When I, together with some other bishops and members of the urban poor, joined the farmers who went on huger strike in December, 2008, I prayed fervently not so much for strength of body but for elasticity of patience and continuous belief in good faith. It was heart-rending for me to see how everyday the farmers would fight against weakness and call on the congresspersons to give them their due, in so few but sincere words. I fought hard as well, trying not to hate the men and women legislators who would continue to disregard the farmers and pass by them in a hurry to get to their Christmas parties…to enjoy their bounty. Every time I felt discouraged I would close my eyes and assure myself that justice would come, maybe during the six-month period the legislators afforded themselves to study and introduce “perfecting amendments” to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
It has been more than five months since that day Congress issued that Joint Resolution which to me was a promise made by them to do their job, albeit a little belatedly. But my experience in sessions at the House of Representatives tells me that the people’s representatives have no intention of enacting the CARPER bill. There are but seven session days left and yet they have discussed the bill only once, with several members obviously delaying the bill’s passage and proposing amendments that will water down the program. The House leadership claims that they are merely waiting for the Senate to pass their own version but there is no such luxury of waiting, no luxury of being political lazy and insincerity. Sadly, not only those who are known to be landowners are opposing the bill, even some of those who claim to fight for human rights seem to go out of their way to block this essential social legislative measure.
Time is running out on us, not just on Congress but on all of us who fail to help protect the farmers’ right to be emancipated from their bondage to the soil. We should all work hard and fast towards ensuring that the widespread hopelessness of our farmers will be arrested and will no longer be aggravated. Then, disregard of the farmers’ welfare was met with tranquil and non-violent means of protest. Then and now, our legislators continuously show arrogance and greed which shall later on be met no longer with impunity but justice. Meanwhile, our farmers are back again, united for one purpose: to ask this government for redress, to ask our leaders to treat them reasonably and fairly so they would respond responsibly and soberly as well. Our farmers are telling us NOW is the time to act with definite steps toward social justice. They are telling us that the government’s maybes will no longer suffice in answering their calls. Because all of us, especially those who wield power, will be made accountable for both the wrongdoings we commit and the duties we omit to do.