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by Philippine Peasant Support Network(Pesante) Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008 at 2:16 PM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The eldest child of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Rep. Mikey Arroyo of Pampanga province, was the leader of the landlord lobby in the House of Representatives that resulted in the demise of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), a militant party-list congressman claimed Friday. Rep. Satur Ocampo of the Bayan Muna party-list group said, “In the first all-party caucus in the middle of the year, [Speaker Prospero Nograles] called for an initial straw vote by asking the representatives to stand up. Mikey Arroyo led those who voted against CARP extension.”

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Dec.19, 2008


MANILA, Philippines—The eldest child of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Rep. Mikey Arroyo of Pampanga province, was the leader of the landlord lobby in the House of Representatives that resulted in the demise of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), a militant party-list congressman claimed Friday.

Rep. Satur Ocampo of the Bayan Muna party-list group said, “In the first all-party caucus in the middle of the year, [Speaker Prospero Nograles] called for an initial straw vote by asking the representatives to stand up. Mikey Arroyo led those who voted against CARP extension.”

The Arroyos and their relatives are said to own roughly 500 hectares of sugar lands in the province of Negros Occidental, including the 150-hectare Hacienda Bacan, which has evaded CARP coverage in the program’s two decades of implementation.

Ocampo made the accusation in the aftermath of the House and Senate’s overwhelming approval of a joint resolution extending the CARP, which was to expire at yearend, for another six months, but with only the voluntary offer to sell and voluntary transfer of ownership schemes carried over.

The Senate voted 14-0 with two abstentions, and the House, 111-34 with one abstention.

Mikey Arroyo, his brother Rep. Diosdado Arroyo of Camarines Sur province and his uncle Rep. Ignacio Arroyo of Negros Occidental all voted for the extension, which party-list representatives described as worse than having the CARP expire to allow for drafting a new agrarian reform law.

Ocampo also said that by certifying the joint resolution on the CARP extension as urgent, President Arroyo “backed the big landlord lobby and ignored the farmers’ call to include the Arroyo lands in Negros.”

‘Why blame me?’

On the phone with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mikey Arroyo denied he had led the opposition to the CARP in a straw vote and insisted that other lawmakers were more vocal in their rejection of the program.

“Why is Ka Satur blaming me?” he said. “They always point the finger at me or my family in any congressional issue. That’s unfair.”

Mikey Arroyo said that during the straw vote, the author of the CARP bill did not want any amendment to it and the majority felt that there were flaws needing correction.

He said he voted to extend the CARP with the disputed amendments because he would rather save a “sick and dying” program than let it die.

“How could I vote against land reform when this is the legacy of my grandfather?” he said in reference to the late former President Diosdado Macapagal.

Mikey Arroyo also said Ocampo and his colleagues should bow to the majority decision. “This is a democracy, not a military dictatorship,” he said. “There will be chaos if we don’t stick to democracy’s ideals.”

He refused to comment on criticisms of the six-month CARP extension without compulsory land acquisition.

Unacceptable compromise

Rep. Rafael Mariano of the Anakpawis party-list group said the dropping of compulsory land acquisition and the discontinuation of the acquisition of land with pending notice of coverage, like the Arroyo property, made the land reform program “nothing but garbage.”

“This compromise between landlords and the proponents of CARP is highly unacceptable and has removed any remaining pretension of the Arroyo government of even fake and deceptive land reform,” said Mariano, the author of House Bill No. 3059, also known as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.

Mariano said the next six months would see land-grabbing and massive eviction of peasants in the countryside. He warned that the Department of Agrarian Reform would be swamped by applications for CARP exemption and land-use conversion.

Speaker Nograles had originally proposed a six-month extension that would maintain the status quo but was apparently overruled by the majority, which moved to amend the joint resolution and drop the compulsory land acquisition scheme, which Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay province called “the heart and soul” of the CARP.

Final wording

Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman said he was “saddened” by the outcome of the program.

He said the final wording of the joint resolution also stumped him because it departed from the wording of the document certified by President Arroyo.

“We feel depressed about what happened,” Pangandaman said in a phone interview.

He said he had yet to talk with President Arroyo about the matter.

“I was banking on the joint resolution” Pangandaman said. He said the resolution certified by the President made clear that while the lawmakers were tackling amendments to the CARP, the status quo, including compulsory land acquisition, would be in place.

What came out after a meeting between Senate and House leaders was an “amended resolution,” he said.

Christian Monsod, counsel for the farmers’ group Task Force Mapalad and a former chair of the Commission on Elections, said on Thursday he had been informed that the resolution certified by Ms Arroyo included compulsory land acquisition.

“That’s the problem,” Pangandaman said when asked about farmers’ concerns that no land would be distributed under the two modes allowed by the resolution — voluntary offer to sell and voluntary transfer of ownership. “That has to be addressed to Congress.”

Nograles-Enrile agreement

Speaker Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had agreed to issue a resolution extending the CARP until June 2009, but with the caveat that there would be no compulsory acquisition of land.

Enrile said the moratorium would allow lawmakers to review the implementation of the program.

Of the remaining 1.3 million hectares of agricultural lands, at least 640,000 hectares are to be distributed under compulsory land acquisition, and the balance under the two other modes.

Monsod said the resolution betrayed the farmers’ interest and made the distribution of land optional.


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