President Arroyo has allowed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to expire by not signing the joint Senate-House resolution extending it, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said yesterday.
CARP expired last Dec. 31.
Commenting on a Malacañang statement that the President has decided to allow the joint resolution to “lapse into law,” Lagman said the measure is now useless and should be sent to the archives.
He said the decision “is effectively a veto of the projected six-month extension of the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component of CARP, which excluded compulsory acquisition of private lands.”
Lagman is principal author of Bill 4077, which seeks to extend CARP for five more years. The measure appropriates P100 billion for support services.
Because senators and congressmen could not agree on the details of the proposed extension, they agreed to pass a Senate-proposed joint resolution extending the program up to June 30 this year.
The plan is for them to finally decide within six months what to do with the land distribution program, which the late President Marcos started during martial law.
Lagman has urged Mrs. Arroyo to veto or reject the joint resolution extending CARP since it did not include compulsory acquisition and distribution of the remaining 1.3 million hectares of land covered by CARP.
Under the resolution, land distribution is voluntary on the part of landowners.
The measure becomes a law if the President signs. If she does not sign it, the measure also becomes a law provided she does not veto it within 30 days from the date it was sent to Malacañang, or by Jan. 22. The second case is what is described as allowing it to lapse into law.
But Lagman said this could no longer resurrect CARP because there is no more program or land distribution to extend.
“Once the deadline sought to be extended has expired, no belated extension could be effected,” the Albay congressman, who is a lawyer, said.
He said the joint resolution could only be allowed to “lapse into law” if there is sufficient time before such deadline.
He pointed out that if the President wanted the joint resolution to become law, she could have signed it before the expiration of CARP and should not have decided not to act on it until it lapses into law.
“The joint resolution now belongs to the archives of failed measures and the legislative process is ripe for the enactment of Bill 4077, which includes compulsory land acquisition and distribution,” he stressed.
According to Rep. Risa Hontiveros, a co-author of Bill 4077, the 1.3 million hectares of agricultural lands covered by CARP but have not been distributed to their tenant-tillers include three large haciendas owned by the family of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo in Negros Occidental.
Last month, the Arroyo family’s tenants marched to the House to lobby for the extension of CARP so the land they have been tilling for years could finally be distributed to them.
They said they met with Mrs. Arroyo in 2001 and that she promised them that CARP would make them owners of the land.
“But her promise has remained just that – a promise,” a spokesman for the farmers said.
Hontiveros said the approval of the joint resolution was the triumph of landowners among senators and congressmen. –Jess Diaz, Philippine Star