REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN
26 December 2008
GMA CAN BE CARP’S SAVIOR IF
FLAWED EXTENSION IS VETOED
Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be the savior of the “heart and soul of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) by vetoing the congressional joint resolution which seeks to extend for six months the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component of CARP but excludes compulsory acquisition of private agricultural lands.”
Lagman explained that Senate Joint Resolution No. 19 which was passed by both Houses of Congress shortly before the adjournment on December 17, 2008 “will have the force and effect of law only upon approval by the President or will lapse into law if not acted upon by the President within 30 days after the submission of the enrolled resolution to Malacañang.”
According to Lagman while the veto will result to the expiration of the LAD after December 31, 2008 , Congress in a special session or after the resumption of the regular sessions starting January 19, 2009 can expeditiously act to revive the LAD with compulsory acquisition as the dominant mode for the mandatory coverage of the remaining landholdings consisting of 1.3 million hectares.
“Allowing the LAD to lapse pending its authentic revival is better than a sham extension which is a virtual termination of the program,” Lagman added.
Lagman is the principal author of House Bill No. 4077 extending the LAD, principally the mode of compulsory land acquisition for five more years and appropriating at least P100 billion funding and increasing expenditure for support services from 25% to 40% of the CARP budget.
The President has certified three CARP measures in 2008 all continuing the compulsory acquisition of private agricultural lands, namely:
1. House Bill No. 4077, which is pending enactment;
2. House Joint Resolution No. 21 which maintains the effectivity of LAD up to December 31, 2008 pending the enactment of a definitive extension bill with perfecting major amendments; and
3. House Joint Resolution No. 29 and the original Senate Joint Resolution No. 19 which uniformly sought the extension of the status quo in the implementation of the CARP for six months up to June 30, 2009 .
Lagman clarified that “what was approved by Congress was an amended version of Senate Resolution No. 19 which is vastly different from what the President certified because it excluded compulsory acquisition in favor exclusively of voluntary offer to sell (VOS) and voluntary land transfer (VLT), both of which are at the sole volition of the landowner.”
The Bicol solon maintained that the joint resolution is unconstitutional because it violates Section 4 of Article XIII of the Constitution which mandates the State to “undertake the just distribution of all agricultural lands”, and not only those which the landowners volunteer to sell or transfer to qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Lagman stated that the exclusion of the more important mode of compulsory acquisition virtually kills CARP because:
1. The remaining landholdings for coverage are the ones owned by landlords who have resisted or defied coverage for the past two decades and who obviously are not expected to belatedly volunteer to offer their lands for sale or transfer;
2. Various independent and empirical studies have documented that the VOS and VLT have resulted to simulated and corrupted coverage under “artificial arrangements” with non-qualified beneficiaries;
3. These studies have recommended the review and abandonment of VOS and VLT in favor of compulsory acquisition as the sole mode of coverage; and
4. The VLT scheme has legally expired one year after the implementation of the CARP or 19 years ago pursuant to Section 20 (a) of Republic Act No. 6657Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARP) and has been illicitly extended to deodorize the reported high performance of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on land coverage.