Negros News – Days before President Benigno Aquino III’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA), some 3,000 landless Negros farmers took a break from their backbreaking work in landlord-controlled haciendas in the province to hold a rally in Bacolod City and press the chief executive to fulfill his promise of completing his mother’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) before he steps down from office next year.
“During your 2012 SONA, you promised us that we would have land. Last year, a day after the 26th anniversary of the CARP, you promised us again that you would extend and complete the program started by President Cory. Ano na po ang nangyari sa pangako n’yo? Malapit na kayong bumaba sa pwesto pero wala pa rin kaming lupa,” said 66-year-old Dorita Vargas, among the farmer-leaders of national peasant federation Task Force Mapalad (TFM).
Vargas was among the farmer-leaders who personally met PNoy in Malacanang in 2012 and was promised by the President that she would soon have land.
“Pero wala pa rin akong sariling lupa hanggang ngayon. Amoy lupa na ako, wala pa rin akong lupa. Ano ba po ang hinihintay n’yo mahal na Pangulo, na tuluyan na akong mabaon sa lupa?” said Vargas, a single parent of six, who became a sugarcane farm worker in Negros Occidental when she 13 years old.
In 1996, the Department of Agrarian (DAR) Reform started to cover under CARP the 126-hectare Hacienda Canticibil-Manalo in Brgy. Robles, La Castellana where Vargas was working.
But because of the DAR’s slowness in distributing the landholding to Vargas and her fellow CARP beneficiaries, the landowner of the hacienda managed to evade the program by first chopping the ownership of the hacienda into nine titles and later on to 52 titles, which almost left the DAR with no more land to distribute to Vargas and other beneficiaries.
As a result, only five hectares of the 126-hectare property had been awarded to 17 farmer-beneficiaries of the CARP including Vargas or less than 3,000 square meters per beneficiary. Under the CARP, a beneficiary can own up to three hectares.
Vargas said that like her, many of her fellow farm workers in Negros are already aging and ailing but remain landless after many years of struggling to own the land they till under the CARP.