By Jimmy A. Domingo
About 5,000 farmers from across the country descended on Manila today in a demonstration calling for the distribution of more than one million hectares of land to poor farmers.
Organized by Task Force Mapalad (TFM), a Quezon City-based group supporting farmers’ rights, the march called on the government to complete a backlog of farming reform cases by 2014.
The agrarian reform department was supposed to have completed a certain number of cases by January, said TFM, but its failure to do so had created a backlog of 1.093 million hectares.
“We want to ask the president himself to make a pronouncement on how he is going to complete the mandate of [the agrarian reform law],” said Roel Panuga, a spokesperson of Bukidnon Alliance, a member of TFM.
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila urged Aquino to pursue his campaign for reform by dismantling large estates to break up “the chains that exploit and oppress landless peasants.”
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa last night welcomed 250 demonstrating farmers from Negros province and 50 from Batangas province, urging them to punish Aquino in next May’s mid-term local and legislative elections should the government fail to deliver promised reforms.
Last year, delays meant the government has only reached just over half of its target of redistributing 200,000 hectares of land, TFM said, leaving thousands of farmers still without property that had been promised to them.