Friday, February 6, 2009

Sumilao farmers, solons join “Access for Justice” forum

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Akbayan Party list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel was in Cagayan de Oro City over the weekend and attended the Concert Forum on Access to Justice held at Xavier University Gymnasium. Said concert featured Bayang Barrios, a multi-awarded Filipino artist.
Said concert is sponsored by KKP-SIO (Katilingbanong Katilingban sa Pagpakabana-Social Involvement Office) of Xavier University, and BALAOD Mindanaw (Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw). The concert forum shall touch the issues on governance, education, shelter, environment, health and land. These are the issues that KKP-SIO and BALAOD Mindanaw have been striving to address.
Hontiveros and the Sumilao farmers shall brieftly speak at the said concert to ask the support of the audience in calling for CARP Extension with Reforms (CARPER).
Hontiveros together with the Sumilao farmers, and representatives of some civil society organizations held a press conference at the Kan-anan sa Katawhan at Capistrano-Del Pilar Sts., this city.
Hontiveros expressed misgivings of the failure of congress to extend and reform CARP.
“I am sad that Congress dismally failed the people for failing to pass into law the proposals to extend and reform CARP contained in House Bill 4077 and Senate Bill 2666,” said Hontiveros.
To date, the CARP is deemed dead despite the Joint Resolution no. 19 of the Senate and the House of Representatives last December 17, 2008. Said resolution states that the CARP shall be extended for six months (or until June 2009), but the extension shall no longer include the compulsory mode of acquisition.
“Congress is deceiving the people when it passed Joint Resolution No. 19, because of the non-inclusion of the compulsory acquisition, which is the core policy to ensure that agrarian reform shall be implemented,” said Myrna Siose Aboniawan of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro City.
Critics of CARP argue that the program failed and did not result to the progress of the farmers as its envisioned. This view, however, is contradicted by the farmers who have benefited from the program.
Mr. Rene Penas, a leader and spokesperson of the Sumilao farmers expressed that the 144 hectares of land and that they have reclaimed from San Miguel Foods, Inc. (SMFI) through their “Walk for Land, Walk for Justice” campaign last year has indeed changed their lives in so many ways.
“Our victory testifies to the importance of agrarian reform. But our victory shall forever remain hallow if there are still farmers who are deprived of owning a piece of land because Congress failed to extend and reform CARP,” said Mr. Penas.
Mr. Penas further added that they are ready to walk again, if need be, if only to ensure that the rest of the farmers shall have also own a piece of land to till.
Atty. Arlene Bag-ao of BALAOD Mindanaw, on the other hand, views the failure of Congress to enact a law extending CARP as a crime. “Agrarian reform is a continuing constitutional mandate, such that if Congress refuses to extend and reform CARP, the same amounts to a crime. Congress cannot disrequared its constitutional duty to its people.”
The call for Congress to extend, with reforms, the CARP has been mounting. The Concert Forum on Access to Justice to be held this evening at Xavier University Gymnasium is an occasion to further expand the overwhelming call of extending CARP.
Xavier University itself has been actively involved in pushing for CARPER especially that land rights is among its core program. Ermin Stan Pimentel said that as an academic institution, Xavier University is trying its best of advocating for social reforms by molding the future leaders of the country through actual exposure of the students to the realities of the world.
On her part, Bayang Barrios said that she hopes that her music serve to fill and nourish the hope and faith of the people’s struggle for a better tomorrow.

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