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Militant farmers penetrate Palace premises, protest slow CARP implementation


(Updated 3:28 p.m.) At least 20 militant farmers from Davao, Bukidnon, and Negros on Tuesday managed to enter the Malacañang compound, where they protested the Aquino administration's supposedly slow implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
 
Wearing shirts bearing the words "PNoy - Lupang Pangako Nasaan Na," the farmers led by the group Task Force Mapalad Inc. (TFM) lied down in front of the National Executive Building and repeatedly chanted "Lupang pangako ipatupad."
 
However, they were dispersed 10 minutes after they began the protest, which was timed to coincide with the President's meeting with Cabinet officials at the Palace.
 
TFM president Alberto Jayme explained that it has been two years since President Benigno Aquino III declared his administration will speed up the land acquisition and distribution component of CARP but that the Department of Agrarian Reform has been lagging in its implementation.
 
"CARP is a government social justice program designed to emancipate the toiling farmers from bondage of the land they do not own and removed them from the yoke of poverty. However, its implementation has been all the way sluggish leaving a huge backlog of landholdings being subjected to land acquisition and distribution," he said.
 
"Kahit may direktang utos na ang Pangulong Aquino para madaliin ang proseso ng pagbabahagi ng mga lupa sa mga aming magsasaka hindi ito sinusunod ng DAR. Inutil ang kalihim ng DAR at dapat lang na siya ay paalitan na," he added.
 
Given this situation, the group urged Aquino to extend the CARP, which will expire in June.
 
"We demand CARP continuity. We call on President Aquino to make a firm stand in favor of the farmer-beneficiaries and order a full blown land acquisition and distribution program even beyond the June 2014 deadline," said Jayme.

In a text message to reporters, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said there are "ongoing dialogues" with the farmers.

Coloma added that the next meeting has been set at the DAR office on Thursday.
 
Last month, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines also lamented the government's so-called underperforming in land acquisition and distribution and asked Aquino to extend CARP until the end of his term in 2016.
 
Citing figures from July 2010 to June 2013, the bishops said the DAR provided notices of coverage (NOC) on only 314,422 hectares of land against the original CARP balance of 1.2 million hectares.
 
But aside from the extension, the TFM also asked the President for "state-led legislation" that will extend and appropriate funds for Republic Act 9700 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) and include the imposition of sanctions against opposing landowners.
 
"If PNoy can issue executive orders that allocate funds for the provision of housing to Yolanda affected families in Visayas, to informal settler families ind anger areas of Metro Manila, and to AFP/PNP personnel even in the absence of legislation, then he could also earmark the needed budget as part of his commitment and promise to us, farmers, that he will complete the Agrarian Reform Program under his term," Jayme said. — RSJ, GMA News
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