This primer was prepared to inform the agrarian reform public on a legislative proposal that seeks to address the crucial issue relative to the funding support for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) beyond 2008. The bill was drafted and endorsed to the country’s policy-makers by IDEALS, Inc. in coordination with like-minded organizations. A version of said bill is currently pending in the Committee on Agrarian Reform of the House of Representatives after having gone through first reading.
The “Extension Bill” was crafted in response to the clamor for a measure that will ensure that the CARP will continue to receive funding after 2008, the set deadline for CARP allocation pursuant to Republic Act No. 8532
This is a very critical policy advocacy area that merits the collective, unified effort of and/or cooperation among agrarian reform and rural development (ARRD) groups, the government, and the public in general. We are endorsing this bill not as an individual organizational effort but as a consolidated proposal of the broadest group possible.
QUESTION # 1: WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT AGRARIAN REFORM?
The agrarian problem in the Philippines dates back to as early as the pre-Spanish period when the existence of social classes determined the patterns of land use. Nearly 400 years of Spanish rule only worsened the socio-economic disparity among Filipinos as land ownership became highly concentrated among a privileged few. While our American colonizers and past leaders attempted to correct the sorry state of land ownership in the country through various reform measures, this centuries-old problem is far from over as 80% of our land is still owned by only 20% of our people. These figures become even more alarming when we consider that farmers belong to the second largest occupation group in our country today, second only to laborers and unskilled workers. Add to this, the grim fact that 4.3 Million families or 26,5 million Filipinos –- more than 1/3 of the country’s population –- were living below the poverty line during the last census in 2000. Indeed, there is a need for a sustainable, genuine agrarian reform program in the Philippines.
QUESTION # 2: WHAT IS RA 6657?
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) of 1988 (Republic Act No. 6657), which instituted CARP, was signed into law on June 10 of that year. This legislative act was done in accordance with the constitutionally-mandated policy of promoting comprehensive rural development and agrarian reform. The law defines agrarian reform as “the redistribution of lands, regardless of crops or fruits produced, to farmers and regular farm workers who are landless, irrespective of tenurial arrangement, to include the totality of factors and support services designed to lift the economic status of the beneficiaries and all other arrangements alternative to the physical redistribution of lands, such as production or profit-sharing, labor administration, and the distribution of shares of stock which will allow beneficiaries to receive a just share of the fruits of the lands they work.”
QUESTION # 3: DOES THE “EXTENSION BILL” INTRODUCE MAJOR CHANGES TO OR CALL FOR AN OVERHAUL OF CARP?
No, it does not. The bill is merely a proposal for CARP “extension.” Republic Act No. 8532, passed in 1998, amended RA 6557 such that funding for CARP was extended for 10 more years or until 2008. Today, ARRD advocates, including IDEALS, fear that the implementation of CARP may be jeopardized once the financial requirement for its implementation beyond 2008 ceases to have any legal basis.
Initially, it was decided that there is a need to rally concerned civil society organizations to advocate the passage of a law that would not only provide the legal basis for continuing allocations for AR implementation after 2008, but one that would also introduce changes in the current agrarian reform law/ program in order for it to be really effective in carrying out the goals of agrarian reform, as well. Ideas on introducing a major law on “agrarian development” and even “rural development” were explored. The intention was to have said major law resolve the gaps, confusions, or loopholes of the current agrarian reform (AR) law, do away with said law’s unfavorable provisions, and institute a comprehensive, workable and sustainable development program for the greatest benefit of the agrarian reform constituency. However, pending the crafting of this major proposal, and considering the current difficulties in lobbying for a major legislation for agrarian reform / rural development, IDEALS and the organizations already mentioned resolved to push for a shorter bill that essentially seeks funding extension for CARP as a tactical and/ or intermediate step. Even as it is a move towards the basic goal of ensuring some funding for CARP after 2008, it is hoped that the filing of the “short” bill would catalyze a more dynamic exchange of ideas on the “future” of the agrarian reform program after nearly twenty years of implementation. Moreover, we expect that the emergent discourse would tackle the matter of how to effectively work together to institute said “comprehensive, workable and sustainable development program for the greatest benefit of the agrarian reform constituency.”
QUESTION # 4: WHAT ARE THE SALIENT FEATURES OF THE “EXTENSION BILL”?
