Monday, June 13, 2011


CBCP-NASSA’s Statement on Hacienda Luisita

"The joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ." --(Opening line of The Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, of VC II).

The CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA JP), lobbying for the proper implementation of agrarian reform, expresses solidarity with the landless farmers and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita.

In exercising our prophetic ministry, we pursue the calls (1) to revoke the stock distribution option (SDO) - a scheme that runs contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, and (2) to lift the TRO on the compulsory acquisition of Hacienda Luisita.

Cries for justice reach the ears of the Lord; we are one with our small farmers. NASSA recognizes that the most fundamental pillar of agrarian reform is the enforcement of the “land to the tiller principle”. Land distribution, with sufficient support services, holds promise as a means to stem rural poverty and the wave of rural-urban migration. History shows that the redistribution of land to landless and poor farmers can be a very effective way to improve rural welfare. Thus, it is disappointing to note that the Cojuangcos have managed to evade agrarian reform for more than five decades, even as the legitimate beneficiaries of the land continue to live in grinding, abject poverty.

On behalf of our small farmers, we appeal for truth, equity, dignity and justice. The SDO not only allowed the HLI to retain its ownership of the land but also “legitimized” the giving out of paltry shares of stocks to the farmers. NASSA’s opposition to SDO is grounded on the social teachings of the Church, which explicitly condemn exploitation of human labor, especially when rewarded with wages or other forms of payment that are unworthy of human dignity, such as in the case of the farmers in Hacienda Luisita.

We rely on the integrity of the Supreme Court to exercise its intrinsic political independence and resolve the case according to the spirit of distributive justice of the Constitution. The High Court, we are certain, knows full well the fact that political “issues” impede the implementation of agrarian reform. Hence, we call on the Supreme Court to facilitate the birth of institutional reforms capable of activating all factors that

will seriously implement agrarian reform. This is best done through the speedy dispensation justice that is devoid of political color and solely based on the merits of the case.

We call on the government to activate an efficient agrarian reform program which is respectful of the people’s needs for justice and answers in an adequate way their needs for integral development. Both former President Cory Aquino and President Benigno Aquino III promised the distribution of the land during their election campaigns. But now, PNoy is taking a hands-off stance on the issue on the account of his owning only “insignificant” share in the HLI. If the so-called compromise agreements hold out, the farmers will end up, after five decades without land, without jobs and in deep poverty, with only 1,400 hectares out of the original 6,443, while the Cojuangcos get to keep 4,227 hectares (about 800 hectares having been sold or used by HLI). This, certainly, is not what agrarian justice is about.

As president of the people, PNoy can no longer stay neutral on this issue. We call upon him to intervene on the side of the farmers. Whatever decision he arrives at will have huge moral and political implications particularly on the current peace process with National Democratic Front (NDF) in which agrarian reform is a central issue, and on the poor’s reception of his affirmations that he is for the poor. As President, he “swore to preserve and defend (the) Constitution and execute its laws.” The Constitution categorically states that the farmers should get the land based on their “right to own directly or collectively the lands they till.”

The resolution of the Hacienda Luisita case is a test of the administration’s political will. It will send a strong signal for the successful, or failed, implementation of agrarian reform. The administration will have moral high ground in distributing the remaining 1 million hectares of agricultural lands if the President’s own landholding will be given back to its rightful beneficiaries.

Finally, we recognize the important role of the civil societies and lay faithful in the promotion and delivery of social justice. We call on the people to support the farmers and take up their campaign against SDO and the lifting of the TRO on compulsory acquisition of Hacienda Luista. We bid everyone to recognize the divine presence in each other, particularly in those who are without "voices or choices" in their lives. We continue to pray that there will be peaceful resolution to the issue of Hacienda Luisita and that the farmer may finally be able to enjoy the fruits of the land. Let us face the future bound together by the faith, hope and charity that is our legacy as children of God.

