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“The aggravation of the Philippine social crisis is a mirror of and is a result of the global situation, a situation also of crisis and at the same time of an aggressive campaign of globalization.” (Globalizing the Philippines by Antonio A. Tujan, Jr, Institute of Political Economy–Journals, 1996.)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Twenty-three years since the ratification of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, seven of every 10 peasants in Northern Mindanao still do not own the land they till, a peasant leader said.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Northern Mindanao Region (KMP-NMR) marked CARP’s 23rd anniversary by announcing a string of mass actions, including the regional launch of a one-million signature campaign to drumbeat support for the enactment of House Bill 374 – the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).

Sister Famita Sumugod of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) – one of the groups supporting the KMP-NMR – said they aim to hit the target number by August, five months since the campaign was launched in March in Manila.

They hope to gather around 60,000 signatures in the region.

“We hope that through these signatures of support for GARB, we can pressure our legislators, in effect, hasten the enactment of the bill into law,” Sumugod said.

Nothing to celebrate

At the same press conference, Danny Menente, KMP-NMR chair, said peasants have nothing to celebrate. Instead, he condemned CARP saying it had failed to live up to its mandate to distribute land to those that toil it.

“We have not benefited … from CARP … Instead of the promised social justice, we are now poorer than ever on account that we (are) continuously and deliberately deprived (of) … the land we till. CARP has only worsened our situation,” Menente said.

A case in point, he said, is the experience of their affiliate, the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus Farmers’ Association (BTL), whose members were awarded a certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) for 400 hectares out of the original 1,200 hectares applied for in 1987. Notwithstanding the downsizing of the land awarded, the CLOA for the 400 hectares was taken back from them after five years.

It has been roughly two decades since the BTL farmers began their struggle against the relentless efforts of the state-run Central Mindanao University (CMU) administration to kick out 800 peasant families from the educational institution’s land.

Worse, in 2001, the Supreme Court approved the appeal of the CMU administration that the university’s landholdings be exempted from CARP on the grounds that these were needed for educational and scientific purposes.

In its website (http://www.cmu.edu.ph/?p=345), the CMU administration maintained that “BTL and other similarly situated groups must respect the rule of law. Social justice is not an excuse to disrespect or violation of the existing laws.”

For a peaceful “closure to the continued stay of the informal settlers from the land of CMU and subsequent development can only flourish in the environment of peace,” the school administration offered the following proposals:

“1) A maximum of three (3) years individual contract with original farmer-beneficiaries less those who availed the Php40,000 cash option, commencing June 1, 2011 to cultivate no more than one (1) hectare per household with a rental fee of one (1) peso per hectare per year;

2) Any agreement allowing them to cultivate should not be tied-up i n any way to the issue of relocation. BTL farmers can enter into a separate agreement with a third party on the issue of relocation, with CMU to act only as witness. Farmer-beneficiaries must vacate the area upon expiration of their individual contract;

3) Free tuition fee for the qualified children of the BTL; and

4) CMU reserves the right to pursue legal action if farmer-beneficiaries refuse to vacate the occupied area after the expiration of the agreement.”

However, CMU said BTL had rejected the “too humane and generous” proposal, which the school said would cost it a “potential income of 61.2 Million pesos from the lease for three years in exchange for a peaceful settlement of the problem.”

Amihan Northern Mindanao learned from CMU students sympathetic to the peasants that the school administration plans to construct livestock facilities on part of the area cultivated by the BTL farmers. The Davao Ventures Corporation (DAVCO) has also announced that it wants to use the land tilled by BTL members for the expansion of its pineapple and banana plantations.

Nowhere to go

Dolores Gorgodan, BTL spokesperson, told reporters here that they have been pushed against the wall too far.

“Nahurot na among kahadlok. Wala mi lain mabuhat kun dili i-asdang among katungod nga mabuhi (Our fear has run out. There is nothing more we can do but to fight for our right to live),” Gorgodan said.

The 800 peasant families belonging to Amihan Northern Mindanao – a coalition of 43 community-based organizations of peasant women in the region – have encamped outside the gates of CMU’s main campus in Musuan, Bukidnon since the opening of classes last June 6.

Mother of six Wenda Jumawon, 49, has been tilling a hectare of land alongside her husband since 1994. The Jumawon couple belongs to the Agrarian Reform Farmers Association (ARFA) in Don Carlos, Bukidnon.

Wenda said they migrated from San Andres, Kadingilan, Bukidnon and claimed they were agrarian reform beneficiaries. However, she said they were never given a CLOA for the hectare they have been cultivating for the last 17 years.

“Even though it is just a small piece of land but we have to fight for it because it is where we get our food for our daily sustenance. We have planted cassava and sugar cane on our land,” she said.

“My husband and I have decided that, together hand-in-hand, we will fight for right to live and own this small piece of land that has sustained us through the years,” Wenda said.

She said members of their organization have picketed the CMU main campus since May 23, one of the very first peasant groups to participate in Amihan Northern Mindanao’s “Kampuhan sa Mag-uuma.”

With their picket protest, Wenda and the other members of the peasant movement in the region aim to show how CARP had failed them yet again for the nth time.

Vicious cycle

Menente said only a few landlords and entities own vast tracts of arable lands and the government’s lack of political will to implement a genuine agrarian reform exacerbates the woeful situation of the peasantry in Mindanao.

Landownership and crop share patterns date back to the pre-Hispanic era and continue to be perpetuated by the heirs of the original landlords, he said.

For example, a KMP-NMR said in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, the Lugod family owns more than 5,000 hectares although it is clearly stipulated in the CARL that “in no case shall the retention by the landowner exceed five hectares.”

“With the disequilibrium of the ownership of agricultural lands, follows the feudal relation between the landed families and the local peasantry. Consequently, the current sharing scheme of profits of production best illustrates this feudal relation,” the same KMP-NMR study continues.

According to a Primer on the Coconut Industry in Misamis Oriental by the Misamis Oriental Farmers Association (MOFA), in the coconut industry in Gingoog City, for every P 5,214.28 of the share of the daily net profit that goes to the landlord, a measly P 121.21 goes to the tenant or farm worker.

“When the country became a member of the World Trade Organization …  in 2006, it liberalized the trade of agricultural produce which has made it harder for local peasants to compete with the global market where member countries are amply subsidized by their governments,” according to a research paper on agrarian reform commissioned by the Consortium of Christian Organizations for Rural-urban Development, Inc. (CONCORD, Inc) in 2008 under its Integrated Development Program for Mindanao (IDPM) funded by the Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst Church Development Service (EED).

(This article appeared in TV5’s news web portal: http://www.interaksyon.com/article/5819/after-23-years-of-carp-7-of-10-farmers-still-landless-in-north-mindanao on June 15, 2011 in time for the 23rd anniversary of the ratification of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law)

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