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IMPACT
Quote in the Act
“The reputation and standing of this house, in the
views of those that send us here, is at the lowest
point I can ever remember.”
Richard Shepherd, conservative member of the British Parliament; after a
series of humiliating disclosures that lawmakers have been taking advantage of
the second-home allowance which lets them spend as much as $37,000 a year
to defray costs of working in London but living elsewhere.
“The coffers of strictly public funds have been used
for personal interests. The offces of public trust
have been converted to offces of public distrust.”
Oscar Cruz, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan; known as the arch critic
of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, tagged a good number of
incumbent politicians to be identifed with crooks, thieves and dishonorable men
and women in government.
“Obama's words were factually incorrect.”
Dani Dayan, chair of the West Bank settlers’ umbrella organization Yesha
Council; on Obama’s call for Israel to halt settlement building in the occupied
West Bank, saying that Palestinians needed to “halt terror frst.”
“Everybody keeps blaming the government, but no
one actually does anything. So we thought, why
don’t we?”
Shoaib Ahmed, 21, inspired by the Lawyer’s Movement that successfully
reinstated Pakistan’s chief justice, he is organizing the youth to do something
and address the country’s problems instead of just cursing the mullahs and the
military.
“We have no closer ally and friend anywhere in the
world than the State of Israel.”
John Boehner, Republican House Minority Leader; over initiatives of collaboration
with Israel in the face of nuclear programs being developed by Iran and tactical
moves to pursue peace in the Middle East.
“Aung San Suu Kyi will never be released until she
is dead.”
Father Anthony, a Jesuit priest in Madurai (Tamil Nadu); commented that the
arrest of Myanmar’s opposition leader is designed to reinforce the idea that the
military junta has absolute power over the population.
Volume 43 • Number 6
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June 2009 / Vol 43 • No 6
EDITORIAL
Unemployment .................................................. 27
COVER STORY
Agrarian Reform (A measure for social justice
and social transformation) ............................. 16
ARTICLES
Right to Food in Asia and the Pacifc ............... 4
Protecting Whose Agenda? ................................ 9
The Long and Short of the Agrarian Reform
Program ............................................................ 11
The Pope's détente with the Muslim world .... 12
Why the bleak prospects for extending the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program ... 16
Holding up CARPER ......................................... 18
DEPARTMENTS
Quote in the Act ................................................. 2
News Features ................................................... 13
Statements .......................................................... 21
From the Blogs ................................................... 26
From the Inbox .................................................. 28
Book Reviews ..................................................... 29
Entertainment .................................................... 30
News Briefs ........................................................ 31
CONTENTS
T
he l egi sl ators i n both
houses of Congress are
dragging their feet to-
wards approving the bill that
will extend the Agrarian Reform
Program (CARP). But there is no
mistaking that they will approve
it, because not one of them will
want to be tagged as anti-poor
or anti-farmer—especially when
the next election is just around
the corner. To disapprove CARP
is very un-political and no politi-
cian will ever do a hara kiri.
The truth is, no legislator
wants CARP—except, of course,
some cause-oriented few. It is
loathsome to landowners and
those who are under their care.
Politicians, like dogs, will not
bite the hands that feed them
especially now that feeding time
is at hand.
And so here is the gambit.
First thing they did was to extend
it from January 1, 2009 to June 30,
2009 under Joint Resolution No.
19 in order to introduce reforms
and “perfecting amendments”
(now they are better referred
to as “killer amendments”) to
RA 6657 or the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Law (CARL).
But of course, and more so, to
make it appear that the legis-
lators and the present
administration are pas-
sionately interested in
CARP even if in reality
the extension was tooth-
less because it did not
provide for compulsory
acquisition.
The second thing is, the legislators
will see to it that before the extended
CARP expires on June 30 this year,
it will be extended for the next five
years with all the accolades befitting
of heroes for these legislators who
will claim unto themselves the honor
of having saved the pitiful farmers.
This will be the best political spin
ever.
But history being condemned to
repeat itself will show that what
happened to the original CARP that
was passed by Congress in 1988
which ended up in disaster through
all 20 years will be replicated—not
by a twist of fate, but by intention
and strategy—in the next five years
extension.
In the original CARP, Congress
that was, as now, dominated by
landowners, saw to it that it was
riddled with loopholes and finan-
cially constrained—not to mention
a Department of Agrarian Reform
(DAR), that would be needing most
of the reforms—as if to make
sure its failure, and, therefore,
the security of their landhold-
ings. Now with the killer amend-
ments strongly underway and
the same DAR to implement
it, the same maneuver is going
to happen to the new extended
CARP “with reforms.”
Section 4, Art. XIII of the
1987 Constitution mandates the
State to “undertake an agrarian
reform program founded on the
right of farmers and regular
farmworkers who are landless,
to own directly or collectively
the lands they till or, in the
case of other farmworkers, to
receive a just share of the fruits
thereof.”
The right of farmers and regu-
lar farmworkers is of slightest
concern to our crop of legisla-
tors. Yes, Virginia, not even the
common good and the redemp-
tion of this country. Read on.
IMPACT • June 2009 4
ARTICLES
Right to Food in Asia
and the Pacifc
Except for those in countries like Malaysia which
have properly funded settlement schemes, many
small farmers throughout Asia-Pacific have
mostly been left to fend for themselves.
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Volume 43 • Number 6
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Right to Food in Asia and the Pacific
By Leonardo Q. Montemayor
I
n 1996, as a member of the Phil-
ippine House of Representatives,
I participated in the World Food
Summit under the auspices of the Food
and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of
the United Nations. At this conference,
governments adopted a declaration
which called for the halving of the
world’s hungry population of 842 mil-
lion by the year 2015.
In June of 2002, I returned to Rome,
this time as the Philippine Minister of
Agriculture, to attend the sequel to
the 1996 meeting. As we know, this
follow-up Summit led to the adoption in
2004 of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines
to support the right of every person to
adequate food in the context of national
food security.
I remember that 2002 Summit vividly for
another reason. My father Jeremias died
on the day of my arrival in Rome.
My father came from a landed
family in northern Philippines. Dur-
ing his boyhood, he became aware of
the wide economic, social and cultural
gaps between his landlord family and
their share tenants. His elders told him
that the tenants were poor because they
were “lazy, ignorant and unwilling to
change”.
To the surprise of many, my father
turned his back against his family’s
interests. He devoted his life to the
cause of the Filipino peasantry. In the
process, he realized that the vicious
cycle of underdevelopment and impov-
erishment could be broken. But first,
leaders had to change their attitudes
towards the poor.
Poverty in Asia
During the past decade, Asia-Pacific
countries as a whole—and the People’s
Republic of China in particular—have
achieved dramatic progress in reduc-
ing poverty and hunger. On the other
hand, so much more needs to be done.
In terms of the number of poor people
in the world, our Region accounts for
over half of them. Inequalities in eco-
nomic opportunities and incomes are
also growing between our urban and
rural sectors. The situation is not be-
ing helped any by declining levels of
both in-country funding and Official
Development Assistance for agricul-
tural development and food security
programs.
Poverty in Asia and the Pacific
primarily wears a rural face. Three out
of every four destitute and undernour-
ished persons live in the countryside.
Many—if not most—of them are small
farmers, pastoralists, forest occupants,
fisher folk and other types of rural
workers.
Except for those in countries like
Malaysia which have properly funded
settlement schemes, many small farmers
throughout Asia-Pacific have mostly
been left to fend for themselves. Despite
this, hundreds of millions of them have
managed to develop their landholdings
and communities—using their own
money, sweat and knowhow. Individu-
ally, their inputs look miniscule. But
collectively, the economic value of their
investments would dwarf the budgets
of governments and the capital of the
biggest corporations.
Smallholder system
Based on my organization’s half-
century of experience, we believe that
the small farm holding model can better
enable a poor rural family, and society as
a whole, to withstand the shocks arising
from major economic, social and even
political crises. Given adequate sup-
port and linkages to agro-industries, the
smallholder system can help stem the
massive outpouring of rural residents
from the farms to the cities, forests
and fragile eco-systems. Moreover, a
diversified farming operation can do
a better job at meeting the essential
dietary requirements of a smallholder
household than a largely export-depen-
dent, single-crop plantation can for its
agricultural workers.
