so they are aptly called because of the power and influence that are as vast as their lands, will definitely grapple with anything but a walk in the park.

The Executive Department is of the same mould. Being political, all its decisions will be made according to the dictates and the best interests of politics. Its performance of certifying as urgent the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) on the day that the legislators were to trash it out was a tactical chameleon that upheld the political logic. While Mang Andoy thought that Gloria Arroyo was being too sympathetic with the plight of the poor farmers, the Yulos of Laguna, Floirendos of Davao, the Cojuancos and the Arroyos of Negros were not even pouring wine to celebrate their victory that has long been theirs. They knew that politics and all its schemes bite harder that the romanticists who talk about the interests of the poor and the pursuit of the common good.

But worse is the situation of the poor that drew a wedge among themselves. The socialists think that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is overburdened with loopholes to beg for a little success. Hence, their militant constituency would rather aim for a Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) which is about stewardship or a kind of land allocation program for farmer-beneficiaries as a socialist philosophy would have it. The reformists, on the other hand, sees CARP as the more feasible and blames its implementor, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the leadership, for the anomalies that kept the program riddled with holes and at the verge of disaster.

A Fifty-Billion-Peso allocation will theoretically make any program such as CARP a whooping success. But reportedly most of it were “reallocated”, which is a mild term for stolen, to something else such as ghost NGOs traceable to the highest officers of the land. Accountability may be, in fact, a bigger issue than just reform. Which is why, some say that extending CARP is like extending the life of a milking cow.

Be that as it may, but the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is of extending CARP with reforms—and that, for a very serious reason: the poor. “The long neglect of agriculture, most acutely expressed in the current rice and food crisis, has articulated clearly the disadvantaged plight of the small farmer,” says Cagayan Archbishop Antonio Ledesma. SJ.

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