The persistent negative reports that 11 Filipino women die daily of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth underscore the critical immediacy of enacting the Reproductive Health bill on family planning, responsible parenthood and population development which is pending both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, principal author of House Bill 5043 on RH, made this urgent call as he said that these data which make the Philippines among the worst performing countries in improving maternal health “are not cold statistics but disturbing and distressing figures which demand immediate remedial action from policymakers.”
The lifetime risk of maternal death in the Philippines is 1 in 140, compared to 1 in 8,000 for women in developed countries.
PRESS STATEMENT 04 January 2009 0918-912-0137, 415-5455
“A farce cannot be elevated and sanctified as a law.”
Thus, Rep. Edcel C. Lagman summed up President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s decision not to approve Senate Joint Resolution No. 19 which sought to extend the land acquisition and distribution component of CARP without including the compulsory acquisition of the remaining 1.3 million hectares of private agricultural lands.
The President was “perfectly correct” in temporarily allowing LAD to expire rather than giving her imprimatur to a joint resolution which “desecrated the heart and soul of CARP by excluding compulsory acquisition which is the essence of the social justice program.”
The President should be commended for dissociating herself from a travesty which is constitutionally offensive.
The legislative agenda should now concentrate on the revival of the LAD by enacting the original HB 4077 principally authored by Lagman and previously certified as an urgent measure by the President.
The reported decision of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to allow Senate Joint Resolution No. 19 to “lapse into law” is effectively a veto of the projected six-month extension of the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) which excluded compulsory acquisition of private agricultural lands.
I have earlier urged the President to veto the joint resolution for limiting the LAD extension to voluntary offer to sell (VOS) and voluntary land transfer (VLT), which makes agrarian coverage at the sole option of landowners and consequently unconstitutional.
The LAD expired after midnight of December 31, 2008 without President Macapagal-Arroyo seasonably approving the joint resolution.
Even if the President allows the joint resolution to “lapse into law” by January 22, 2009 or 30 days after the enrolled copy of the joint resolution was officially received by the Office of the President on December 23, 2008 , there is no more LAD to extend because it has already earlier expired.
Once the deadline sought to be extended has expired, no belated extension could be effected.
The joint resolution could only be allowed to “lapse into law” without the President’s explicit approval if there is sufficient intervening time before the expiration of the deadline and the lapsing into effectivity of the joint resolution.
The requisite intervening period is absent because the LAD expired immediately after December 31, 2008 and the anticipated “lapsing into law” of the joint resolution will still occur on January 22, 2009 or twenty two days after the actual expiration of the LAD.
The joint resolution now belongs to the archives of failed measures and the legislative process is ripe for the enactment of House Bill No. 4077, the original Lagman extension bill, which should now be converted into a LAD revival measure including compulsory acquisition.
After the LAD had expired, the appropriate step is to revive it, which must be done in fealty to the constitutional mandate for the “just distribution of all agricultural lands”, of which 1.3 million hectares are still subject to coverage.
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.
The exclusion of private agricultural lands which have already been subjected to notices of coverage under Section 16 (a) of Republic Act No. 6657 (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law) from the coverage of the proposed six-month extension under House Joint Resolution No. 29, as amended, is a simulated extension of the Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and a virtual requiem for the program.
The joint resolution limited the extension’s coverage to lands under Voluntary Offer to Sell (VOS) and Voluntary Land Transfer (VLT) which consist of a smaller percentage of lands for acquisition and distribution and excluded private agricultural lands subject to the compulsory process which comprise the bulk of lands for distribution to landless farmers.
What is expiring at the end of the year is the LAD and any extension must include lands both for voluntary and compulsory coverage.
It is regrettable that the consensus in the House of Representatives during the all-member caucus is to limit the LAD to the volition and discretion of landowners by removing compulsory acquisition by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of the remaining CARPable lands.
This does not only dilute the program but dismembers the heart and soul of the CARP, which is the LAD, because if there is no compulsory acquisition, landowners who have long been resisting compulsory coverage will not volunteer to sell their lands or enter into voluntary land transfer arrangements with their tenants.
What happened this afternoon is a preview of the eventual demise of CARP.