Let us take the case of coconut. In
2005, the Asia-Pacific accounted for
10.691 million hectares, or 89%, of the
global coconut area of 12.167 million
hectares. The Region produced 50.961
billion nuts, or 86%, of 59.569 billion
nuts world-wide. Millions of people
depend on the industry for their liveli-
hood and income. (Asian and Pacific
Coconut Community. Coconut Statisti-
cal Yearbook 2005.)
Ironically, farmers who rely on this
“tree of life” are among the poorest of
the poor.
And yet, many examples abound
on what can be accomplished to defeat
poverty and hunger in coconut lands.
Firstly, the areas between coconut trees
can be devoted to multi-storey cropping,
livestock-raising and honey production.
This will multiply farm incomes and
create job opportunities in the villages.
Additionally, the potential of the coco-
nut as a base for the processing sector
should be fully exploited. Scores of
consumer and industrial products can be
derived from the nut and the tree itself.
For example, the husk can be made into
car upholstery and bed mattresses, geo-
textiles and other useful and environ-
mentally friendly by-products.
Without closing our eyes to prob-
lems in the urban areas, I believe that
we can overcome mass destitution by
addressing its rural roots and enlisting
the active involvement of the rural poor.
As one Filipino peasant leader puts it,
“The farmer is the problem, but he is
also the solution!”
IMPACT • June 2009 6
ARTICLES
Land ownership and other factors
What does the small rural producer
need to overcome poverty and food
insecurity?
Many small farmers, including
women, do not have secure access to
and control over land. To them, land
ownership (or at least secure tenure) is
vital for several reasons. It enhances
their sense of self-worth, their social
standing and their credit worthiness. It
gives them and their families a strong
psychological and material incentive
to work harder, invest more capital and
to care more for their natural resource
endowments.
Over the past several decades, a
number of Asian countries have carried
out rent-reduction and land-to-the tiller
programs. The decrease in land rentals
alone have brought up the incomes of
sharecroppers-turned-leaseholders. In
China, agricultural reforms begun in
the late 1970s stimulated rural growth
and incomes by giving small holders
greater control over their individual
land holdings and output. Since any
production in excess of the fixed land
rental or procured production quota
would belong to the small farmer, he
now had a greater economic incen-
tive to maximize his farm output and
productivity by adopting improved
technologies and putting in more labor
and resources.
Due to their crushing debt burden,
unfavorable terms of trade and/or weak
governance, many developing nations
in our Region are unable to provide
essential farm infrastructure like irri-
gation, feeder roads, and post harvest
facilities for drying, storing and process-
ing agricultural and fisheries produce.
Furthermore, despite the rapid advances
and reduced costs in information and
communications technology, most farm-
ers in these countries still lack access to
timely advice on markets, technologies
and services. Rain-fed, hilly and up
lands are especially affected, because—
historically—public investments have
been focused on the more physically
accessible and politically influential
lowlands.
In recent years, the periodic epi-
sodes of El Niño and other severe
weather disturbances have compounded
these problems. The situation is even
more difficult for archipelagoes like
Indonesia, the Philippines, and the
Pacific states, where port and ship-
ping facilities are severely inadequate
and where transport of agricultural and
fisheries commodities is generally ac-
corded lower priority.
These deficiencies, coupled with
trade-distorting agricultural subsidies
and non-tariff barriers by industrialized
countries, make for a grossly uneven
playing field in international trade
and undermine the food security of
developing nations. Not surprisingly,
there has been a rising clamor against
the serious imbalances in the WTO’s
agriculture-related agreements and a
hardening of position by developing
country governments and their citizens
during the current Doha Round.
All this points to the wisdom of sup-
porting the objective of self-sufficiency
of farming households for their basic
food, nutrition and even health needs.
Malnutrition in a farming area should be
deemed inexcusable. Many households
can be assisted easily to establish a fam-
ily garden for vegetables, legumes, root
crops and medicinal plants. Moreover,
family members can be taught how to
process their surplus produce for home
consumption instead of letting them rot
in the field.
A similar approach can be adopted
in school gardens and in idle urban
lands. It can also apply to small fisher
folk, many of whom are farmers by
day. In addition, their income from
capture fisheries can be augmented
through the introduction of fish cages,
seaweed farming and other aquaculture
operations.
Rain-fed areas account for a
major portion of impoverished and
undernourished people in Asia and the
Pacific. Farmers in these lands require
farm- and community-level water catch-
ments and shallow tube wells, which
are cheaper, easier and faster to set up.
They want scientists to develop crops
that are sturdier, less input-dependent
and better-yielding. They also need
sound advice on sustainable farming and
agro-forestry practices, plus marketing
support for their products.
Farmer-centered approach
Two years ago, I visited the vil-
lage of Kothapally in Andhra Pradesh
in India. The Adarsha integrated wa-
tershed management project therein
is a good example of a participatory,
farmer-centered approach to sustain-
able development and natural resources
conservation in semi-arid zones. Using
Volume 43 • Number 6
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Right to Food in Asia and the Pacific
small-scale water impounding as its
point of entry, the project has energized
rural households, especially women, to
go into diversified cropping, production
of vermiculture-based fertilizer, raising
of water buffaloes and other livelihood
activities. It demonstrates the excellent
collaboration among rural residents and
their associations, the state and local
governments, NGOs, local research and
extension institutions, and the Interna-
tional Crops Research Institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics (INCRISAT), which
is based in the state. The project is now
being replicated in other watersheds in
Andhra Pradesh and in several Asian
countries.
While relying on the native wis-
dom and contributions of small rural
producers, we can further enhance rural
incomes and food security by motivating
the private sector to invest in the coun-
tryside. There are ample opportunities
for joint ventures and other commercial
arrangements between businessmen and
rural workers and their organizations,
based on respect for farmers’ rights
and giving them a genuine stake in the
business enterprise.
The magnitude of remittances from
citizens of Asia-Pacific countries work-
ing abroad is enormous. (In the case of
the Philippines, this could be as much
as one-half of the national government
budget.) This fact poses a challenge
on how to channel these substantial
inflows into profitable agri-business
projects that will provide more jobs
and more food.
The rights-based approach
The rights-based approach to indi-
vidual and national food security will
succeed if there is political will from
above and from below. Reform-minded
leaders need the firm prodding and back-
ing of strong grassroots organizations
of the poor, especially in the face of
opposition from those who are resistant
to change.
Incorporation of the right-to-food
and other basic human rights into na-
tional constitutions and laws, while
important, will not be enough. Their
realization on the ground will be blocked
or hampered, unless the poor demand
and work for their effective implementa-
tion. To achieve this purpose, the rural
poor must harness their numbers into an
organized force for their empowerment.
This will require a good organizational
philosophy and program, responsible
leaders, capable managers, and active
members.
The precise form of organization
will vary, depending on legal, political
and socio-economic factors and priori-
ties in each country. It could be a small
self-help group engaged in lending or
production, a cooperative marketing its
members’ produce, and so on. My own
inclination is toward organizations of
the farm or trade union type, consoli-
dated and networked from the village
up to the national level. This farm union
model allows an association to take up
a variety of roles and services at lo-
cal and national levels, ranging from
membership representation and policy
advocacy to management of social and
economic ventures.
Ideally, an organization should be
guided by the principles of solidarity and
subsidiarity. Solidarity ensures that all
members support each other and follow
a common purpose and direction. Sub-
sidiarity encourages initiative, self-help
and flexibility from the bottom level of
the organization, upwards.
To illustrate, may I share the ex-
perience of my own organization, the
Federation of Free Farmers. In 1982,
after several years of intense lobby-
ing, the FFF convinced the Philippine
government to institute an Integrated
Social Forestry Program. Unlike in the
past, when they would be driven away,
landless and shifting forest occupants
were now offered long-term leases
over denuded public forest lands up to
eighteen percent in slope, provided that
they would follow sustainable agro-
forestry cultivation and environmental
conservation methods.
In several towns of the central
Philippine province of Bohol, farm set-
tlers belonging to my Federation have
transformed—mainly on a self-help
basis—close to a thousand hectares
of previously deforested lands into
productive agro-forest communities.
