Legally untenable, says lawyer of Luisita farmers on extending a dead law
The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today called on the House of Representatives to “seal the casket of the dead and bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform (CARP).”
The KMP statement asserts that “the government’s land reform program for 27 years already expired in June last year and that House Bill 4296, a mere extension bill, cannot resuscitate the bogus CARP from its deathbed.”
“We challenge Congress to seal the casket of the dead CARP. Members of the bar inside Congress, especially bar topnotchers, should know that a mere extension bill cannot resurrect a dead law and has no business staying in the House’s Order of Business. HB 4296 must be sent to the archives,” says KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.
Among the bar topnotchers in the House are Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, while Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, co-author of HB 4296, was a former law dean of the San Sebastian College – Recoletos.
“There is no lack of land reform bills in Congress. A new land reform program, House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill is still pending in Congress,” the peasant leader said.
KMP’s Flores warned House leaders and authors of the bill that they will face charges of grave abuse of discretion and violation of the Constitution once they approve the extension of the expired anti-peasant land reform law.
“CARP is the main culprit in perpetuating landlessness among farmers. It paved the way for continuous landgrabbing, land-use conversion, and massive displacement of farmers from their farmlands,” Flores said.
Lawyer Jobert Pahilga, executive director of the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang, backed KMP’s claim saying “it is legally untenable to extend a law that already expired.”
“It is a basic rule of statutory construction that any motion for extension of time to file a pleading, in this case, a bill to extend a law, must be filed and passed before the expiration of the period sought to be extended. Since the CARP extension bill is not enacted into law after the lapse of the prescribed period of extension of CARP, there was no more period to extend,” says Pahilga, who is also the lawyer of Hacienda Luisita farmers.
Pahilga said “CARP was riddled with built in loopholes and defects that provides for, among others, exclusion, exemption, and conversion of agricultural lands.”
Citing figures from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Pahilga said that “in September 2007, DAR reported that 5,049 Emancipation Patents (EPs) and 103,092 certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) were cancelled.”
“These figures did not include pending cases for cancellation of EPs and CLOAs, which may go to as high as 50,000 cases. To date, even when asked by congress to submit the data, the DAR has not made an actual determination and inventory of how many CLOAs/EP were cancelled and how many farmers were displaced,” Pahilga said.
He added that “while farmers did not benefit from CARP, landlords have already profited immensely therefrom. In 2005, government data already shows that the total approved compensation to landowners by LBP has already reached P41.6 billion in cash and bonds or an average of P500,463 per landlord.”
Pahilga added that “under CARP, landlords had the option to forgo actual land distribution through non-land transfer schemes like the infamous Stock Distribution Option (SDO) previously implemented at Hacienda Luisita and is still being implemented at fifteen (15) other haciendas in the country.”
“Arrangement such as leaseback, management contract, grower service contract, corporative schemes, profit-sharing and other non-land transfer arrangements were also used by landowners to maintain control of the land while giving measly sum to the farmer-beneficiaries as share in ‘income’ as they supposedly co-owners of the land,” he said.
Flores said that “after more than a quarter of a century of injustice to the peasants, we are now being forced to mull over an extension of this disgustingly sham land reform. Resurrecting the dead CARP even for a single minute or second is nothing but pure madness.”
Flores said that “for more than 41 years, 15 years of Presidential Decree 27 and 26 years of CARP, the government’s agrarian reform has been guilty of the bloodshed and human rights violations against the Filipino peasants. Farmers asserting their rights to the land are subjected to human rights abuses, agrarian struggles and peasant leaders are being criminalized, incarcerated, and worse, were massacred.”
The KMP reiterated calls for the enactment of House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) that seeks the nationalization of all agricultural lands and the subsequent free distribution of lands to landless tillers. #