May 27, 2015
The Catholic Church’s social action arm expressed its utter dismay at the “inhumane” dispersal of the farmers’ protest, calling for the completion and reforms in the implementation of the agrarian reform, at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
In a statement, (National Secretariat for Social Action) NASSA/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez condemned the unnecessary use of tear gas, pepper sprays and water cannons by security officers of the lower house, which injured at least 17 farmers.
“These poor farmers were unarmed. They are not animals and definitely not criminals. They were only here to demand for what is due to them under the Agrarian Reform Law,” Gariguez stressed.
The farmers shook the gates of the lower house to symbolically show their opposition to the pro-landlord amendments of the Visayan bloc to House Bill 4296, which aims for additional coverage of lands not yet issued with notices of coverage under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
The security officers of Congress, however, employed a violent method to disperse the farmers, causing at least 17 of them to suffer eye injuries.
The injured farmers were immediately brought to the East Avenue Medical Center for treatment.
“This only shows that the 27-year old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program is yet to become successful in empowering landless tillers. The state was not fully able to implement the program’s primary goal of promoting social justice through a more equitable distribution and ownership of land,” Gariguez continued.
The landless farmers, who came from various parts of the country, are particularly protesting the efforts of the lawmakers from the Visayan bloc to water down House Bill 4296, which farmers say favoured only the influential landlord-politicians and dilute the social justice goals of the agrarian reform program.
The said bill is scheduled to be passed on third and final reading by the lower house next month.
The farmers’ protest was part of their 17-day peasant march to push for the immediate passage of House Bill 4296, which will ensure the completion of the government’s land-to-the-tiller program, food security and broad-based economic development.
The march is organized by Sulong CARPER, a national multi-sectoral alliance led by peasants and religious groups.
Apart from humanitarian response to victims of disasters, NASSA/Caritas Philippines also actively advocates for agrarian reform and land rights, good governance, sustainable agriculture, and women and children’s rights.
“We join the farmers in pressing the Aquino administration, especially the lawmakers to implement asset reform by overhauling the implementation of the CARP and completing the distribution to peasants of all agricultural landholdings nationwide subject to the program,” the NASSA/Caritas Philippines executive secretary said.
Advocacy Research and Communication