Press Release
December 21, 2008

Several haciendas not covered by six-month suspension
of land acquisition -- Pimentel

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the government should pursue and speed up the acquisition and distribution of several haciendas that have already been placed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and excluded from the suspension of compulsory land acquisition mandated under Congressional Resolution 19, extending the CARP for six months after the law's expiration on Dec. 31.

Pimentel said the resolution clearly provides that the suspension of compulsory land acquisition does not apply to lands already placed under Department of Agrarian Reform Program coverage.

He said this was even clarified by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the committee on agrarian reform, who sponsored Joint Resolution 19.

The minority leader said this means that there is no legal prohibition for the Department of Agrarian Reform from completing the process and procedures for the state takeover of these haciendas under CARP until the landowners are paid and legitimate farmer-beneficiaries are granted the farmlands they are entitled to.

However, Pimentel said that the exclusion of lands already covered from the suspension of compulsory land acquisition under the joint resolution should be further made clear and explained in the accompanying implementing rules and regulations to be issued by the DAR so that there will be no doubt about the intent of Congress regarding this particular provision.

Pimentel made the statement in the light of the fact that there is a long list of pending land acquisition and distribution cases that are pending with the DAR and for which the agrarian reform beneficiaries are asking for appropriate and expeditious action.

"In other words, they are not looking at the acquisition of lands at some future time. They are only asking that matters involving land acquisition and distribution which are pending before the Department of Agrarian Reform be addressed decisively so as not to prejudice their rights under the CARP before it expires on Dec. 31," he said.

Based on available data from DAR as of this month, Pimentel said the pending land acquisition and distribution cases which are at various stages of the process at the department include the following:

1. For installation of farmers - 18 haciendas, 752 farmers covering 195 hectares.

2. For issuance of certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) - 7 haciendas, 120 farmers, 195 hectares.

3. For Land Bank valuation and issuance of certificates of deposits - 6 haciendas, 285 farmer-beneficiaries, 516 hectares.

4. At the processing unit level of the DAR and Land Bank - 36 haciendas, 2,022 farmers, 4,129 hectares.

5. For area-approved survey plans - 11 haciendas, 521 farmers, 2,153 hectares.

6. For survey and final survey - 21 haciendas, 1,049 farmers, 2,154 hectares.

7. For notice of coverage, 35 haciendas, 982 farmers, 2,468 hectares.

Pimentel said he welcomes the move of Task Force Mapalad, representing agrarian reform beneficiaries, to question the constitutionality of Joint Resolution 10 before the Supreme Court.

He said 10 farmer-members of the task force met with him at his office Friday and informed him about their plan to bring the case to the high tribunal.

Among other things, he said the farmers are questioning the validity of the provision of the resolution which suspends compulsory acquisition during the six-month extension of the CARP. The resolution however provides that the government will continue to implement CARP for lands that are voluntarily offered to sell to the government, as well as public lands.

Pimentel said the farmers have argued that that the Constitution itself mandates the compulsory acquisition of lands as one of the modes for implementing CARP and a mere congressional resolution cannot amend or supersede a constitutional mandate.

He said they have also pointed out that the approval of the resolution was legally flawed since what was certified as urgent by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was a bill.

"As for myself, I have explained that I reluctantly voted for the joint resolution because it was a choice between having an extension of the CARP law or having no extension at all," Pimentel said.

Moreover, he said it was clarified during the floor debates by Enrile and Honasan that Joint Resolution 19 was just a temporary measure and upon its expiration on June 30, 2009, Congress can exercise its discretion to extend it.

He said they also explained that the approval of the resolution extending CARP for six months does not preclude Congress from passing a law amending the CARP law.

In response to Pimentel's query, Honasan gave this explanation: "The resolution only addresses the issue of time. Eventually, we will have to confront the issue of amendments to the law itself, and that is our hope, that within a finite time line, we can respond to this adequately."

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