Archbishop says Negros killings of farmers underscores need for full CARP implementation

Jun. 11, 2007

MANILA — A Catholic archbishop said over the weekend that killings such as those that occurred in Hacienda Velez-Malaga in Barangay Robles, La Castellana, Negros Occidental underscores the need to fully implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Speaking at the Second National Rural Congress at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro City said: The killings last [June 4] of two Mapalad farmer leaders on the land that had recently been given to them as agrarian reform beneficiaries after a protracted struggle of more than ten years highlight the many obstacles to the full implementation of CARP.

Three farmers-beneficiaries have already died of agrarian violence in Hacienda Velez-Malaga. Pepito Santillan Sr., 59, was killed last January 25 by suspected followers of former landowner Roberto Cuenca, while Alejandro Garcesa, 70, and Ely Tupas, 52, were killed last June 4 by Cuencas security guards.

What is happening in Hacienda Velez-Malaga is only a microcosm of what has been taking place in several other conflict areas of agrarian reform, said Ledesma, who is also vice-president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Ledesma said that obstacles to full implementation of CARP include myriad legal loopholes, repeated delays, adamant landlord opposition that pits small farmers against small farmers, lack of political will of government agencies, and inadequacies on the part of local government and law enforcement units to provide security for agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Citing a report by a consortium of non-government organizations, Ledesma said that since the extension of CARP in 1998, 387 cases of human rights violations victimizing 18,872 farmers and rural organizers he been recorded.

Human rights violations take the form of extra-judicial killings, frustrated murder, illegal arrests and detention, physical assault, destruction of private property, arson, violent dispersal, etc., he said.

Echoing the pastoral statement entitled The Dignity of the Rural Poor: A Gospel Concern issued by the CBCP early this year, Ledesma said that CARP, although defective, must be completed next year, and if not sufficiently implemented, should be further extended and funded more seriously and generously.

In said pastoral statement, the CBCP had expressed concern over the inequitable distribution of the nations wealth and the endemic social injustices that underpin that evil.

Ledesma said CBCP is convening diocesan-level rural congresses to push for continued implementation of agrarian reform.

We are ready to listen to the various local sectors, to discern with them, and to plan how we must as a people come together to work for the common good of the country, he said.(30)

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