MANILA, Philippines – With barely enough rest and a rumbling stomach, 68-year-old Galbert Jamora gathered all his remaining energy to march with fellow farmers around the Quezon City Memorial Circle. He held a piece of paper, which said, “Ipatupad na ang reporma sa lupa (Implement land reform now).”
Jamora saved up just to get to Manila from Negros Occidental to join this protest, organized by various farmer and non-governmental groups to mark the 30th year of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) on Thursday, June 28.
The advisory sent to the press stated that over 200 farmers are expected to join in the protest. Less than half of that figure showed up.
The media’s presence was barely felt as well, with only this reporter and 4 photographers covering the event.
Jamora and the small pack trooped the gates of the Department of Agrarian Reform, only to be denied entry. They asked for a dialogue with DAR Secretary John Castriciones, but their request was denied by the guards.
“Wala pa si Secretary dito. Baka na-traffic (Secretary Castriciones is not yet here. He probably got stuck in traffic),” the guard said.
Jamora and some of his fellow farmers who came all the way from Negros Occidental were visibly disappointed. Some were holding back tears.
The picture started to become clear to them: their small number meant that authorities can easily brush off their sentiments. (OPINION: Is agrarian reform a dying issue?)
The downplay did not stop the group. They handed the agency what they called the inutil (useless) award through a huge streamer.
Jamora desperately wanted to talk to Castriciones about the unfair agreement they entered with business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.
He said he was granted with a certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) under CARP. Jamora said the deal was disadvantageous to the farmers because they only received P10,000 a year or just P833 a month in profit-sharing dividends.
“Gusto namin ibigay sa amin ang lupa, ‘yun naman dapat. Itong dividends na ibinigay sa amin, paano kami mabubuhay niyan na napakaliit? Gutom na ang dinanas namin,” Jamora said.
(We want the land to be given to us. The dividends given to us is very small, how can we live on that? We are going hungry.)
Jamora is among the 1,200 farmers who were awarded with CLOAs.
He said Cojuangco promised them that their children’s education would be taken care of, but he said that did not happen.
Instead of fulfilling that promise, the tycoon allegedly threatened them.
“Sabi niya, ‘Sige, kunin ninyo ang lupa, pero magkakamatayan tayo (He said, “Try taking the land, and somebody’s going to die),’” Jamora said.
Over 4.8 million hectares of private and non-private agricultural land were already given out to around 2.8 million beneficiaries, according to a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) published last December 2017.
The report also said the agency has distributed 89% of the total land reform area. Some 600,000 hectares more are left to be distributed.
“The remaining balance for land reform are in regions with peace and order concerns (Bicol and ARMM) and Region 7 or the Negros Island regions, which are known for its sugar estates,” the report said.
The report also stated that the stock distribution option (SDO) “did not benefit most beneficiaries.”
“Ten of the 13 corporations with approved SDOs have petitions for cancellation filed by the beneficiaries,” the report said.
A total of P286 billion or almost P10 billion yearly was spent by the government from 1987 to 2016 for land reform initiatives.
PIDS concluded that while the implementation of the program may have been flawed, redoing land reform by revising the law toward a “genuine” program is unnecessary.
“Only a few big-sized agriculture lands are left and the program has been implemented for almost 30 years,” the report said.
They also recommended that the government help farmers modernize their ways of doing agriculture to become competitive and reduce production costs.
Jamora left DAR without being able to talk to any of the agency’s officials.
“Sana matulungan nila kami. Marami nang magsasaka ang namatay kakahintay sa lupa nila nang mahigit dalawang dekada (I hope the agency can help us. Many farmers already died wating for their land to be given to them. It has already been over two decades),” Jamora appealed. – Rappler.com