As the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) marks its 19th anniversary, its positive achievement figures seem to indicate that land reform in the Philippines is well underway. Indeed, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is calling for a ten-year extension of CARP to 2018 in order to complete its land distribution program. But DAR’s so-called land distribution figures actually serve to obscure the true state of landlessness and rural exploitation in the countryside, according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation.
As of end-2005, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) reported that total land distribution under CARP has reached 6.44 million hectares or almost 80% of the target scope of 8.06 million hectares.
But such figure should not be taken at face value due to various forms of bogus land distribution, which give a false picture of increasing land ownership among farmer-beneficiaries. For example, there are lands with registered certificates of award but which still have not yet been turned over to farmers who are still paying for their amortization. In the most brazen cases, there are certificate holders who cannot occupy their land because of outright landlord resistance.
Apart from reporting dubious accomplishments, DAR reports also do not reflect the distressing amount of reversals occurring for a variety of reasons. Landlords are able to exploit a legal defect in the law that limits the security of CARP beneficiaries’ claims to the lands covered. They also maneuver decisions favorable to them through technicalities such as supposed errors in data entries, in the change of documents and in the identification of legitimate farmer beneficiaries.
The many ways for landlords to evade CARP, even as government reports increasing land distribution, shows how this so-called agrarian reform program is less about genuinely breaking the domination of landlords and rural elites over land than undercutting peasant resistance to land monopoly in the countryside through the implementation of spurious land reform.
Thus, the DAR’s call to extend CARP for another ten years is not the answer to the farmers’ call for land of their own to till as it will only intensify the prevailing poverty and ruthless exploitation in the countryside.