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!