DAVAO CITY, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is the “chief political agent and hatchet man of the landlords and the agri-corporations not only in Davao but in the entire country.”
This was the reaction made by Jose Maria Sison, exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder on Tuesday from his base in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in response to the President’s earlier declaration saying that the public won’t need the Maoist-inspired New People’s Army (NPA) to distribute lands to landless farmers.
“He is merely boasting and lying by declaring that he can distribute all idle public land to the landless peasants and to do away with the role of the mass movement of farm workers and peasants, the people’s army and the people’s democratic government in carrying out genuine land reform and distributing land to the landless peasants,” Sison said.
Last Monday, Duterte made a vow the government will distribute all public lands to farmers, emphasizing “Hindi na natin kailangan ang NPA, what for?”
But Sison said the government’s belated distributions of few token certificates of land transfer to a small number of presumed land reform beneficiaries are but “for the purpose of propaganda.”
“He is using his tokenism to make the big lie that he will distribute all the idle public land to the landless peasants who have long hungered for the land of their own,” Sison said.
He further stated that Duterte is “subjecting to conversion or exemption from land reform vast amounts of land previously considered as subject to land reform so that these lands could be repossessed by real estate corporations and landlords.”
“As already exposed by former DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) Secretary Rafael Mariano, conversion is a racket of Duterte and his fellow corrupt bureaucrats. Duterte has been using the state terrorism of the reactionary armed forces and police to protect the landed oligarchy and the agri-corporations to keep their monopoly of the best agricultural land and to brutally attack both the mass movement of farm workers and poor peasants and the revolutionary movement that is carrying out genuine land reform,” Sison added.
Fast-tracking land conversions
Meanwhile, the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) lambasted Agrarian Reform Secretary John R. Castriciones for giving in to the plans of Duterte to fast-track the conversion of agricultural lands.
“The main reason and dirty politics behind Duterte’s preposterous statement blaming me for the ‘slow land conversion’ is to justify the anti-farmer Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Administrative Order No. 1 series of 2019 issued by current DAR Secretary John Castriciones. This DAR AO will unprecedentedly fast-track the conversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses and this will greatly imperil the state of farmers and our national food security,” said former DAR secretary Rafael Mariano, now the President and nominee of Anakpawis Partylist in a statement issued by KMP.
Mariano described Duterte and Castriciones’ present move as “very eager to streamline the process and hasten land conversion but for whom?”
Mariano said it is the will and mandate of Duterte to fast-track land conversions to benefit himself and his cronies.
He added that fast-tracking land conversion for the benefit of the few is a form of corruption.
The former DAR secretary added that Duterte and Castriciones are itching to accelerate the conversion of agricultural lands.
“Blaming me for the slow-paced land conversion is really awkward. As the then DAR secretary, it was my mandated duty to protect farmers and their land tenurial rights,” the peasant leader said.
Mariano also pointed out that Duterte is very much aware that in 2016 when he was still in DAR, he proposed an executive order for a two-year moratorium on the acceptance and processing of land conversion applications to prioritize food security and the protection of remaining agricultural lands from being converted into real estate, eco-tourism and commercial uses of local and foreign businesses.
“DAR under my brief term also planned to conduct a nationwide inventory of public and private agricultural land for distribution and a nationwide revalidation of the status of agrarian reform beneficiaries if they are still positioned on the land awarded to them,” Mariano added.
Unfortunately, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council or PARC chaired by Duterte snubbed the draft executive order on land use conversion moratorium while the revalidation efforts did not take off as Mariano was rejected by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Mariano clarified that the proposed but rejected EO on land conversion moratorium will cover “all awarded lands under Republic Act 6657 as amended, Presidential Decree No. 27 and other agrarian reform laws, all agricultural lands with notices of coverage issued by DAR, irrigated and irrigable lands, prime agricultural lands, retention areas of the landowners which are tenanted and agricultural lands with presence of agricultural activities that are being cultivated by the farmers individually or collectively.”
In contrary, Mariano said that Castriciones’ DAR Administrative Order No. 1 series of 2019 will fast-track the conversion of agricultural lands into non-agricultural uses especially in component cities and 1st class to 6th class municipalities even without requiring the applicant to submit two important requirements stipulated in the Comprehensive Rules on Land Use Conversion or DAR AO 1 series of 2002.
These requirements include the Certification of Reclassification from the HLURB (Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board) and Certification from the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“Based on the new DAR AO on land use conversion, all land conversion applications are deemed or automatically approved. Instead of the 120 days minimum period stated in the comprehensive rules, Castriciones wants land conversion application to be concluded within only 30 days,” Mariano added. (davaotoday.com)