MANILA, Philippines – Catholic Church leaders urged the members of the House of Representatives to support the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reform (CARPER) after the senators gave their commitment to approve the measure.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) spokesman Monsignor Pedro Quitorio said yesterday that the bishops and the farmers plan to meet with congressmen to lobby for the CARPER.
Quitorio told guests at the forum at Ilustrado Restaurant in Manila that some of the senators could join them during their dialogue with the congressmen.
It is possible that the pro-CARPER groups would face tough challenges at the House of Representatives considering there are about 250 congressmen and so far only 80 of them have pledged to support the CARPER bill.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo told the Church-run Radio Veritas that they are still working out their schedule and hope the meeting would push through “at the soonest possible time because as Senator Francis Pangilinan had said, Congress only has seven weeks to go.”
Bishop Pabillo said that their closed door dialogue with the senators last March 16 at the Senate was successful. “But the Senate should act to fast-track and pass meaningful land reform. It is a very good thing that the senators are concerned about the plight of the landless farmers.”
“We are relying on the promise made by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and the other senators who were present during the dialogue, that they would pass Senate Bill 2666 that includes funding for the support of programs,” he added.
They are lobbying the legislators to extend the CARP for another five years. Under the proposed bill, there are also plans to allocate P147 billion or about P30 billion a year for the program.
It was also agreed that they would form an oversight committee that would monitor the programs and maintain the Compulsory Land Acquisition and the Land Acquisition and Distribution in the Senate bill being sponsored by Sen. Gregorio Honasan.
They would also create a task force that would coordinate with them and the Senate Committee on Agrarian Reform chaired by Pangilinan.
“We are also looking at proposed amendments that could be incorporated in Senate Bill 2666 to make sure that they would pass the CARPER bill, that we believe is the answer to our farmers’ problems.”
The bishops have opposed Joint Resolution 19 extending CARP only until June 2009 and the lawmakers also removed the key component of the compulsory acquisition of land distribution.
Church officials noted that about 1.2 million hectares of private agricultural lands are still up for distribution.
Catarman Bishop Emmanuel Trance said that through these developments, the farmers are slowly receiving social justice.
Aside from Enrile and Pangilinan, other senators in attendance were Senators Honasan, Rodolfo Biazon and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
The bishops present during the meeting were CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action Justice and Peace (Nassa) chairman Bishop Pabillo, Bishops Trance, Deogracias Iñiguez of Caloocan, Jessie Mercado of Parañaque, and retired Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani.- Evelyn Macairan, Philippine Star