The bill has 3 salient features. It seeks:
(1) An augmentation fund for the implementation of CARP. More particularly, it provides for an additional amount of Php 50 Billion to cover part of the funding requirements of CARP for 5 years (after 2008), or the years 2009-2013. This is coupled with an increase in the yearly general appropriations for CARP from Php 3 Billion to Php 5 Billion (with the general funds as one of the sources of the fund for agrarian reform implementation);
(2) A legal directive for the conduct of a process for CARP impact validation;
(3) Other/related legal purposes such as:
- Providing that, as a State policy, a sustainable type of agrarian reform program should be pursued;
- Increasing the allocation for support services;
- Increasing the minimum number of agrarian reform communities (ARCs) to be established per year per legislative district with predominant agricultural population; and
- Providing that the financial assistance that may be secured by the DAR for the implementation of its programs should be gratuitous and should come from legitimate sources.
1 – On Fund Augmentation
The implementation of CARP beyond 2008 is a necessity considering the unquestionably “unfinished” CARP targets and unachieved CARP goals in all areas of program implementation (i.e. LAD, support services delivery, and the development of ARBs, in general). In this regard, there is no question that CARP as a program should and could continue even beyond the implementation period stated in RA No. 6657, as amended by RA No. 8532 (or from 1988 to 2008). The Department of Justice (DOJ) has long pronounced that said “implementation” period should be deemed as directory and not mandatory (DOJ Opinion No. 9-1997). Essentially, thus, as long as CARP is unfinished, then it is government’s duty to provide for its implementation requirements.
To better ensure that there would be funds for CARP implementation (up to 2013), the yearly general appropriations is still included as a funding source for agrarian reform, even as the minimum GAA allocation for CARP per year (from 2009 to 2013) is increased from Php 3 Billion to Php 5 Billion. This explains the following:
The amount of five billion pesos is proposed to accommodate the economic repercussions of inflation. It must be noted that the amount of three billion was set by RA No. 8532, a law that took effect in 1998. It should also be noted in this regard, that the General Appropriations Act of 2005 already set aside P 4,881,255,000 for the Department of Agrarian Reform.
2 – On the provision on CARP Accomplishment and Impact Validation
A CARP Accomplishment and Impact Validation must be done by the DAR in cooperation with farmer beneficiaries and representatives of people’s organizations, non-government organizations, and other stakeholders. The process must be designed to produce the most accurate set of data possible so that it may be used as a guide to assess future agrarian policies and the present needs of various stakeholders.
It is our hope that the proposed provision on CARP Accomplishment and Validation reflects what the stakeholders in the entire country have been calling out for — a process to determine the extent of CARP implementation and a mechanism by which the designated institutions may be held accountable for the delivery of the various services required by law to be extended to the program’s various stakeholders. In CARP’s almost 20 years of implementation, the data as to its accomplishment in the area of land acquisition and distribution, delivery of support services, access to agrarian justice, and other related areas have been criticized for being inaccurate, inconsistent, or conflicting. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that efforts to assess the accomplishment of the CARP and to validate its impact on the stakeholders, have been done with very limited, if any participation by the beneficiaries, concerned CSOs, and other agrarian reform stakeholders.
3 – Other salient features
Towards a more sustainable agrarian reform program
a. Providing for a “sustainable” agrarian reform program — It is not enough to merely assert for the continuation of funding for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program after the 2008 deadline set by law. Within the framework of national development, it is recognized that the goals of the CARP can only be fully achieved if the program incorporates the principle of sustainability. Thus, the bill seeks to amend a provision of RA 6657 by adding the word “sustainable” to qualify the agrarian reform program being pursued by the State
b. Increasing allocation for support services — Despite the criticisms leveled against the CARP, in the nearly 20 years of the program’s implementation, there have been gains in land acquisition and distribution. Modest or substantial, there was movement in terms of land redistribution. However, there are ARBs who have lost the lands awarded to them and many are still in danger of losing their lands. This is not only due to cases such as CLOA cancellations and exemptions. A critical factor that contributes to this “reversal” is the fact that, in general, ARBs do not have the support necessary to make their lands productive and/or economically viable. Accordingly, it is only logical that in the years to come, there should not only be a recognition of, but an equal emphasis on the need to extend a more comprehensive support services (including beneficiary development) mechanism to all the stakeholders of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
It is not enough for the State to distribute lands; the State must ensure that these lands continue to be productive and/or economically viable and that the beneficiaries be given access to the support mechanism that can make this possible in order for the gains of CARP to be sustained.