For the Social Action Network,

Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
National Director of CBCP-NASSA
June 11, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

CARP 23rd anniversary

Today CARP (Comprehensive Land Reform Program) celebrates its 23rd anniversary. I celebrated mass outside of the DAR office this afternoon. We were only a handful – some 40 persons, but the variety of the groups present well made up for the small number. There were people from DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform), farmers from Pampanga, Tarlac, Aurora, Quezon and southern Tagalog. There was a group of Aetas from Porac. Present too were workers from many support NGOs, seminarians, a religious sister, two priests and some media people. All were gathered, decrying the slow implementation of Land Reform in the country, yet hoping that with enough mix of goodwill and political will many more will benefit from this asset reform. CARP is not a failure. Many have benefited from it but its implementation has much to be desired due to corruption, political maneuverings of landed political families and the greed of big business. It is sad though that there is not enough support from the public at present for the proper implementation of this program, which has still 3 years of life with the passage of the CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reform) two years ago.

Our main concern this afternoon was the Hacienda Luisita case. It has been in the Supreme Court since 2005. It had been decided both by the DAR and the PARC (Presidential Agrarian Reform Council) that the stock distribution option of the Hacienda Luisita was a failure and the land should be physically subdivided to the farmer beneficiaries according to the real intention of CARP. However at the behest of the Cojuangcos the Supreme Court issued a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order). All this time, for almost 6 years, more than 10,000 farmers suffer want and even hunger while the Conjuancos continue to benefit from the land. And the Supreme Court is taking its sweet time with the TRO! There is talk that it will issue its decision – at last! But will the decision be for justice for the poor or be a political concession in legal jargon for the powers that be? The resolution of the Hacienda Luisita case will give the tenor on the seriousness of the government, the whole government mechanism, to fulfill the mandate of CARP or not. Agrarian reform had been the centerpiece of the program of the late President Cory – and the Hacienda Luisita has been a glaring taint on her seriousness to implement this centerpiece program. Will Hacienda Luisita continue to taint the seriousness of PNOY to serve the poor? This we are eager to see!!!

We prayed in the mass this afternoon that the Supreme Court will uphold its integrity and not compromise itself and offer the poor as collateral damage in the political games being played!


With local Church of the Apostolic Vicariate of Infanta, we in the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), strongly condemn the murder of one of our advocates for indigenous peoples’ rights in Casiguran, Aurora. Armando Maximino, Chieftain of the Agtas in Sitio Delebsong, Barangay Nipoo was shot dead last May 17.

The suspected perpetrators belonged to the security personnel enlisted by the contesting party that falsely claims ownership of the ancestral domain, even with the reported knowledge of the city mayor, local police, and other officials. Denied burial at his property among departed kin, Armando was instead laid to rest at the site where he took not one but several bullets.
When the Agtas briefly left their vigil at the grave, they returned to find six of their houses burned. Previously, barbed-wire fences were installed around their property by the suspects. When they questioned the move, five members of their tribe were arrested, with some women wounded from the resulting scuffle, but eventually released because there were no grounds to file charges against them.

Despite longstanding and rightful ownership of 49 hectares of the disputed land, supported by official documents and upheld by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Armando, members of his family and community, have endured threats, harassment, and outright violence. Against powerful enemies, the Agtas have retreated out of fear and left the area.

The Church, in its prophetic ministry of promoting social justice, stands in solidarity with the indigenous people’s in their struggle for their rightful claim for the land. We condemn the senseless killing of the Agta Chieftain, Armando Maximino, and the continuing suppression to silence the protest of the community against the impending development aggression.

We enjoin all Filipinos to do the same and demand the impartial and comprehensive investigation of the incident, and its swift and just resolution.

We appeal to President Benigno Aquino III and concerned government agencies to uphold our laws on indigenous peoples’ rights and agrarian reform, in order to safeguard the welfare of our local communities, as well as the fundamental freedoms violated by Armando’s adversaries.

His death exemplifies a recurring cautionary tale, when equal access to resources and justice by vulnerable sectors is continually denied. It underscores the need to address the absence of truly participatory and people-centered development programs, in order to bridge the social, political, and economic divide that bring about conflict in areas like Aurora.

And in fulfillment of our mission we believe that “before today’s forms of exploitation of the poor, the Church cannot remain silent . . . she condemns many injustices which unfortunately, even today are committed to the detriment of the poor” (Pope Jouh Paul II, quoted in PCP II, Acts No. 131).

Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
Chairman of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Social Action – Justice and Peace
9 May 2011

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