Landlords’ CARPER

“Now the CARP has become a corpse, we, the defunct sponsors of House Bill No. 400, are called upon to render our final function; to serve as pallbearers in the funeral rites of the original House Bill No. 400. As the principal sponsor of the deceased House Bill No. 400, my task is to deliver a final oration on CARP.” – Rep. Bonifacio Gillego, in withdrawing his sponsorship of the CARP bill twenty years ago.

House Bill No. 4077 or the CARPER bill was passed on Third Reading by the House of Representatives last week. A similar bill was also passed by the Senate. The measure is a certified priority bill of President Gloria Arroyo.

I am not a supporter of CARPER. Why would I endorse a measure which will only extend a pro-landlord agrarian reform program? Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal sponsor, admitted during interpellation that CARPER will not correct the congenital defects of the original CARP.

The weaknesses of CARP are not unknown. There are numerous studies which highlight the institutional failures of the Department of Agrarian Reform and also the inherent defects of CARP. There are many (inserted) loopholes in CARP which favor the interests of hacienderos and multinational corporations. CARP provides legal basis for the displacement of farmers from their lands. CARP allows big landlords to retain ownership and possession of their vast landholdings through land use conversion, crop conversion, and the infamous stock distribution option. Hacienderos can easily appeal for the exemption of their lands from CARP coverage. For example, they can set up an agribusiness or convert their farms into prawn farms and fishponds. Even irrigated rice lands can be converted by landlords which probably contributed to the rice crisis.

It is not surprising that the original CARP has become an effective instrument to protect the property rights of the landed class. CARP was drafted and passed by a Congress dominated by landlords. CARP was signed into law by President Cory Aquino whose family owns the biggest hacienda in Luzon Island. CARP was designed to fail by its proponents.

Today it is almost unanimously recognized that CARP is a failure. Eh bakit natin ngayon gustong pahabain pa ang buhay ng CARP? Why do self-styled progressives and good-natured individuals insist that extending CARP (and introducing token reforms) is the best and only feasible approach to implement a better agrarian reform in the country? It is indicative of a mentality which lacks a proper radical imagination.

I’ve read the original CARPER bill. There is a clear provision for CARP’s extension but there are no well-defined proposals for reforms. It’s CARP extension with no reforms. There is an interesting entry on Rural Women and Gender Responsive Support Services which provides for the protection of rural women rights. But the section does not contain any clear mechanism on how to improve the plight of women workers in the countryside. Motherhood statements are not enough.

Ownership of land is the basic social question in the Philippines. Land disputes fuel the armed discontent in the country. We should abandon our NGO mentality in drafting a bill on agrarian reform. It may work on our other rackets and pet bills but it is not funny when we apply it on agrarian reform. There is no compromise when it comes to land distribution.

Landlord insertions

Landlords were initially opposed to CARPER. They do not want any land reform law, defective or not, which threatens their economic and political interests. During the interpellation period, the landlord bloc was aggressive in pointing out the inconsistencies of CARP and CARPER. They wanted to prevent or delay the passage of CARPER. They were even questioning the quorum of the House from time to time.

But something miraculous and funny happened last week. Landlords stood on the floor to defend and vote for the passage of CARPER. Even the Arroyos spoke in favor of CARPER. During the period of committee and individual amendments, the sponsor enumerated the accepted amendments proposed by the landlord bloc. Since all of the substantial landlord insertions were accepted, the landlords (including the sugar bloc) gave up their opposition to CARPER and ended up voting and defending the Arroyo-backed measure in the floor. These landlords never spoke to defend Con-Ass but they were inspired to rise and express support for CARPER.

The landlord bloc has cleverly inserted amendments which would further dilute the components of CARP. Their accepted proposals will give them more legal basis to exempt their lands from CARP coverage. The amendments will still allow land conversion in favor of landlords, local bureaucrats and foreign corporations. Consider this sweet-sounding, technically precise, seemingly neutral insertion:

“Sec 6…The determination of the size of the land for distribution shall consider crop type, soil type, weather patterns and other pertinent variables or factors which are deemed critical for the success of the beneficiaries.”

“…The DAR shall pursue and implement alternative forms of distribution and ownership.”

Landlords and their powerful friends in the bureaucracy can always come up with a believable land use plan justifying the exclusion of their lands from the distribution component of CARP. Now they can cite crop type, soil type, weather patterns to protect their landholdings. Peasant groups should draft a serious critique to the CARPER amendments inserted by the landlords hours before Congress voted in favor of the bill.

Progressives should not rejoice over the CARPER passage. It is unfortunate that some farmers were deceived into believing that CARPER was passed to serve their interests. We should expose the collaboration of the Arroyos, sugar bloc, and some partylist lawmakers in drafting a bill which further enhances feudal control in the countryside.

During one memorable instance, Rep. Ilagan of Gabriela proposed the nationalization of the vast landholdings owned by multinational corporations. It was a radical suggestion. But the concept of economic nationalization is becoming popular again even in the United States and some European countries. While Ilagan was explaining the rationale of her proposal, I tried to determine the reaction of a lawmaker who is known in some circles as a leftist intellectual. This lawmaker has nice words to say about Hugo Chavez and other Latin American leftist leaders who are nationalizing many industries in their countries. The lawmaker never stood up to defend or reject the Ilagan proposal. The lawmaker also never objected to the landlord insertions.

They said the Philippines has been implementing the longest land reform program in the world. In other countries land reform is swift, revolutionary, and productive. But our concept of land reform is flawed and skewed in favor of traditional elites. Our policymakers are not serious in distributing the agricultural lands; they do not want to lose the lands which are the principal sources of their political and economic domination in the countryside. Are you still surprised why agrarian unrests persist until today?

Instead of the Arroyo-landlord-backed CARPER bill, I am supporting House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.


One Comment

  1. Posted June 15, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Mong, bakit nag-piye piyesta yung mga Kontras?

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