(From Walden Bello’s Facebook status)
JULY 19, 2015
“My address to the tenant-farmers of Hacienda Matias, July19, 2015
(Original in Pilipino)
I am here to express my support for your brave deed.
Your act of taking your installation as the rightful owners of the land in your own hands when the Department of Agrarian Reform hesitated to do its duty of ordering the owner of Hacienda Matias to comply with the law is a valuable lesson for all of us.
Over years of struggle for the land, you knew that the law was on your side. Even when the authorities were intimidated from implementing the law, you persisted in your efforts to possess the land. Even when the goons of Hacienda Matias threatened you with guns and threw many of you out, you did not give up.
In many parts of the country, beneficiaries of land reform, even those with CLOA’s (Certificate of Landownership Awards), have been waiting in vain to be installed by the DAR. Over 700,000 hectares, a large part of which is comprised by the best private lands in the country, remain undistributed to their peasant owners. The problem is not the law. CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms Act) is a strong law. Unfortunately it is a strong law in the hands of a timid technocrat whose main concern is to protect himself from lawsuits from landlords.
I asked the president several times to fire the DAR chief for squandering a powerful law. I told him that as one of the principal sponsors of the law on behalf of my party Akbayan, I felt personally offended by Secretary de los Reyes’ lack of action. You know that the president, who comes from the landlord class, did not listen to me, and that this is one of the factors that led to cease supporting him and resigned as a member of Congress five months ago.
If the beneficiaries of agrarian reform wait for Aquino and de los Reyes to install them as rightful owners of the land, they will wait for a long, long time. Your actions provide a model on how to energize and complete a land reform program that is currently stalemated by landlord resistance and bureaucratic timidity.
You did not wait. You took matters in your own hands and in the process provided a stirring example to your fellow agrarian reform beneficiaries of how to take possession of their lands. Again, congratulations, and rest assured that you have our support in future installations that will take place in this vast hacienda.”