Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yes, Virginia, Congress will approve CARP

THE legislators in both houses of Congress are dragging their feet towards approving the bill that will extend the Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). But there is no mistaking that they will approve it, because not one of them will want to be tagged as anti-poor or anti-farmer—especially when the next election is just around the corner. To disapprove CARP is very un-political and no politician will ever do a hara kiri.

The truth is, no legislator wants CARP—except, of course, some cause-oriented few. It is loathsome to landowners and those who are under their care. Politicians, like dogs, will not bite the hands that feed them especially now that feeding time is at hand.

And so here is the gambit. First thing they did was to extend it from January 1, 2009 to June 30, 2009 under Joint Resolution No. 19 in order to introduce reforms and “perfecting amendments” (now they are better referred to as “killer amendments”) to RA 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL). But of course, and more so, to make it appear that the legislators and the present administration are passionately interested in CARP even if in reality the extension was toothless because it did not provide for compulsory acquisition.

The second thing is, the legislators will see to it that before the extended CARP expires on June 30 this year, it will be extended for the next five years with all the accolade befitting of heroes for these legislators who will claim unto themselves the honor of having saved the pitiful farmers. This will be the best political spin ever.

But history being condemned to repeat itself will show that what happened to the original CARP that was passed by Congress in 1988 which ended up in disaster through all 20 years will be replicated—not by a twist of fate, but by intention and strategy—in the next five years extension.

In the original CARP, Congress that was, as now, dominated by landowners, saw to it that it was riddled with loopholes and financially constrained—not to mention a Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), that would be needing most of the reforms—as if to make sure its failure, and, therefore, the security of their landholdings. Now with the killer amendments strongly underway and the same DAR to implement it, the same maneuver is going to happen to the new extended CARP “with reforms.”

Section 4, Art. XIII of the 1987 Constitution mandates 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 o the fruits thereof.”

The right of farmers and regular farmworkers is of slightest concern to our crop of legislators. Yes, Virginia, not even the common good and the redemption of this country.

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