25 April 2008
The Calatagan farmers will march around 45 kilometers today to cross the Batangas-Laguna provincial boundary to Calamba. The Lipa-Calamba leg is the longest so far in their 5-day walk from Calatagan to Manila. Before leaving Lipa City, they were met early morning by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of the Archdiocese of Lipa to encourage them and to reiterate the support of the Church to the cause of the Calatagan farmers.
The marchers left Lipa City after a send-off mass officiated Fr. Bon Cumagon at the Cathedral de San Sebastian. The farmers are looking forward to see their families who will meet them in Calamba.
The Calatagan farmers were also elated by the approval of the House Committee on Agrarian Reform of the substitute bill for the extension and reform of the CARP law. Virgie Dimalaluan, spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers said that the inclusion of the indefeasibility of Emancipation Patents (EP) and Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) provision in the substitute bill in the House is a victory to the Calatagan farmers who are in danger of facing the cancellation of the 10-year old EPs and loosing their lands. “While the substitute bill is not as favorable as HB 1257 filed by Rep. Risa Hontiveros (Partylist, Akbayan), the reform provisions of the substitute bill give us hope” Dimalaluan said.
The Calatagan farmers are set to march to the Senate on Monday morning, April 28, to ask for the support of the senators in their case and to push for the passage of a counterpart bill for CARP reform and extension. They will march to the House of Representatives the next day. April 29.
Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel said that agrarian reform beneficiaries like the Calatagan farmers, give face to the struggle for genuine agrarian reform. “If only the Department of Agrarian Reform and the DENR who are the principal implementors of CARP have half the will and courage of the embattled agrarian reform beneficiaries like the Calatagan and Sumilao farmers, then agrarian reform would have succeeded a long time ago. Agrarian reform implementors and this governmentshould follow the example of these farmers” Hontiveros-Baraquel said. The solon added that the case of the Calatagan farmers is a very concrete example why the CARP law needs to be reformed and not merely extended. “The Calatagan case has shown us how agrarian reform beneficiaries continue to be threatened by landlords a decade after the land was transferred to them and even if they have already fully paid their land amortizations. The clasping hands of the rich landlords reach out across the years to grab back what was rightfully and justly awarded to the farmers” she added.