By Genalyn Kabiling
President Rodrigo Duterte has pledged to hasten the implementation of the country’s agrarian reform program without becoming a dictator.
In his recent visit to North Cotabato, the President said he would follow the country’s law in the distribution of lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries and would not order government forces to do anything illegal.
“Kung meron pang naiwan na pwedeng i-land reform, pilitin kong i-land reform ‘yan (If there are lands left for land reform, I will strive to place them under land reform),” Duterte said in his remarks.
“Kayong mga may-ari ng lupa na malalaki… Sabagay wala ng land reform. Pero ‘pag hindi pa ninyo binitawan ‘yan, pipilitin ko ‘yan. Hindi pipilitin ko na gusto ko mag-diktador. Hindi ako gagalaw hanggang walang batas (To the owners of huge lands, although there is no more land reform, but you still haven’t released the lands, I will force you to give them. I will not force it because I want to become a dictator. I will not move without the rule of law),” he said.
“Kaya itong mga pulis pati military (So to the police and military), take comfort. When I say, ‘do it,’ do it because I will never order you to do an illegal act,” he said.
Duterte also reminded the rich landowners to comply with the country’s land reform program, saying there is a “time for everything.”
“If you are a Christian, I will refer you to the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3. There is a time to be happy and a time to be sad. A time of plenty and a time of want. A time to be rich but a time to be just an ordinary. A time for everything and a time for nothing. A time to be happy and a time for grief. As always, there is a time to live, a time to be born, and a time to die,” he said.
“Walang permanente dito sa buhay (There is nothing permanent in life),” he added.
Duterte said he has directed Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriones to fully carry out the land reform program particularly in Negros province. He lamented that some landholders have refused to give up the lands covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and instead tried to pay off their tenant-farmers.
“Sabi ko kay Castriciones sa Agrarian Reform, ‘Ilagay mo na. Ilagay mo na. Pilitin mo. Ilagay mo, magpasama kayo ng pulis (I told Agrarian Reform Secretary Castriciones to place it under land reform and bring the police) because that is the law. The law says give it to the tenants. So kaya malakas ang insurgency dito dahil diyan (the insurgency is strong because of that),” he said.
Duterte was in North Cotabato last Friday to distribute farm equipment and other assistance worth P58 million to farmers.
Recently, Malacañang said the administration has so far distributed 120,889 hectares of land as well as provided farmers with machinery, seeds, and farm animals to maximize the use of agrarian lands.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo argued that CARP was enacted more than 30 years ago but “it is only during the Duterte administration where Filipinos have witnessed a political will from the government to fully implement it.”
Of the 613,327 hectares of land pending for distribution in July, 2016, he said around 120,889 hectares of land have been distributed to 77,275 agrarian reform beneficiaries until June, 2019.
Panelo said the Department of Agrarian Reform provided support services to farmer-beneficiaries to enhance their production and improve their income. “This is real agrarian reform,” he said.