By planting various forest, fruit and
coconut trees, they regenerated dry
springs, which have enabled them to
grow rice, vegetables and fish. The farm-
ers also raise their own chickens, goats
and other livestock. With counterpart
funding secured by the FFF, our mem-
bers built public school classrooms for
their children. Likewise, they installed
a water distribution system, which has
spared household members, especially
the women and children, from carry-
ing heavy loads of water over long
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IMPACT • June 2009 8
Right to Food in Asia and the Pacific
distances to fetch water for family use.
They secured national government fund-
ing to construct a gravel road linking
their mountain villages to the national
highway system. Today, the main con-
cerns of our members are the setting
up of a small cooperative sawmill and
a mini-hydro-electric plant. They are
also concerned about small reptiles and
monkeys that try to steal their chickens
and crops!
Biotechnology and food programs
Stricter environmental standards
and the continuing rise in petroleum
prices have triggered much interest in
bio-fuels. While demand for bio-fuels
will help stabilize the prices for raw
material producers, the shift from food
to fuel crops production could endanger
food security. One alternative would
be to limit the production of bio-fuel
feedstock to marginal or idle lands.
Another would be to encourage the
cultivation of crops with both food and
bio-fuel uses. A good example is sweet
sorghum, which can be used for food,
feed, fuel and fiber.
Bio-technology is another subject
where the concerns of small farmers and
consumers should be fully addressed.
Farmers ask that research and develop-
ment, especially by the public sector,
give priority to their needs, such as
the improvement of crop varieties that
are important for their livelihood and
food security, but which may not be
financially attractive to private bio-tech
companies. Farmers also want to be
sure that seeds and other products of
bio-technology will not only give them
decent returns but are safe for humans
and the environment.
With the more frequent occurrences
of severe climatic changes like El Niño
and La Niña, we must beef up our capa-
bility to predict these phenomena with
better timeliness and precision. Hand-
in-hand with an early warning system,
we need to work closely with sectors
and institutions in vulnerable areas in
organizing the logistical network, with
which they can deal with future relief
and rehabilitation problems. In this
regard, buffer-stocking of food staples
will be helpful at local, national and
even supra-national levels, as in the
case of the ASEAN and the East Asian
Emergency Rice Reserve programs.
Food assistance can also be tied to
other objectives like improving school
attendance and nutritional levels of
children from poor families, and with
alleviating joblessness through food-
for-work schemes. However, farmers
feel that these programs should not
undercut their livelihood by lowering
prices of local farm produce. Moreover,
food aid should be done in a manner
that is supportive of local producers.
For example, food aid supplies can
be sourced internally from areas with
surplus production or stockpiles. School
feeding programs can offer a ready mar-
ket for locally produced like milk and
rice. In food-for-work projects, priority
must be given to the construction and
maintenance of infrastructure that will
improve agricultural productivity.
Incidentally, the successful dairy
development program of India shows
how foreign food aid and other com-
modity assistance programs, can be
transformed from short-term, chari-
table actions into sustainable national
programs with wide-ranging beneficial
impacts on food security, livelihood
creation and rural development.
(Leonardo Montemayor is the Na-
tional President of the Federation of
Free Farmers in the Philippines and
sectoral representative to Congress.
This article is lifted from his keynote
speech at the Asia-Pacific regional
observance of World Food Day at the
United Nations Food and Agriculture
organization headquarters in Bangkok,
Thailand.)
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Volume 43 • Number 6
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By Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo
I
recently visited the lobby of the House of Representatives
session hall. I immediately noticed the newly renovated
walls bearing pictures of significant events in Congress’s
history. Among those pictures pertaining to the present
Congress was a photo of a booklet with the following words
printed on its cover:
“Sustaining the Growth, Spreading the Benefits:
A Legislative Reform Agenda for the House of the People.”
– House Speaker Prospero Nograles
This made me ponder for a while. Amidst all the seem-
ingly unsound and doubtful legislative proposals and poli-
cies cropping up in Congress these days, I could not help
but wonder. Whose growth are our national leaders trying to
sustain? Are the laws churned out by this body upon which
we, as a people, have entrusted our wisdom really for the
benefit of the Filipino? There is one House measure which
has piqued my concern at the moment. I came across this
House Resolution (HR) No. 737 which, essentially, proposes
to grant ownership of Philippine land to foreigners.
Under the proposal, alienable lands of the public
domain—which are agricultural lands—with a maximum
area of one thousand hectares, can now be leased to foreign
corporations for a maximum of fifty years. And disturbingly,
ownership, not just lease, of agricultural lands measuring
up to twenty-five hectares is granted to foreign corpora-
tions. This proposal seeks to change the proviso in the 1987
Constitution which restricts ownership of Philippine lands
to Filipinos and Filipino corporations.
Under Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution,
the ownership-in-trust of natural resources is vested with
the State and the State may sell, lease, or otherwise alienate
the rights to these resources through contracts to Filipinos
and Filipino corporations only. Thus, foreign individuals or
corporations are clearly excluded.
Under HR 737, the State will do away entirely with the
restriction on foreign ownership. The proponents of this
Resolution seek to amend the constitution and open our land
to foreigners, with the haste and neglect unbecoming of any
honorable national leader.
This Resolution is actually another try to resuscitate
the failed Cha-Cha attempt by the solons. It becomes ap-
parent that, despite the claim of limiting amendments only
to economic provisions (foreign ownership of lands) which
will help gear up development, productivity, and efficiency
in the country, this pursuit for Charter Change may become
a vehicle for other unwanted changes in government—a
vehicle highly vulnerable to derailment. This Resolution,
dangerous in itself substantially, may also usher in proce-
dural irregularities in amending the Constitution. There is
a danger, real as it is grave, that this measure could be used
to influence answers to questions of good governance and
accountability.
I tried hard to weigh the possible benefits of this Reso-
Protecting Whose Agenda?
lution for the Filipino people vis-à-vis the obvious dangers
that would come with it. Assuming that HR 737 is indeed
merely an economic proposal, would foreign ownership of
lands really result in economic development of the country?
And if it will, will this economic development trickle down
to the people who have remained poor even during times
when ownership of land access to land and other natural
resources were ensured to Filipinos only?
I shudder at the thought of unfair competition for land
between Filipinos, citizens of this country who have made
land productive and foreign entities with nothing but abun-
dant financial resource to offer. I am jolted by the terrible
scenario of Filipinos becoming squatters in our own land. I
remember that God told us that the earth and all its bounty is
for us to share, maybe this measure is not bad after all. But
then I realize that the Filipinos who have been gifted with
stewardship of this country have not even had their rightful
share and yet they will have to give way to those who have
the might and wealth to take part of more than they need.
Surely, it must not have been God’s intention to encourage
excesses when there are those who lack not only as regards
land but also dignity.
As it is, the Government already has designated millions
of hectares of our lands for the benefit of foreign corporations,
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without consideration for the farmers, indigenous peoples,
and other members of the communities affected by these
government exploration and biofuel contracts.
I believe that the Constitutional restriction on foreign
ownership of land obviously involves a national security
issue. I have been informed that there is no cap to the total
area allowable for foreign ownership. If this is true, there
might come a time that we will run out of agricultural lands
which serve as food sources. And even if these lands con-
tinue to be used for food production, there is also a risk that
most of the produce of our lands will be exported and yet
we will no longer have a say on the matter. This will be an
attack not only on our food security but also to our integrity
as a people as well.
With the threat of enabling foreign corporations and
associations to hold, acquire, and be granted the right to
possess, own, utilize and develop land in our country, what
will be left for the Filipinos? As we all know, the agrarian
reform program is still underway, and thousands of farmers
still await emancipation from the land they have tilled for
generations. Over one million hectares of land await distri-
bution. Our government cannot feed its own people, and yet
we open up all our resources for non-Filipinos, as if without
regard for our own people whom it is supposed to serve.
It is said that only fifteen million hectares of alienable
and disposable agriculture lands are available to answer for
the food security of Filipinos. HR 737 does not help improve
this situation. HR 737 poses grave danger to our national
security and sustainability. It is also unjust, considering that
there are millions of Filipino peasants still not owning the
lands their families have tilled for decades. It is unjust that
our resources should be used primarily for the benefit of
foreigners, and not those who do not have a stake in domestic
development and peace.
