Are the old loopholes plugged, or are new ones added?

House passes CARP extension
By Charlie V. Manalo
The Daily Tribune
Published: 06/12/2008

Finally, after days of tumultuous sessions dedicated to the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) which witnessed lightning pickets by farmers within the halls of Congress and heated debates among members of the minority bloc, the House of Representatives last Wednesday night made good the vow of its leaders to approve an extension of the 20-year-old agrarian reform program which expired on June 10.

With a vote of 194 in favor, with one casting a negative vote, congressmen passed on third and final reading House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 21 filed jointly by Speaker Prospero Nograles, Majority Leader Arthur Defensor and Representatives Luis Villafuerte, Edcel Lagman and Pablo Garcia.

The House leadership decided to put HCR 21 in place of House Bill (HB) 4077 after it became clear during an all-member caucus that the original measure may not get the required majority vote should it be presented for voting.

At the caucus presided by Nograles, congressmen decided to conduct a straw vote on the proposal to substitute HCR 21 to HB 4077 with the latter getting overwhelming support.

HB 4077 was the original measure approved by the House committee on agrarian reform.

It seeks to extend the life of CARP to another five years and retain almost all of the provisions of the original law.

Entitled “A Joint Resolution Maintaining the Effectivity of the Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) component of Republic Act 665, as amended, otherwise known as the comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, until Dec. 31, 2008, HCR 21 will have to be approved by the Senate either in a special session or when the second leg of the 14th Congress resumes.

The bill also provides that “during the period July to December 2008, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, through their respective agrarian reform committees, come up with a definitive bill on extending the LAD with perfecting major reforms which Congress shall adopt on or before Dec. 31, 2008.”

“This will allow us to buy more time for a more exhaustive and substantive discussion of the CARP extension and properly correct the flaws of the Agrarian Reform Law of 1988,” Nograles said.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., however, also yesterday said efforts by the House in coming up with a resolution extending the life of the law was a futile exercise and was obviously meant to appease the militant groups.

“What they (congressmen) are trying to do is not to specifically extend Carp law but just to recognize that there are funds up to Dec. 31, 2008,” he noted.

Maintaining that he stands supportive of any action to continue enforcing the law or the general intent of the House’s move, Pimentel stressed that any joint resolution will have to pass through a committee deliberations in the Senate before they could approve it, for it to take effect.

“It has to be taken up by a committee. Even if it is intended to be an action of the Senate as a whole, because it relates to Carp, it has to somehow be processed by the committee.

“It not only requires counter signature from us. It has to be passed by the Senate as a joint resolution. I don’t know if there’s still time for it,” he said.

Pimentel also expressed reservation as to whether it would carry some weight especially if senators fail to act on it before they adjourn sessions sine die.

“I don’t think it will have any effect. But I think this is really an attempt to project an image that they were not remiss in their job. It’s more addressed, I think, to the activists who are pushing Carp’s extension because the thing is that, while there are funds for Carp in general, on the land acquisition and distribution aspect of Carp that expired yesterday.

“It will, in effect somehow, maybe assuage the anger of activists pushing for Carp that this issue was not addressed by them or that all efforts have been exhausted. This is somehow the message I think they want to send them,” he said.

Read also:

"Politics in Land Reform Extension", by Mon Casiple.

"Akbayan carps against Bayan over delay", by Manila Standard Today.

"House resolution on land acquisition, distribution useless – Pimentel", by ABS-CBN News Online.