Duterte to distribute all agricultural lands?


President Duterte has vowed to “finally accomplish the ultimate goal” of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, started in 1988 by President Cory Aquino as her “centerpiece program.”

On the CARP’s 31st anniversary observance last Tuesday, Duterte said he would distribute all agricultural lands in the country and accomplish the program’s ultimate goal through what he called his administration’s “unique brand of agrarian reform”:

“As we highlight our accomplishments and milestones in implementing CARP, let us never lose sight of the primary aim of this program, which is to uphold the welfare of the landless farmers, promote social justice, and attain sound rural development through the equitable distribution of all agricultural lands across the country.”

“Ibigay mo na lahat,” according to him, was his instruction to Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones. For good measure, he told his audience of public officials and agrarian reform beneficiaries, the principle being followed was “the greatest good for the greater number – that is the rule, unchanging for eons… Yan ang sundin natin.”

The president explicitly linked the move to his administration’s counterinsurgency objective of ending the five-decade armed conflict with the CPP-NPA within his term, or by 2022. How? By grabbing from the revolutionary movement “the richest issue of them all – land reform.”

He depicted the CPP-NPA as a “rabble rouser” with agrarian reform as its “No. 1 promise to the people.” Hence, he said, “Kaya unahan natin sila.” Specifically referring to Negros island, where he described the farmers’ struggle for land as deep and protracted “because of the feudal system that existed in those parts of the land,” he urged: “Kunin mo ang initiative sa komunista. What they are really parlaying is land. Eh di unahan na natin, ibigay na natin.”

Addressing the Left revolutionary forces, the president vented: “Baka akala n’yo kayo lang ang marunong. Even if you did not exist, land reform would still be the program of any government” in the Philippines. “Because even without the element of violence and armed struggle” the time will come, he acknowledged, that “you have to equitably distribute the land to the people.”

Reverting to his prepared speech, Duterte asserted: “Let me take this occasion to reaffirm the administration’s commitment to correct the historical distortion brought about by the misallocation of lands which has caused social injustice and the underperformance of the rural economy.”

It will be recalled that congressional actions over the years had extended the effectivity of the CARP law several times, retaining the original exemptions from its coverage and adding more, thus vitiating its social justice objective.

His administration “will endeavor to pursue the full implementation of CARP because it is only by empowering farmers [that we can] achieve the sustained growth of our rural economies. This, in turn, would lead to inclusive progress for our nation,” Duterte further assured.

Again to the Left revolutionaries, whom he referred to as “mga kaibigan ko at mga kalaban ko,” he said his administration was trying to bring about “some sort of a saner Philippines, medyo hindi biyak,” alluding to national unification. While saying he knew and understood that “you want reforms immediately… and you do armed struggle,” he claimed that “revolution is no longer in vogue.”

“You cannot win a fight for social justice or for a better life in your country if you go to revolution, it won’t work,” he asserted. Repeating his previous jibe at the CPP-NPA that it cannot hold control over even a single barangay, he warned: “And in the coming days, there will be a very, very radical change in the behavior of the government.”

“I am not challenging [you],” he added. “You might win or you may lose, but that is something to be seen.”

Furthermore, he said, “we cannot go on this way… We have been fighting for 53 years… [actually 50 years]. Maawa naman kayo sa coming generation.” It’s about time, he pressed on, “that you stop this revolution. If you want change, it has to be through evolution. Dahan-dahan lang.”

Towards the end of his speech, Duterte went back to this point.

“… Konektado itong lupa sa [armed conflict],” he said. “I do not think that we can afford to wage a war for another 53 years. So I am telling the military, ‘Can we end it now.’ We cannot afford to pass it on to the next generation. Baka hindi na nila makaya. It has to be now,” he added.

“We have to finish [the armed conflict], pati droga,” Duterte emphasized. And he recognized that “if we cannot have law and order… and if we cannot stop corruption in government… never will we rise to the next step as a nation.” Again, he warned: “I am serving notice to everybody that in the coming months it will be – not really bloody, but there will be, at least, a little trouble for our country.” He anticipated that carrying out his plan would “make us a magnet for all criticisms,” and that the critics are “waiting for us to commit a wrong.”

Needless to say, questions arise as to how the president, in the remaining three years of his term, could fulfill his vow to distribute all agricultural lands to landless farmers equitably – “para tabla na lahat” is the term he used.

What exactly did he mean when he says his plan when implemented will be “not really bloody” but cause “at least, a little trouble for our country,” even if he makes good on his promise not to declare martial law nationwide?

Neither did he mention any proposed legislation, as would be required, since the CARP law and its various extensions have all lapsed. He might be reminded that there has been a long-pending bill in the House of Representatives calling for an agrarian reform program to cover all agricultural lands without exemptions; it’s mainly authored and sponsored by the Makabayan bloc.

For that matter, there is a draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, which includes agrarian reform and rural development proposals, basically agreed on and all set to be signed two years ago by the negotiating panels in the GRP-NDFP formal peace negotiations, which he had revived in fulfillment of a campaign promise in 2016. But Duterte arbitrarily cancelled the scheduled signing and then, on recommendation by his military/security advisers, “terminated” the peace talks in November 2017.

The free distribution of land to landless farmers is the fundamental principle of that draft agreement. Does President Duterte accept or reject that social justice principle? Does he deem it equitable or not?

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Published in Philippine Star
Aug. 31, 2019

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