As I take in the implications and consequences of this
measure, I find myself challenged and hopeful at the same
time. Though I am saddened by the apparent prioritization of
this bill by the House of Representatives, I feel challenged as
a Filipino to help protect the rights of my fellow Filipinos,
here and in the countryside, who remain landless. I am chal-
lenged to continue pushing for laws which will protect the
rights of the marginalized Filipino, laws such as the Com-
prehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension (CARPER)
with Reforms. I feel challenged but I remain hopeful and
vigilant. I am hopeful because I see that there are still those
leaders in government who work with us, their constituency,
to make sure that the government works for national interest
instead of the interest of the privilege few.
Together with people from the peasant sector, among
others, I remain vigilant and urge Congress to fast track the
enactment of socially just bills such as the CARPER bill and
call on them to disapprove oppressive and unfair bills like
House Resolution No. 737. I am hopeful that amidst under-
handed efforts to go against the wisdom of the Constitution,
to further deprive the marginalized Filipinos of their basic
rights, and to evade laws on accountability, we Filipinos will
prevail if we work together and fight with the guidance of
our righteous God.
I also fnd comfort in the pockets of brilliance and states-
manship found in the history of Philippine Congress. I am
praying fervently that our national leaders will, true to their
promise, Sustain the Growth and Spread the Benefts for the
Filipino people. I urge every Filipino to act with vigilance in
ensuring that government agenda will refect that of the people,
in calling for accountability in governance and in seeking the
just distribution of Philippine land and natural resources.
Protecting Whose Agenda?
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The Long and Short of the
Agrarian Reform Program
By Senator Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel
A
s a senator, I supported the agrarian reform program
when it was first covered by a congressional legisla-
tion in 1988.
I supported its extension from December 2008 to June
2009 to keep it alive for six months just so we can work on
extending it for a longer period with reforms.
Five more years
That is what we are now working on in the Senate. As
we go to print, we are still debating Senate Bill No. 2666
that gives the program five more years within which to cover
over a million hectares of land for the benefit of an estimated
five million tenant farmer beneficiaries.
Timetable
Hopefully, we’d be done before mid-May and that the
House of Representatives would also be done with its ver-
sion in the 3rd week of the month. Then, we can work on
to harmonize our two versions by the fourth week of the
month.
Social Justice
It is also hoped that the amendatory piece of legislation
on agrarian reform that can come out of the legislative mill
mentioned above would deliver social justice to the tenant
farmers and provide the foundation for a just and lasting
peace of the countryside where tens of thousands of tenant
farmers and their millions of dependents reside.
There is a wealth of theological, social and legal ar-
guments why agrarian reform is needed in a country like
ours.
Land is God-made
I’d like to dwell on only one truth.
Land is God-not-man-made. Therefore, no man or
group of men should monopolize its ownership, much less
its use.
I adhere to this belief knowing that I could be mis-
understood—as I had been misunderstood in the past—as
supporting the communist cause.
In my opinion, there is nothing communistic about the
kind of agrarian reform law that we are advocating.
Not confiscatory
For even as we would subject land to agrarian reform, as
legislators, we have to work with the constraints of our Con-
stitution. Our laws may not confiscate land for purposes of
agrarian reform even if concentrated in the hands of a few.
Just compensation
Our agrarian legislations had consistently advocated—
and so does the current Senate Bill No. 2666 advocate—that
just compensation be paid to the land-owners concerned.
And there is no way out of that requirement because it
is constitutionally mandated.
Accountability
But, certainly, the handlers of the billions of the people’s
money that will be poured into the agrarian reform program
in its extended life to acquire land and for other related
services should be forewarned that they will be strictly held
accountable for the proper use of the money and that any
misuse of it would make liable in criminal law.
Appropriate safeguards against thievery and abuse of
the implementers of the agrarian reform program—as agreed
upon with Senator Greg Honasan, the chair of the Senate
Committee on Agrarian Reform—will be included in the
amendatory legislation.
Compulsory acquisition
Also agreed with Chair Honasan is that the law as
amended would restore the compulsory acquisition of land
that was an essential feature of the original agrarian reform
law.
Risk of upheaval
I support the extension of the authentic agrarian reform
law with those provisos because without them our country
could be put at risk of a violent upheaval the likes of which
we have so far been spared by the grace of the Almighty.
Right thing
And finally, I support the extension of the life of the
comprehensive agrarian reform law because I believe it is
the right thing to do.
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By Michael Cook
E
very day there's a different spin
on Pope Benedict XVI's trip to
the Middle East: Pope Not Sorry
Enough for Holocaust, Pope Not An-
gry Enough Over Gaza, Pope's Past
Becomes PR Blunder, Pope Supports
Palestinian State... But the media has
overlooked one of the most signifcant
achievements of his trip—détente with
the Islamic world.
Two years ago Muslims erupted when
the Pope quoted a thoroughly obscure
Byzantine prince's assessment of Islam
in a speech at Regensburg, in Germany.
A leader of the Muslim Brotherhood said
at the time that the remarks "pour oil on
the fre and ignite the wrath of the whole
Islamic world to prove the claims of en-
mity of politicians and religious men in
the West to whatever is Islamic."
But on this trip Benedict has given
a speech in a mosque, addressed Muslim
leaders and taken off his shoes to piously
visit the Dome of the Rock mosque, the
third holiest in the Islamic world. After
a few tutorials in tact, he seems to have
watered down his message to Muslims to
make it soothing and inoffensive.
Well, actually he hasn't. Not a bit
of it. In fact, he has almost photocopied
his Regensburg speech after swabbing
the infammatory bits with liquid paper.
Benedict XVI is proving to be a master of
long-term public relations for the Catho-
lic Church. Despite all the protest from
Muslims (most of whom never read the
Regensburg speech anyway), he hasn't
budged one inch.
No one has noticed this because
journalists think in sound-bites and
Benedict thinks in paragraphs. But he
is bearing a powerful message: that
Christianity and Islam face a common
enemy in secularism. As he told Muslim
leaders in Jordan, "Indeed some assert
that religion is necessarily a cause of
division in our world; and so they argue
The Pope’s détente with
the Muslim world
No Muslims have complained about the Pope on his trip to the Middle East.
Is he cunning or just very, very smart?
that the less attention given to religion
in the public sphere the better."
Dialoguing with Muslims is a deli-
cate balancing act. There are plenty of
mullahs who preach that Christians are
idolaters because they worship a Trinity.
Benedict subtly emphasized that Chris-
tians are monotheists. They believe in
the Most High, leads to the recognition
that human beings are fundamentally
interrelated, since all owe their very
existence to a single source and are
pointed towards a common goal. Im-
printed with the indelible image of the
divine, they are called to play an active
role in mending divisions and promoting
one God, whom he described as "merciful
and compassionate", a characteristically
Muslim phrase. "We can begin with the
belief that the One God is the infnite
source of justice and mercy, since in him
the two exist in perfect unity," he told
Muslim leaders in Jerusalem.
After allaying Muslim suspicions
that Christians are really Bible-toting
polytheists, Benedict then argued that
the oneness of mankind fows from the
oneness of God. In other words, peace
amongst nations, mutual respect, and
even religious freedom has a theologi-
cal basis, not merely one of political
convenience:
"fdelity to the One God, the Creator,
human solidarity."
For all but the most fanatical of
Muslim clerics, this must seem unob-
jectionable. But then Benedict explains
what is distinctive about the Christian
notion of God ─ that man participates
in the nature of God.
"Christians in fact describe God,
among other ways, as creative Reason,
which orders and guides the world. And
God endows us with the capacity to par-
ticipate in his reason and thus to act in
accordance with what is good. Muslims
worship God, the Creator of Heaven and
Earth, who has spoken to humanity. And
as believers in the one God we know that
Muslim, page 14
ARTICLES
Volume 43 • Number 6
13
NEWS
FEATURES
NEW DELHI, India—Human rights
activists, Nobel Prize winners and In-
dian religious leaders are appealing to
the international community for the re-
lease of Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar’s
main opposition leader was arrested by
the country’s ruling military junta for
breaking the terms of her house arrest.
Today is the second day of her trial,
which is being held in Yangon under
tight security.
In a public statement the leaders
of ASEAN nations said that they were
“very concerned” about Ms. Suu Kyi’s
fate, but excluded imposing any eco-
nomic sanctions against the junta.
For Lenin Raghuvanshi, an Indian
activist and director of the People’s
Vigilance Committee on Human Rights,
Ms. Suu Kyi’s arrest “will have very
serious repercussions for the democracy
movement in Myanmar” and is a “blatant
violation” of human rights.
