MANILA - Amid moves in the Lower House to extend the life of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) again, the Palace on Tuesday said CARP can still go on beyond the expiration of the law on June 30 this year.
Malacañang cited Section 30 of Republic Act 9700, which says: "Any case and/or proceeding involving the implementation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 6657, as amended, which may remain pending on June 30, 2014 shall be allowed to proceed to its finality and be executed even beyond such date."
RA 9700 is an extension of Republic Act 6657, the CARP law of 1988. RA 6657 expired in 2009.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma quoted Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes in explaining how the land reform program can continue.
"Ang sabi ni Secretary de los Reyes, under the existing law -- iyung Republic Act 9700 -- merong Section 30 nito na nagsasaad 'land acquisition and distribution may proceed for land holdings with pending proceedings even after June 2014.' So sa kanilang interpretasyon, pwede namang ipagpatuloy pa 'yung pagtukoy sa mga usapin hinggil sa CARP or sa CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms)," Coloma said.
"Kasi halimbawa, ikaw ay land owner, hindi mo naman alam kung ano 'yung ia-apply mo na exemption o ano pa mang aspeto hangga't hindi mo natatanggap 'yung notice of coverage," he added.
Coloma said only landowners who have already been issued notices of coverage are subject to the CARP. "At sabi ni Secretary de los Reyes, kapag subject to proceedings, hindi ka naman made-deadline ng June 30. Pwede namang ipagpatuloy 'yung usapin hanggang beyond June 30 hangga't maresolba 'yung isyu. Kaya sa aspetong 'yan, sinasabi niyang hindi dapat mag-alala 'yung meron pang mga nakabinbin na usapin at 'yung hindi pa nabibigyan ng notice of coverage."
Asked if government has an agency that will assure farmers' groups that their interests in the CARP won't be forsaken, Coloma said,
"Iyan nga ang tungkulin ng Department of Agrarian Reform. Kaya nga nagtatag ng separate and distinct excecutive department dahil sila ang may pangunahing tungkulin sa pagpapatupad 'nung Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law at 'nung CARPER."
The Palace also assured the continuation of benefits accorded to farmers who have received lands through CARP.
"Doon mismo sa loob ng DAR ay meron silang dedicated group na ang pokus ay support services lamang. Nakikipag-ugnayan sila sa iba't ibang ahensya, katulad ng Land Bank of the Philippines, Cooperatives Development Authority. Tinutulungan iyung mga grupo ng mga benepisyaryo ng repormang pansakahan na makapagtayo sila ng mga kooperatiba para makapagsagawa sila ng mga economic programs para sa kapakanan ng kanilang mga kasapi," Coloma said.
He, however, clarified that the continuation of the program beyond the expiry date of the law won't lead to harassment of landowners.
"Halimbawa, (ang) isang land owner ay nabigyan ng notice of coverage before June 30, hindi pa fully resolved 'yung kanyang coverage -- meron siyang kini-question doon, meron siyang gustong ipa-exempt diyan -- iyung mga proceedings arising from that notice of coverage will still be resolved. Kasi kung mare-resolve 'yan after June 30, for as long as patuloy pa naman 'yung funding na sinabi niya manggagaling sa PCGG remittance to the CARP fund ay patuloy pa rin itong maipapatupad ng DAR," he said.
As for the formerly Cojuangco- and Aquino-owned Hacienda Luisita, Coloma said, "ayon sa Department of Agrarian Reform ay naipamahagi na ang mga lupain diyan at patuloy pa 'yung kanilang pagpapatupad ng batas hinggil diyan."
The DAR reportedly wants to extend the authority to issue Notices of Coverage as well the automatic appropriations that fund the CARP.