In a Technical Working Group meeting of the Committee on Agrarian Reform, former Agrarian Reform Secretary and farmer-leader Rafael Mariano proposed that the condonation bills in Congress must lead to the realization and full enjoyment of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) of free land distribution, in contrary to the existing land reform programs and laws that impose burdensome amortization payments and annual interests payable for a period of up to 30 years.
Nine House Bills and three Senate Bills are filed related to the condonation of amortization of payments. The legislation of the condonation bill will be the next step after the one-year moratorium on payment of land amortization under Executive Order No. 4 signed by Marcos Jr.
Mariano specifically proposed that ARBs under Voluntary Land Transfer (VLT)/direct payment schemes (DPS) with landowners must be included in the condonation of amortization. Under the DPS, the landowner directly transfers land to a beneficiary based on a contract approved by the Department of Agrarian Reform. Payments are made directly by the ARBs to the landowner and free the government of the obligation to pay landowners compensation.
The proposed measures filed in Congress condones all unpaid amortizations and interests, including penalties and surcharges. “The condonation measures must be clear on the inclusion of ARBs under direct payment scheme. Most of these beneficiaries are awardees of the Marcos-era Presidential Decree 27 who ‘defaulted’ in paying land amortization and interests,” according to Mariano.
The progressive farmers group also moved for the removal of “conditions to the grant of full ownership” that imposes unjust conditionalities that are not related to the implementation of land reform program. Such provisions allow the ownership of awarded lands to revert to the government if the beneficiary fails to comply with conditions under the Conditional Cash Transfer program, community service and trainings. The said provisions were proposed by Ilocos Norte Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba under House Bill 4333. “Ang pusisyon ng KMP ay huwag nang magpataw ng mga dagdag na kondisyon na pipigil sa kondonasyon at writing off ng amortisasyon ng mga ARBs. Sa aming paninindigan, kontra ito sa diwa at intensyon ng Social Justice and Human Rights na probisyon ng Konstitusyon,” Mariano said.
Mariano said it is also the State’s policy to abolish the remnants of feudalism and other types of unjust tenurial arrangements. “Bago ang PD 27 at CARP, nagbibigay na ng parte ng kanilang ani ang mga tenante sa may ari ng lupa. Nung ma-land reform ang lupa nila at naging ARB sila, pinatawan naman sila ng mabigat na financial obligation na amortisasyon sa lupa at 6% per annum interest. Parang ang gobyerno ang pumalit sa landowner na naniningil ng bayad sa lupa.”
“Ensuring a truly redistributive and free land distribution will fulfill the genuine emancipation of farmers and ARBs. Dapat sentral na layunin at batayang prinsipyo ng anumang programa sa lupa ay libreng pamamahagi ng lupa,” the former DAR chief said. KMP will actively engage these measures to assert free land distribution and a new land reform program.
For his part, former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, chairperson of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, proposed the restoration of ARBs who are under cancellation proceedings or canceled Emancipation Patents and Certificate of Land Ownership Awards. “This is important to complete the justness of the condonation bills. Marami ARBS ang forfeited na ang lupa dahil di makabayad.”