He urges “India, China and other
neighbours of Burma to oppose the
military dictatorship and support the
non-violent struggle for democracy. [...]
It is essential for the region,” he added,
“to eliminate the atmosphere of terror
perpetrated by the military. [...] It is
a moral issue for Burma’s big trading
neighbours who on the one hand sup-
port, tacitly or otherwise, the military
5 Indian human rights activists call
for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi
regime inside Burma, while on the other
oppose terrorism.”
Sajan George, chairman of the
Global Council of Indian Christians
(GCIC), appealed to the Indian govern-
ment to “condemn the arrest of Aung
San Suu Kyi” and call for her “immedi-
ate release.”
Fr. Anthony, a Jesuit priest in Ma-
durai (Tamil Nadu), said he was afraid
that “Aung San Suu Kyi will never be
released” until “she is dead or world
powers exert such pressure on the junta
that they have to free her.”
Members of ASEAN, the Asso-
ciation of South-East Asian Nations,
released an official statement on Aung
San Suu Kyi’s arrest.
They said they were “seriously
concerned” about the situation and de-
manded she receive adequate medical
care, otherwise the “honour and cred-
ibility” of the Myanmar government
will be at stake.
Thailand, which currently chairs
ASEAN, has excluded sanctions against
the military regime.
Led by the European Union, the
international community has called
on Myanmar’s largest trading partner
China to intervene to have Suu Kyi
freed.
Nine Nobel Prize winners, includ-
ing South Africa’s Archbishop Des-
mond Tutu, Iran’s Shirin Ebadi and
Guatemala’s Rigoberta Menchu Tum,
called the trial of Burma’s foremost
dissident a “farce”; they also urged the
United Nations Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon to bring the matter before the
Security Council “as soon as possible.”
(AsiaNews)
MANILA—The country’s wealth
being controlled by a few greedy,
rich families is a situation that is
definitely ‘regrettable,” a church
leader said.
In a phone interview, Kalookan
Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez reacted
on the pronouncement given earlier
by the Moral Force Movement.
“If this is indeed true, as being
manifested by the several surveys
showing the growing number of poor
Filipinos, this is really a very regret-
table situation we are in,” he said.
What is more disappointing, the
bishop claimed, is the government’s
failure to do its job for the common
welfare.
“We certainly hope that our
government will realize what the real
essence of being public servants is
and do what is really needed by the
people and not of selfish interests,”
Iñiguez said.
On May 15, Supreme Court Chief
Justice Reynato Puno lamented the
continued control of “oligarchs” over
the country and that it appears that
the government is beholden to the
rich and the powerful.
The said predicament, accord-
ing to the movement pushing for
the nation’s moral recovery, further
increases the problem of unequal
distribution of wealth and widening
gap between the rich and the poor.
According to Iñiguez, oligar-
chy, by itself, is not a bad form of
governance but only if it leads to the
well-being of the whole country.
This, however, does not pose the
same result in the country because
of the increasing poverty rate, the
bishop noted. (CBCPNews)
Widening rich-poor gap
‘regrettable’
IMPACT • June 2009 14
NEWS
FEATURES
human reason is itself God's gift and that
it soars to its highest plane when suffused
with the light of God's truth."
This was precisely the point of the
Regensburg address. Then, however, the
Pope was addressing a Christian audi-
ence and he tackled diffcult question of
theologically-sanctioned violence. Us-
ing the long-forgotten words of Manuel
II Paleologus, he pointed out that "God
is not pleased by blood—and not acting
reasonably is contrary to God's nature."
But when speaking to Muslims, he
describes reason as the ultimate basis
for human dignity—and both religions
esteem human dignity.
Furthermore, he says, faith and rea-
son support each other. Religion purifes
reason of the temptation to presump-
tion (was he thinking of Christopher
Hitchens?). It protects society from "the
excesses of the unbridled ego which
tend to absolutize the fnite and eclipse
the infnite" (a dig at Richard Dawkins
perhaps?). It helps us to appreciate "all
that is true, good and beautiful."
It was a remarkable performance—
to explain the deepest notions of Chris-
tian theology to a potentially hostile
audience and leave without a murmur
of criticism.
It seems clear that the Pope is
seeking outcomes from this dialogue
with Muslim leaders—more respect for
Christianity, more religious tolerance,
more common action against secularism,
more common action in support of human
dignity. How long it will take for the mes-
sage to sink in is a different matter. But
the very positive reaction from Muslim
leaders gives ground for hope.
What a contrast with the ham-fsted
attempt of another head of state to dia-
logue with the Muslim world. President
Obama's address to the Turkish parlia-
ment earlier this year was the religious
equivalent of speed dating. He told
Muslims: "We will listen carefully, we
will bridge misunderstandings, and we
will seek common ground."
Back on his home turf, Obama's
rhetoric about "common ground" is al-
ready tarnished after his whole-hearted
endorsement of abortion in the teeth of
religious opposition. What chance has he
of convincing Muslims that they share
common ground with a nation that toler-
ates same-sex marriage? The president's
strategy for dialogue boils down to "Hi,
my name's Hussein, too. Let's be bud-
dies." This approach might turn Turkish
parliamentarians into cheering school-
girls, but it won't cut the mustard in the
madrassahs. If we're talking "common
ground", the Vatican's is the only game
in town at the moment.
(Michael Cook is editor of Merca-
torNet)
Muslim, from page 12
MANILA—A top church
leader said he is praying that
all lawmakers will strive
to work for the welfare
of the farmers, one of the
country’s most vulnerable
sectors.
In his Farmers’ Day
message, Catholic Bishops’
Conference of the Philip-
pines president Archbishop
Angel Lagdameo said farm-
ers must be rewarded for
their efforts to provide the
people’s basic needs.
Lagdameo is hoping
that legislators will dedicate
themselves to provide the
needs of the farmers, like
the desired extension of the
Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program (CARP)
with reforms.
“Instead of working
for their own interests, I
pray that the Holy Spirit
will move our Senators and
Congressmen into heeding
the cries of the rural poor,
in accordance to the dictates
CBCP chief prays for lawmakers’
compassion for farmers
of moral and social justice,”
he said.
The CBCP head made
the statement amid fears that
“some killer amendments” are
being pushed by some lawmak-
ers owning vast agricultural
lands into a bill seeking for
CARP extension.
“As our legislators go
about the very important task
of passing an agrarian reform
law, I pray that they draw
inspiration from St. Isidore,
who, despite being very poor
himself, gave up what little he
had to those who were poorer,”
said Lagdameo.
“May his generosity re-
minds our elected officials that
life is not to be a selfish quest
for profit, but an opportunity
for service,” he added.

Five key issues
In his statement, the Jaro
archbishop pressed the legis-
lators on five key issues that
need to be incorporated in the
CARP law.
These are:
1) Five-year implementa-
tion period including Compul-
sory Acquisition, and without
the proposed phasing of dis-
tribution;
2) Collateral free credit
and increased support services
to farmers;
3) Creation of an oversight
committee with the inclusion
of private sector representa-
tives to monitor the implemen-
tation of agrarian reform;
4) Recognition of the
farmers’ legal standing and
non-cancellation of Certificate
of Land Ownership Award
(CLOA) on lands already dis-
tributed to and developed by
the farmers;
5) Increased penalty for
obstruction of CARP imple-
mentation.

Farmers’ day
May 15 is a national day of
celebration and homage of the
Philippine Catholic Church to
the farmers that started in 2002.
This day is also the feast of
St. Isidore the Worker, the
patron saint of the farmers.
Local celebrations
were usually held simulta-
neously in various dioceses
across the country spear-
headed by their respective
social action centers.
While honoring the
farmers for their contribu-
tion to national develop-
ment, the CBCP’s National
Secretariat for Social Ac-
tion deplores the conditions
confronting them.
“The feast of St. Isi-
dore, the Farmer’ Day on
May 15 is an occasion for
us Filipinos to recall and
acknowledge the impor-
tant roles our own farmers
play in nation-building,”
Lagdameo said.
