Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Suffer the farmers

THE farmers have been generally peaceful. They walk for hundreds of kilometers, as what those from Sumilao did, and even go as far as do hunger strikes, like what happened in December last year, to peacefully press for the land that justifiably belongs to them.

But the police, and, by command responsibility, this administration have been intolerant and narrow-minded whenever there are rallies conducted by farmers. Last Monday about two thousand farmers together with Manila auxiliary bishop Broderick Pabillo in tow, were hosed down violently with water canons while holding a peaceful rally outside the gates of Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City with no other purpose but to ask legislators to legislate the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) which, anyway, is mandated by the Constitution.

Section 4, Art. XIII of the 1987 Constitution requires the State to “undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farmworkers who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farmworkers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof.”

As if it were not enough, Art II, Sec 21 of the same Constitution explicitly identifies agrarian reform as a State policy that must be given flesh by promulgating enabling laws to make it work and beneficial not only to the farmers but to the whole country that till now, albeit unwillingly, is still agricultural.

Yet, more than the law of the land dictates, agrarian reform is an instrument of social justice and an act of political wisdom, or so says the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (1997). The social teachings of the Church condemn the concentration and misappropriation of land as intrinsically immoral.

But seemingly the country’s lawmakers are so much keen neither about the law nor morals. What weigh down really are the landowners that in this country are, more or less, equated with legislators. That equation was the fundamental cause of the failure of the CARP the first 20 years it was around. The same forebodes for the upcoming 5 years should it be extended with reforms.

Disputably, though, such reforms will come as deceptively as the “perfecting amendments” being inserted into the extended agrarian reform law, but in fact are realistically called “killer amendments” in that they will emasculate and, therefore, doom it to failure—like it was in the original CARP of 1988 that was systematically riddled with loopholes and financially constrained. While landowners dominated the Congress that passed the original CARP, the same landowners still exercise dominion today.

But suffer the little farmers to come unto our midst, because such is the path to real social transformation—if to paraphrase the good Book.

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