The proposal to increase the mandated portion for support services from the total appropriations for AR from 25% to 50% is in keeping with the above described policy refinement. Explaining it from a tactical angle, the increase is also calculated to make it clear that endorsing CSOs recognize the material difference between the agrarian situation in 1988 (when the 25% for support service was introduced under RA No. 6657) and the prevailing agrarian situation. It must be noted that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) already records around 85% accomplishment in LAD as of the present. Surely, concomitant adjustments in terms of support services by reason of an increase in the number of ARBs are reasonable, if not called for. To some extent, this might also quiet down anti-LAD sentiments in Congress, showing as it is, that there is a move towards the direction of economic struggle, rather than the purely political struggle in agrarian reform.
On the financial assistance for Support Services that DAR may . The program must not consider loans, debts, and similar non-gratuitous forms of assistance. To be sustainable, such financial burdens must be eliminated.
c. Providing that financial assistance for support services should be “gratuitous”
RA No. 6657 provides, that to augment the funds for support services, the DAR is allowed to receive financial assistance. The bill under consideration simply proposes that all forms of financial assistance that may amount to a debt or loan on the part of DAR must not be allowed. Accordingly, any said financial assistance must be “gratuitous” or the type that would not create additional burdens on the government because this will surely affect the sustainability of the program.
d. Directing an increase in the number of Agrarian Reform Communities(ARCs) that must be set up
ARCs contribute greatly to the progress of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. When the beneficiaries work together, it is a common fact across different regions that they are able to sustain productive lands and successful economic ventures, especially when their efforts are supported through relevant government interventions. As such, there is a need to continue to encourage the establishment of more ARCs. This Bill proposes that a minimum of 3 ARCs be established per year within the next five years (2009-2013) in legislative districts with a predominantly agricultural population. (Note: RA No. 6657, as amended by RA No. 7905, provides for the establishment of 1 ARC “for the next five years”; the draft law proposes 3 ARCs per year “for the next five years.”)
The proposal emphasizes the importance of ARCs and seeks to progressively confront the low level of accomplishment of the DAR in this area of concern.
QUESTION # 5: WHO HAVE PLEDGED SUPPORT FOR THE “EXTENSION BILL”?
Several distinguished lawmakers have already manifested that they will support the bill. These are Cong. Gregorio Ipong (Chairperson–House Committee on AR), Cong. Junie Cua, Cong. Proceso Alcala, and Cong. Abraham Khalil Mitra. Cong. Mitra has, in fact, already filed a bill on CARP extension basically adopting the IDEALS draft (with slight modification of the provision on CARP impact validation).
We are currently engaged in active coordination and dialogue with Cong. Cua. He promised to give inputs/suggestions to further enrich the “Extension Bill.” We welcome this initiative from the distinguished lawmaker because it could possibly open the door to a more dynamic and comprehensive policy discussion given that the Lower House will mostly likely consolidate all bills filed with the same subject.
We have informed the Committee on AR that we will be pushing for further revisions. This is to be able to incorporate the recommendations raised by MODE, Inc. (Management and Organizational Development for Empowerment) and PhilNet-RDI, Inc. (Philippine Network of Rural Development Institutes).
QUESTION # 6: WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SUPPORT THE “IDEALS BILL”?
We hope that you join us in calling for the urgent passage of a bill that will help ease the burden of millions of Filipinos who till the land that is not theirs. If you are interested to learn more about the “IDEALS Bill”, feel free to invite us for a group discussion/forum regarding this topic in your area. You may contact us through telephone numbers 436 5470 or 929 0782, or by email through . Our office is located at 75BK9th Street, East Kamias,Quezon City.
 AJFI, AMKB, CABALICATAN Cooperatives, PLCPD, PRDCI, KFI, MODE, PhilNet
 Sponsored by Congressman Abraham Kahlil Mitra (Palawan, 2nd Dstrict)
 An Act Strengthening Further the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), by Providing Augmentation Fund Therefor, Amending for the purpose Section 63 of Republic Act No. 6657, Otherwise Known as “The CARP Law Of 1988”