“They are the co-cre-
ators of God; the represen-
tatives of society entrusted
with the noble task of mak-
ing the earth fruitful,” he
added. (Roy Lagarde)
I
IMPACT • June 2009 16
A measure for social justice
and soci al t ransf ormat i on
By Belinda Formanes
U
nless a miracle hap-
pens, Congress wi l l
be writing finis to an
unfinished reform program in
less than ten working session
days this June. The unfinished
program is the Comprehen-
sive Agrarian Reform Program
(CARP), which still has 1.3 mil-
lion hectares of land, mostly
big estates, to be covered and
Why the bleak prospects for extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program
distributed. Also, CARP still
has to fulfill the triple man-
dates laid down by the l987
Constitution—as a weapon
of social justice (partly met),
as an instrument for balanced
rural devel opment (barel y
met) and as a platform for
rural-based industrialization
(hardly met).
Why then the bleak pros-
pect for the passage of the
“CARP extension with re-
forms” bill (house bill 4077)
which unanimously already
passed the committee level?
Despite its strong endorse-
ment by the Catholic Bishops’
Conference of the Philippines
(CBCP), many in the House of
Representatives have openly
been seeking the termination
of CARP, with no less than the
Congressman son of the First
Couple and the Congressman
Brother of the First Gentle-
man taking the lead. Further,
the Speaker of the House
and the well-known leaders
of the President’s political
party, KAMMPI, have also in-
troduced “killer amendments”
whose objective effect would
not only reduce the scope of
CARP but would dangerously
open the possibility of reform
reversal in areas where land
had already been transferred
to rightful farm benefciaries.
IMPACT • June 2009 16
AGRARIAN REFORM
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COVER
STORY
By Archbishop Antonio J. Ledes-
ma, SJ
A
t the Second National Rural Con-
gress convened by the Catholic
Bishops’ Conference of the Phil-
ippines in 2007-08, the small farmer
sector voiced out their key issues and
concerns. These were expressed through
a year-long series of consultations at
the diocesan, subregional, regional and
national levels. Among these concerns
were the following:
1

• Rural poverty and landlessness
are widespread.
• Small farmers and indigenous
people communities are displaced from
their lands because of land conversion,
agribusiness expansion as well as log-
ging and mining operations.
• Human rights abuses are ram-
pant because of militarization and
the presence of armed groups in the
countryside.
• Many farmer leaders have been
killed in the process of their agrarian
reform struggles and justice is still to
be served to their families and com-
munities.
• Local farmers’ products are being
edged out from the market by imports
from other countries.
• There is a lack of rural infrastruc-
ture and government support for farm
production and marketing.
• There is corruption at various
levels of government agencies tasked
with the implementation of the agrarian
reform program.
• There are also positive experi-
ences in agrarian reform and agricul-
tural development, with several success
stories being documented.
In general, although the rural popu-
lation has declined from 75 percent to
52 percent since the first National Rural
Congress in 1967, poverty continues
Why the bleak prospects for extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program
For example, one killer amend-
ment is the exemption of “plan-
tations which are under labor
administration and cultivated
and developed for exports”.
If approved, this amendment
will virtually bring the scope of
CARP to the original land re-
form target set in l972 by Presi-
dent Ferdinand Marcos, as if
the country did not undergo
EDSA I and II. This amend-
ment is also likely to fuel more
conficts in the countryside as
there will be organized efforts
by a powerful few to displace
the banana, sugar and other
farmer-worker cooperatives
from the lands already covered
by their respective collective
land ownership awards or
CLOAs.
As it is, the countryside is
once again restive, with the
awakened peasantry, from
Cagayan Valley in the north
to the Davao provinces in the
south, anxious over the de-
lays in CARP implementation
and the Congressional dilly-
dallying on the needed sup-
port for CARP’s completion.
Many farmers’ organizations
cannot also understand why
the Department of Agriculture
(DA), Department of Environ-
ment and Natural Resources
(DENR) and the Department
of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
have been quick to make a
commitment to identify one
mi l l i on hectares of publ i c
and private land, which Edu-
ardo Cojuangco and the Kuok
family of Singapore-Malaysia
can develop as agribusiness
farms—when CARP itself has
not been completed and there
is a growing colony of landless
rural poor nationwide!
The bigger picture, of
Volume 43 • Number 6
17
to be pervasive in the countryside
and has merely spread to the cities in
terms of rural-urban migration. As an
answer to their plight, many farmer
delegates called for the extension of
the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
Program (CARP) with reforms. On the
other hand, another group called for the
termination of CARP and the passage
instead of a Genuine Agrarian Reform
Bill (GARB). Both groups converge
AGRARIAN REFORM
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COVER
STORY
on a common aspiration for an effec-
tive and meaningful agrarian reform
program based on the land-to-the-tiller
principle.
How then does the Church view the
plight of the rural poor? What is the
message of the Bible and the Church’s
social teachings on ownership of land
and agricultural development?
Message of the Bible
The first book of the Bible gives an
account of God’s creation of the world
and its culmination in the creation of the
first man and woman. Solemn words
accompany the task given to them by
Yahweh: “Be fruitful and multiply, and
fill the earth and subdue it; and have
dominion over the fish of the sea and
over the birds of the air and over every
living thing that moves upon the earth”
(Genesis 1:28).
The terms, “subdue” and “have
dominion,” in biblical language refer to
the rule of a wise king who looks after
the welfare of his subjects. These words
can also refer to the administration of
a wise steward who has to give an ac-
counting to his master, the only absolute
lord of the universe. The first parents
are also placed in a garden to become
stewards of a habitat meant for all. This
vision of God’s providence and man’s
stewardship role in caring for creation
is a powerful critique of the wanton
destruction of the environment that we
are witnessing today and the unregu-
lated appropriation of land resources
as absolute private property.
The vision of God’s lordship is
carried further onto the social and
economic plane by the ancient Hebrew
institution of the Jubilee year – i.e., the
year following the sabbath of Sabbath
years, or the 50
th
year. In observing
the Jubilee year as a holy year affirm-
ing God’s lordship over the whole of
creation, the Hebrews acknowledged
three kinds of liberation. Fields and
houses reverted back to their original
owners; debts were cancelled; and the
land itself was allowed to lie fallow.
Thus, no one could own the land in
perpetuity; debt peonage was curtailed;
and only God was acknowledged as the
master of all creation and agricultural
produce: “for the land is mine; for you
are strangers and sojourners with me”
(Leviticus 25:23).
Social Teachings of the Church
Following the lines of the Biblical
message, the Church’s social teachings
have enunciated as a key principle the
I
t is disturbing to know that while billions of pesos have
been allotted for the implementation of the compre-
hensive agrarian reform program (CARP) all these
years, vast tracts of land that are subject to CARP mostly
privately-owned remain undistributed. The exclusion of
compulsory acquisition as a mode for distribution under
Joint Resolution no.19 issued by Congress last Decem-
ber does not speak well of the government’s sincerity in
meaningfully implementing CARP. Those lands which have
been awarded years back are either bereft of the neces-
sary support services to sustain the productivity of the
land or disputed to this day by the previous landowners.
We have been witness to endless rallies and mobiliza-
tion activities, hunger strikes and long arduous walks by
awarded farmer-owners, if only to reclaim the lands that
have already been properly transferred to their name.
In a forum held for the DAR Budget Monitoring Project
(DARBM) last March, the Philippine Partnership for the
Development of Human Resources in the Rural Areas
or PhilDHRRA shared its preliminary findings on the
utilization of the DAR budget in implementing CARP for
the year 2007. The project’s goal is to make the budget
of the Department of Agrarian Reform more transparent
and open for monitoring by civil society organizations and
Holding up CARPER
people’s organizations whose members are the primary
beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program. Similar
monitoring efforts on budgets of other government agen-
cies have been conducted by assigned institutions under
a ten-month National Budget Monitoring Project funded by
USAID. CODE-NGO, for instance, was tasked to monitor
the budget of the Department of Agriculture; Partnership
of Philippine Support Services Agencies, Inc. or PhilSSA
looked at the budget of the housing agencies; and the
Ateneo School of Government examined the budget of
the Commission on Elections.
There are three sources of the DAR budget: the General
Fund (Fund 101), Foreign-Assisted Project Funds (Fund
102) and the Agrarian Reform Fund (Fund 158). Of the
line agencies receiving funds for CARP implementation,
which include the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources, Land Bank of the Philippines and DA-National
Irrigation Authority, DAR (understandably) obtained the lion’s
share of the CARP budget in 2007 at PhP9.77 billion or 65
per cent of total budget. Its many activities span from land
distribution to provision of support services while the other
agencies help out in capacity building and a few infrastructure
projects. As the disbursing agency for paying landowners,
LBP was second at PhP4.26 billion or 28 per cent.
