Bishops call on PNoy, Congress to pass pending land reform measures

on . Posted in DAR In The News
gma on lineThe Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines website on Sunday posted details of a January 19, 2015 letter sent by Catholic bishops to President Benigno Aquino III that urged both Aquino and Congress to pass two pending land reform measures.

According to the letter, which was signed by 15 archbishops, 59 bishops, and seven Church administrators, including CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas,  passage of House Bills 4296 and 4375 would benefit a million Filipino farmers.

House Bill 4296 seeks to renew the Department of Agrarian Reform's authority to issue notices of coverage and provide funding for support services to agricultural landholdings not yet been placed under CARP.

Pointing to August 2014 data from the Department of Agrarian Reform, the prelates said some 708,000 hectares of agricultural landholdings had yet to be awarded to Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) farmer-beneficiaries.

“Not extending CARP and ensuring the gains of the program is tantamount to disenfranchising at least a million farmers of their right to own the land they till, equitably share in the fruits of their labor and find a path out of poverty,” the prelates said in their letter.

Meanwhile, HB 4375 seeks to create an independent Agrarian Reform Commission to review the accomplishment of CARP and investigate circumventions and violations of the CARP Law so these landholdings may be redistributed to qualified beneficiaries.

In June 2014, Aquino had certified the passage of HB 4296 as urgent. But the House of Representatives has yet to pass the supposedly priority bill on third and final reading. The Senate passed its counterpart measure, Senate Bill 2278.

HB 4375 is still pending at the House and has no counterpart measure at the Senate, according to the CBCP.

The prelates letter also equated the failure to "break up the unjust concentration of land ownership" among a few, to a failure to achieve inclusive growth.

‘Rewarded for defying the law’

The bishops said that the one to 1.5 million hectares the DAR had claimed as distributed were “not under the control of farmer-beneficiaries and are suspect as evasions of the law such as lands under collective CLOA (certificate of landownership award) and long-term leaseback agreements and lands distributed as VLTs (voluntary land transfers) and VOS (voluntary offer to sell).”

The letter argued that unless these transactions were voided and the land distributed to legitimate farmer-beneficiaries, the landowners and the DAR personnel complicit in the evasions would end up having been “rewarded for defying the law.”

The transactions were also "unfair to the landowners who allowed their lands to be really distributed to poor tillers, with some of these landowners still to be compensated.”

Signatories of the Jan. 19 letter were:

1. Jose Advincula Jr., Archbishop of Capiz and CBCP Permanent Council West Visayas Representative
2. Paciano Aniceto, Archbishop Emeritus of San Fernando, Pampanga
3. Ramon Arguelles, Archbishop of Lipa
4. Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Emeritus of Davao
5. Romulo dela Cruz, Archbishop of Zamboanga
6. Angel Lagdameo, Archbishop of Jaro
7. Florentino Lavarias, Archbishop of San Fernando, Pampanga
8. Antonio Ledesma, Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro
9. Jose Palma, Archbishop of Cebu
10. Marlo Peralta, Archbishop of Nueva Segovia
11. Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato
12. Rolando Tria Tirona, Archbishop of Caceres
13. Sergio Utleg, Archbishop of Tuguegarao
14. Romulo Valles, Archbishop of Davao, CBCP Vice President
15. Socrates Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, CBCP President
16. Isabelo Abarquez, Bishop Calbayog
17. Narciso Abellana, Bishop of Romblon
18. Guillermo Afable, Bishop of Digos
19. Gerardo Alminaza, Bishop of San Carlos
20. Benjamin Almoneda Jr., Bishop Emeritus of Daet
21. Ireneo Amantillo, Bishop Emeritus of Tandag
22. David William Antonio, Auxiliary Bishop of Nueva Segovia
23. Pedro Arigo, Vicar Apostolic of Puerto Princesa
24. Ricardo Baccay, Auxiliary Bishop of Tuguegarao
25. Filomeno Bactol, Bishop of Naval
26. Jose Colin Bagaforo, Auxiliary Bishop of Cotabato
27. Sofronio Bancud, Bishop of Cabanatuan, CBCP Permanent Council Central Luzon Representative
28. Jose Bantolo, Bishop of Masbate
29. Arturo Bastes, Bishop of Sorsogon
30. Joel Baylon, Bishop of Legazpi
31. Rodolfo Beltran, Bishop of San Fernando, La Union, CBCP Permanent Council North Mindanao Representative
32. Patricio Buzon, Bishop of Kabankalan
33. Emmanuel Cabajar, Bishop of Pagadian
34. Jose Cabantan, Bishop of Malaybalay, CBCP Permanent Council North Mindanao Representative
35. Severo Caermare, Bishop of Dipolog
36. Warlito Cajindig, Vicar Apostolic of Calapan
37. Precioso Cantillas, Bishop of Maasin
38. Carlito Cenzon, Bishop of Baguio
39. Julito Cortes, Bishop of Dumaguete
40. Bernardino Cortez, Bishop of Infanta, CBCP Permanent Council South East Luzon Representative
41. Pablo Virgilo David, Auxiliary Bishop of San Fernando, Pampanga
42. Edwin dela Pena, Bishop Prelate of Marawi
43. Francisco de Leon, Auxiliary Bishop of Antipolo
44. Manolo delos Santos, Bishop of Virac
45. Reynaldo Evangelista, Bishop of San Pablo
46. Buenaventura Famadico, Bishop of San Pablo
47. Elenito Galido, Bishop of Iligan
48. Leopoldo Jaucian, Bishop of Bangued
49. Jacinto Jose, Bishop of Urdaneta
50. Angelito Lampon, Vicar Apostolic of Jolo, CBCP Permanent Council South Mindanao Representative
51. Roberto Mallari, Bishop of San Jose, Nueva Ecija
52. Jose Manguiran, Bishop Emeritus of Dipolog
53. Wilfredo Manlapaz, Bishop of Tagum
54. Renato Mayugba, Bishop of Laoag
55. Joseph Nacua, Bishop of Iligan
56. Vicente Navarra, Bishop of Bacolod
57. Nereo Odchimar, Bishop of Tandag
58. Honesto Ongtioco, Bishop of Cubao
59. Broderick Pabillo, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
60. Honesto Chaves Pacana, Bishop Emeritus of Malaybalay
61. Patrick Daniel Parcon, Bishop of Talibon
62. Juan de Dios Pueblos, Bishop of Butuan
63. Lucilo Quiambao, Bishop Emeritus of Legaspi
64. Antonio Ranola, Bishop Emeritus of Cebu
65. Gabriel Reyes, Bishop of Antipolo
66. George Rimando, Auxiliary Bishop of Davao
67. Jose Corazon Tala-oc, Bishop of Kalibo
68. Antonio Tobias, Bishop of Novaliches
69. Julius Tonel, Bishop of Ipil
70. Emmanuel Trance, Bishop of Catarman
71. Leopoldo Tumulak, military ordinary
72. Crispin Varquez, Bishop of Borongan, CBCP Permanent Council East Visayas Representative
73. Mylo Hubert Vergara, Bishop of Pasig
74. Ramon Villena, Bishop of Bayombong
75. Edito Bano, Apostolic Administrator of Mati
76. Elino Esplana, Administrator of Boac
77. Carlito Garcia, Administrator of Kidapawan
78. Msgr. Jose Lagdameo, Administrator of Gumaca
79. Daniel Presto, Administrator of Iba
80. Rey Jose Ragudos, Administrator of Alaminos
81. Joseph Requino, Vicar Apostolic of Bontoc-Lagaw