President Rodrigo Duterte and the members of his Cabinet have agreed to defer the implementation of the second phase of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or the distribution of idle government landholdings to poor and landless farmers and instead prioritize the processing of individual titles for CARP beneficiaries so they can mortgage or sell the lands they acquired via CARP if they want to.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol disclosed this to dzRH’s Cesar Chavez on Tuesday, July 10, saying the agreement was among the “major policies” that Duterte had discussed with the heads of executive departments during their nearly eight-hour Cabinet meeting Monday night in Malacañang.
“Ang desisyon i-defer muna ‘yong proposal to go into second phase of land reform (at) i-address muna ‘yong individual titling,” the DA chief said, adding that Cabinet members found out from Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones that only about 41 percent of CARP beneficiaries had been given individual titles to their lands, while the rest, who were also given lands, own them through collective certificates of land ownership awards or CLOAs.
Last June, during the 30th anniversary of the CARP, which was started by the administration of the late former President Corazon Aquino in 1988, Castriciones was quoted in a DAR press statement saying that the “the marching orders of President Rodrigo Duterte is for the government to pursue an ‘aggressive’ land reform program that will help alleviate the life of poor Filipino farmers.”
“For the second phase of the agrarian reform program, we are eyeing to cover mainly reservations and lands occupied by state universities and colleges that have been left idle,” Castriciones said in the same statement.
But it appears that the DAR chief and the President’s determination to push through with the second phase of land distribution had been doused with what was agreed by Duterte and his Cabinet members last Friday, who, according to Piñol, also concurred with the chief executive’s position that the 10-year prohibition on the sale or transfer of CARP-awarded lands should be lifted so that farmers would be able to immediately use their farms as collateral or sell the same to raise capital.
“Number one, nagkasundo na ‘yong (collective) CLOA should end, dapat individual titles talaga ‘yong ibibigay. Number two, nag-agree na tanggalin na ‘yong 10-year na restriction kasi under the present agrarian reform program, ‘yong isang CARP beneficiary ay hindi n’ya pwedeng gamitin ‘yong kanyang titulo at isanla o ibenta within 10 years,” the DA chief said.
[Number one, we’ve agreed that the collective CLOA should end and individual titles should be given (to farmer-beneficiaries of the CARP). Number two, that the 10-year restriction should be removed because under the present agrarian reform program, a CARP beneficiary is not allowed within 10 years to use his or her title and make his or her land a collateral or sell it.]
“Ang sabi naman ni Pangulong Duterte, the purpose of the land reform program is you know, parang social justice ‘yan, so bakit pa natin ire-restrict s’ya? Hayaan mo kung gusto n’yang isanla sa bangko para may kapital s’ya at kung magdesisyon s’ya na ibenta ang kanyang lupa, kanyang problema ‘yon,” added Piñol.
[President Duterte said the purpose of agrarian reform is you know, it’s like social justice, so why would we restrict the farmers (to sell or mortgage their land)? Let CARP beneficiaries mortgage their land to the bank if they want to, so they can raise capital and if they decide to sell their land, that would already be their own problem.]
Duterte position on making farmlands as collateral similar to what Arroyo wanted
Section 27 of Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) made it illegal for CARP beneficiaries to sell, transfer, or convey the lands that were distributed to them via CARP for a period of 10 years.
Duterte’s position on making farms as bank collateral is similar to what was pushed by Gloria Macapagal0-Arroyo when she was still president and when she became Pampanga representative. When she was still chief executive, Arroyo certified as urgent a bill that sought to allow farmlands as collateral so farmers could obtain loans from banks and other financial institutions.
Peasant groups opposed the proposed legislation, saying the move would only re-ignite landlessness and the re-c0nsolidation of agricultural landholdings in the hands of landlords, many of whom are politico-hacienderos, whose control of and interest in vast agricultural landholdings got affected with the passage of the CARP in 1988.
Also, the groups argued that making farmlands as bank collateral would defeat the land-to-the-tiller goal of agrarian reform as majority of CARP beneficiaries are impoverished and therefore would find it difficult to repay the loans. This would then lead to the cancellation of their CLOAs, making them landless again.
Making farmlands as collateral to pave way for hacienderos to get back the lands
In a position paper, the non-government Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (Saligan) said making farmlands as collateral (FAC) would allow “the consolidation of agricultural lands (directly and indirectly) which will reverse all gains of the social justice program of CARP.”
“It will also circumvent the government’s obligation to provide support services to farmer beneficiaries after the land are distributed to them. The essence of CARP is development of the rural area through a sound distribution of wealth and opportunities to the landless farmers and farmworkers,” Saligan said.
Also, Saligan argued that the FAC contradicts the policies of the CARP like collateral-free loans, rules on transferrability of awarded lands, the rules on mortgage, land ownership ceilings, investment to processing industries and many other enumerated munder R.A. 6657 and R.A. 8435″ or the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997.
“The FAC will dilute agrarian reform program and increases the possibility of its non-completion—a clear abdication of the constitutional mandate of the State under Article 13, section 4 of the 1987 Constitution,” it said.
The said section states that, “The State shall, by law, 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 of the fruits thereof.”
“(T)he question who benefits from FAC must be answered. Definitely not the farmer beneficiaries because their only capital in production, the land, is in danger of being taken away from them. Big landowners who extend loans (as indirect payment) to farmer beneficiaries with the objective of getting back the lands distributed under CARP,” Saligan said.