By Gemma Rita R. Marin
IMPACT • June 2009 18
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Agrarian Reform A measure for social justice and social transformation
universal destination of goods: “God
destined the earth and all it contains
for all men and all peoples so that all
created things would be shared fairly
by all mankind under the guidance of
justice tempered by charity.”
2
The right
to the use of earthly goods is a natural
right, inherent in human nature, and
“has priority with regard to any human
intervention concerning goods.”
3
As a secondary and complementary
principle, the Church also recognizes
the natural right to private property.
This is based on the special nature of
human work and provides a protection of
human dignity, the exercise of personal
and family autonomy, and a safeguard
for civil liberty.
On the other hand, Christian tra-
dition has never recognized the right
to private property as absolute and
unconditional: “On the contrary, it has
always understood the right within the
broader context of the right common
to all to use the goods of the whole of
creation: the right to private property
is subordinated to the right of common
use, to the fact that goods are meant for
everyone.”
4
In this light, agrarian reform is a
measure that calls not for the abolition,
but for the wider distribution of private
property. The Pontifical Council for
Justice and Peace notes: “Whatever
concrete forms private property may
take as a result of varying institutional
and juridical approaches, it is basi-
cally an instrument to implement the
principle of the universal destination
of material goods, and hence a means
and not an end.”
5
In the Philippine context, the Com-
prehensive Agrarian Reform Program
has included within its scope various
types of peasant groups—e.g., share ten-
ants demanding their rightful percent-
age share of the harvest; leaseholders
subject to a fixed rental; agricultural
workers, regular or seasonal, on feudal-
type haciendas or capital-intensive
plantations; and at the lowest rung of the
socio-economic ladder, landless rural
workers without regular employment
nor security of tenure.
While these various peasant groups
are deprived of the ownership of the
lands they till, another phenomenon
persists—i.e., the misappropriation
of land by large landholders, includ-
ing multinational corporations, which
marginalizes small farmers as well as
indigenous people communities.
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The resulting “perverse inequalities
in the distribution of common goods
and in each person’s opportunities for
development”
6
go counter to another key
principle of Catholic social teaching:
solidarity. As a social principle and a
moral virtue, “there exists an intimate
bond between solidarity and the com-
mon good, between solidarity and the
universal destination of goods, between
solidarity and equality among men and
peoples, between solidarity and peace
in the world.”
7
Sadly, the persistence
of rural poverty and agrarian unrest in
the Philippine countryside attests to
the “shameful lack of human solidar-
ity, striking the weakest and future
generations.”
8
If implemented with political will
and with the appropriate support ser-
vices, agrarian reform can indeed help
restore and build this solidarity among
stakeholders, as it has been done in
neighboring Asian countries. Agrarian
reform is a measure for social justice—
and social transformation.
(Most Rev. Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ,
is the Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro. A
former Vice-President of the Catholic
Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
(CBCP), he is currently a member of
the Pontifical Council for Justice and
Peace.)
Notes:
1 Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the
Philippines, Dialogue with the Rural Poor,
Manila, CBCP, 2009, pp. 39-43.
2 Vatican II Ecumenical Council, Pastoral
Constitution on the Church in the Modern
World, 1965. No. 69.
3 Pontifcal Council for Justice and Peace,
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of
the Church, Vatican City, Libreria Editrice
Vaticana, 2004. No. 172.
4 Pope John Paul II, Laborem Exercens,
1991. No. 14.
5 Pontifcal Council for Justice and Peace,
Towards a Better Distribution of Land: The
Challenge of Agrarian Reform, Vatican City,
Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997. No. 30.
6 Ibid, No. 27.
7 PCJP, Compendium of the Social Doctrine
of the Church, op. cit. Nos. 193-194.
8 PCJP, Towards a Better Distribution of Land,
op. cit. No. 33.
course, is that the entire
agri cul tural sector i s i n
shambles. The rice crisis
which made the headlines
in March-June of this year
shows that the Philippines
is now a major agriculture-
importing country, with an
annual net agricultural trade
deficit of over $1 billion.
This is due to falling invest-
ments associated with the
uncertainties generated by
an unfinished CARP and the
failure of DAR to upgrade
the capacity of unlettered
f armer benef i ci ari es t o
become modern farmers,
on one hand, and to nudge
former landowners to invest
on agricultural processing
and non-farm activities, on
the other. This is also due
to the overall neglect of
the sector under the World
Bank’s “agricultural deregu-
lation” policy and the WTO’s
“agricultural trade liberal-
ization”, which promoted
food importation (including
smuggling) instead of food
sufficiency as the means
to meet the people’s food
requi rements. There i s
also the absence of good
governance as illustrated
by the multi-million fertilizer
scandal under DA Under-
secretary Joc-Joc Bolante.
And lastly, there is policy
incoherence as reflected in
the Administration’s public
declaration of support for
small farmer development
even as the government’s
own Medium-Term Philip-
pi ne Devel opment Pl an
(MTPDP 2004-2010) i s
targeting not less than two
million hectares for agri-
business development by
big corporate players like
Danding Cojuangco.
The bias of the Adminis-
tration for big agribusiness
is also reflected in the cha-
cha proposal of Speaker
Prospero Nogral es and
the NEDA’s MTPDP. The
j usti fi cati on bei ng used
for cha-cha is primarily for
the “Pandora’s box” of the
presidential term extension
maneuver and for more
economic liberalization, this
time, the opening up of land
ownership to foreigners and
the easing of the equity re-
quirements before foreign-
ers can manage businesses
r el at ed t o mi ni ng, gas
exploration, mass media,
advertising, education and
public utilities, including
transport. Such a cha-cha
initiative is like a proposal
for the re-colonization of
the Philippines—except that
the initiative is coming from
government officials bereft
of any sense of economic
nationalism and who have
no faith on the capacity of
the Filipino to excel.
Verily, the counsel of
Archbi shop Angel Lag-
dameo for bold communal
action to push for reforms
is wise and timely. Only
the collective unity of an
awakened ci ti zenry can
eliminate corruption and
abuse in governance, goad
Congress to take CARP
seriously, pass HB 4077,
stop the anti-people cha-cha
locomotive on its tracks,
and engage Malacañang
to serve the Filipino people,
not a favored few.
(Belinda Formanes is
the Executive Director of
PARDDS)
Prospects, from page 17
IMPACT • June 2009 20
Agrarian Reform A measure for social justice and social transformation
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STATEMENTS
A
grari an Reform
is the centerpiece
program of t he
1987 Constitution. It pro-
nounces in definitive terms
that the law of the land
upholds the protection of
the rights of the poor in
keeping with the principles
of social justice. Despite
the trails of failures in its
implementation and the
rising agrarian-related vio-
lations in the countryside,
the farmers and the Church
acknowledge that for the
most part, agrarian reform
has had a positive impact
on poverty reduction.
Even before the fund-
ing for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)
expired last December 2008, several well-meaning legislators
passed bills that extend and reform the flawed provisions of
the old agrarian law. The Church commends these initiatives
and we throw our full support to the consolidated Senate and
House Bills, SB 2666 and HB 4077, now up for Senate’s
and Congress’ deliberation and approval. Unfortunately,
time is running out as there are only nine session days left
for Congress to enact this essential law.
Correspondingly, we oppose in the strongest terms, the
threat of “killer amendments” being inserted by some sena-
tors and congressmen that will effectively emasculate the
objectives and gains of the CARP with Extension and Reform
(CARPER) Bill for the poor farmers. These amendments are
called “perfecting” amendments by their proponents, which
in reality would dilute, slow down, and reverse the gains of
the program and reduce the resources available for it.
Invoking guidance and inspirations from both the Philip-
pine Constitution and the social doctrines of the Church, we
find the proposals below to be unacceptable and antithetical
to laws that govern the moral and social structures of our
society.
