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LUCENA CITY – As politicians start declaring their plans for the coming 2022 elections, farmers’ group Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan) called on the Filipino peasantry to elect a “pro-farmer” president.

“We want a pro-farmer president in May 2022 elections,” Danny Carranza, secretary-general of Katarungan, said in an online interview Saturday.

Carranza challenged presidential candidates to publicly declare that “agrarian reform will be a centerpiece of their policy agenda.”

“We also call on all presidential candidates to reconsider the liberalization of agri-trade and to protect small food producers against food importation,” he stressed.

So far, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and former Sen. Bongbong Marcos have made official their intent to run for the presidency next year.

None of them have declared their program for the agriculture sector once elected.

Earlier this month, the Cusi-wing PDP-Laban officially proclaimed Sen. Bong Go as its presidential candidate. However, Go has so far rejected the nomination.

Vice President Leni Robredo and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio are also expected to join the presidential race.

Agrarian reform

Carranza urged the government to assess the effectiveness of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) since the law was enacted in 1988 under former President Corazon Aquino’s administration.

He argued that there are compelling reasons why agrarian reform needs to be assessed and reviewed.

“Firstly, the budget allocation in agrarian reform implementation is very low; lowest in years since CARP was extended in 1998,” he stressed.

He added: “Second, there has been no annual target in terms of land redistribution since 2016, making accomplishment reports a mere afterthought, with nothing to compare to in terms of targets.”

He also claimed that many farmers were unable to get out of poverty after receiving lands, and thus, should also be a serious area of inquiry.

“Many farmers were unable make their lands productive because they did not get the needed timely comprehensive support services,” he further claimed.

Last week, Magsasaka Rep. Argel Cabatbat sought a P515 million funding to determine the effectiveness of the national agrarian reform program. The P515 million fund will be used to see how many of the farmers given land are still managing it and how many are no longer managing it or has sold their land.

However, no funds were approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

According to Cabatbat, previous CARP beneficiaries are no longer in control of the lands given to them.

Caranza said Katarungan supports Cabatbat’s initiative “if the aim is to strengthen the agrarian reform law and to correct loopholes in the law and law implementation that makes it ineffective.”

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