Bishops press Aquino to hasten land distribution

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MANILA, Feb. 1, 2013— Catholic bishops are making no attempt to hide their dismay over President Benigno Aquino III’s commitment towards genuine land reform in the country.

The church leaders reiterated their concern of the government’s underperformance in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with extension and reforms (Carper), which ends by July 2014.

In a letter to Aquino dated Jan. 24, about 84 prelates, including Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, reminded him of his ‘promise’ for speedy implementation of the law.

They called on the President to “revamp” the leadership of the Department of Agrarian Reform, which according to them has consistently underperforming particularly in land acquisition and distribution.

“Mr. President, please take a quick decisive action that Carper be fully implemented,” said the bishops. “You are racing against time. We make this appeal with great urgency.”

The prelates underscored that it is necessary for Aquino to continue what her mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino, who had placed CARP as her “centerpiece” social justice program.

“Is it a design of the Divine Providence that what your mother, of happy memory, started would be finished within your term when the Carper law ends by July of 2014?” they noted.

The program was first enacted in 1988 and was extended by another 10 years in 1998. And still due to huge volume of land that remained undistributed, it was extended to another five years in 2009.

The bishops said they were elated when Aquino heeded their call, met the farmers last year, and assured them a speedy implementation of the law.

The church leaders said they were also bolstered when the President stated in his State of the Nation Address in July 2012 that his administration is serious on land reform.

“We are greatly alarmed, however, that barely one a half years from the expiration of Carper, the accomplishments of DAR have been dismal, to say the least, and many promises made to the farmers in June dialogue are not fulfilled,” the bishops added.

“We, therefore, make common cause with the farmers and many agrarian reform advocates in the call for speedy implementation of this law that touches deeply a grave social justice issue in the country affecting so many poor farmers,” they also said. (CBCPNews)

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