• The phasing of land acquisition and distribution,
‘Agrarian Reform is an
instrument of social justice
and an act of political wisdom’
(Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 1997)
A Pastoral Statement on the Comprehensive
Agrarian Reform Program
which targets first those
landholding measuring 50
hectares and above without
prejudice to the coverage
of lands below 50 hectares,
after an accomplishment
trigger of 90% by the re-
spective provinces. This is
unconstitutional in that our
Constitution does not dis-
tinguish on whatever basis
the agricultural lands to be
covered under CARP. On
the contrary, it mandates
the coverage of all lands
without qualification on the
basis of size or even crop
type. Allowing the State to
distinguish between lands
below 50 hectares and those
measuring 50 and above would be discriminatory against,
and would disenfranchise a huge percentage of potential
farmer-beneficiaries, considering that the bulk of undis-
tributed private agricultural lands is comprised of lands
less than 50 hectares. Putting the 90% trigger as condition
for resumption for coverage of smaller landholdings may
actually result in most of the remaining landholdings being
left uncovered or undistributed.
• Reconsolidation of agricultural lands by previous
landowners after the 10-year retention period, and/or the
reduction of the 10-year prohibition on sale of awarded
land to three years. These provisions clearly favor former
landowners and could defeat the purpose of the program
because it will allow them to reacquire foreclosed lands,
thus reconsolidate their landholdings.
• Allowing leaseback arrangements of awarded lands
between farmers and landowners/corporations. We find
this proposal to be inequitable and contradictory to the ul-
timate goal of agrarian reform, which is to grant ownership
and control over the land and its resources to the tillers.
CARP does not intend to protect whoever has the capacity
to buy and operate big plantations, at the expense of the
small farmers.
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STATEMENTS
• Institutionalization of Commercial Farm Plantations
in CARP. This proposal is objectionable as it expressly seeks
the transfer of control of lands from farmer-beneficiaries to
the landowner or any other agribusiness venture “partner”.
It is contrary to studies which show that small-scale rice
and corn farms by owner-cultivators are more productive
than large scale farms. It is also discriminatory against rice
and corn farmers. More importantly, this amendment is a
contravention to the basic principle of agrarian reform which
seeks to secure access, ownership, and control over land and
its resources to the poor farmers.
• Increasing the compensation to landowners and
increasing the down payment from the present 25%-30% to
50%. This proposal, which is based on case-specific deci-
sions of the Supreme Court, would result in a reduction of
funds available for land
acquisition and distribu-
tion and support services
and would effectively
prevent the program
from being completed.
Increasing just compen-
sation for landowners is
welcome as long as the
corresponding increase
will be matched by an
increase in the allotted
P147 Billion budget.
• Transfer of ju-
risdiction over agrar-
ian cases from the De-
partment of Agrarian
Reform Adjudication
Board (DARAB) to the
regular courts. We believe that the resolution of agrarian
cases entails the expertise of DAR on agrarian reform. This
is sufficient and more equitable to the farmers because they
are allowed to participate and represent themselves in the
process, which are not bound by technical rules of procedure
and evidence. We fear that the transfer of jurisdiction will
only serve to marginalize the farmers, who could be subjected
to a more adversarial and costly processes.
• Legislating the disqualification of “habitual squat-
ters” from becoming CARP beneficiaries and making
them criminally liable and punishable with specific penal-
ties under the law. The Church, together with the farmers’
groups, registers strong opposition to this provision and we
are one in calling for its deletion from the final version of
CARP. There is an alarming likelihood that this will be used
as an instrument to harass legitimate farmer-beneficiaries,
who are typically branded as “squatters” by landowners.
Legislating this provision will allow landowners to threaten
farmers with criminal cases.
The social teachings of the church equally condemn the
concentration and misappropriation of land as intrinsically
immoral. Gaudium et Spes states that “God destined the
earth and all it contains for all men and all peoples so that
all created things would be shared fairly by all mankind
under the guidance of justice, tempered by charity” (69).
Similarly, Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s
paper on “Towards a better distribution of land” quotes the
prophet Isaiah as saying, “Woe to those who join house to
house, who add field to field!” (5:8)
The same document also quotes the late Pope John Paul
II’s dramatic address to members of the government and
landowners in Mexico: “…leaders of the people, powerful
classes which sometimes keep unproductive lands that hide
the bread that so many families lack, human conscience, the
conscience of the peoples, the cry of the destitute, and above
all, the voice of God, the voice of the Church, repeat to you
with me: It is not just, it is not human, it is not Christian to
continue with certain situations that are clearly unjust. It
is necessary to carry out real, effective measures – at the
local, national and international levels… it is clear that
those who must collaborate most in this are those who can
do the most.”
Thus, it is with great
sorrow and foreboding
that we, the Catholic Bish-
ops of the Philippines,
witness some legislators
willfully neglecting a vital
sector that contributes to
the country’s economic
growth. Abandoning the
agricultural sector will
not only threaten farmers
but imperil food security
itself. Conversely, distrib-
uting lands to small farm-
ers will provide equitable
economic opportunities in
the rural areas and eventu-
ally reduce poverty and
unrests, which are major
deterrents to democratic development.
Acquiescence to the evils of self-interest has serious
negative effects in the social and economic well-being of
the country and jeopardizes our collective pursuit of the
common good. We appeal to our political leaders to make a
serious examination of conscience and focus their attention
on the swift resolution of the mounting forms of injustice and
violation of fundamental human rights of the rural poor.
The small farmers deserve our attention and espousal
of their cause. They continue bringing hope to society, and
nurture life from season to season. No man of upright con-
science much more that of a principled leader, can allow the
Filipino farmer to be laid bare and vulnerable to the claws
of globalization and continuous hopelessness.
Let us all pray for justice and peace to reign in our
country, through an authentic agrarian reform, carried out in
the spirit of distributive justice and solidarity with the rural
poor. We pray for the Holy Spirit to lead us away from sin,
enlighten our minds, and purify our intentions. And may the
love of Christ impel us in our quest for a morally reformed
society.
For the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines,
+ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, DD
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP
18 May 2009
Volume 43 • Number 6
23
STATEMENTS
J
oint Resolution No. 19, which
extends the Comprehensive Agrar-
ian Reform Program but without
providing for compulsory acquisition,
expires on June 30. On June 5, however,
the second regular session of Congress
will end, resuming only on the first
week of July. This means that despite
months of campaigning and lobbying for
a struggle that has spanned decades, and
because of the indifference or neglect
of our representatives in Congress, we
are again in the eleventh hour, with only
nine session days left to pass a law that
is not only constitutionally mandated,
but is required by basic notions of equity
and social justice.
The implementation of an agrar-
ian reform program is a Constitutional
mandate which the State may not avoid
by legislative inaction. Section 4, Art.
XIII of the 1987 Constitution requires
the State to “undertake an agrarian re-
form program founded on the right of
farmers and regular farmworkers who
are landless, to own directly or collec-
tively the lands they till or, in the case
of other farmworkers, to receive a just
share of the fruits thereof.” As it is, Joint
Resolution No. 19 is unconstitutional
for being contrary to the very spirit of
agrarian reform. If Congress again fails
to pass an agrarian reform law by June
5, it will be nothing short of a derelic-
tion of a duty reposed on the legislative
body by our Constitution.
The CARP has been in existence
for 20 years, but the fruits of authentic
agrarian reform in the country have yet
to be reaped. Eighty percent of privately
owned agricultural lands remain un-
distributed. Eighteen percent of CARP
beneficiaries have not received titles
to the lands that they till and should
rightfully own. Sixty-five percent of
CARP beneficiaries have no access to
government support services that should
be available in agrarian reform areas.
Rural poverty still accounts for seventy
percent of the country’s poor. If we are to
attain social justice eloquently defined
by Justice Jose P. Laurel in Calalang
vs. Williams as “…the humanization
of laws and the equalization of social
and economic forces by the State…”
then agrarian reform is a measure that
must not only be continued, but must
be among those prioritized.
The Philippine’s agrarian reform
program needs to be given more time
to fully attain the goals it was cre-
ated to accomplish. Twenty years of
unsatisfactory implementation clearly
leaves much room for improvement and
reform. House Bill 4077 and Senate
Bill 2666, or the CARP Extension with
Reforms Bill, reflect the needed changes
to address the shortcomings that have
prevented the law’s noble purpose from
coming into fruition.
We, who study the law, know that
laws are there for a reason. Agrarian
reform is explicitly identified as a fun-
damental State policy in Art II Sec 21 of
the Constitution. Thus, we ask that our
lawmakers breathe life into this policy
by enacting laws that set in motion and
ensure actual and speedy results.
We, who study the law, know that
while the actual provisions are drafted
by the members of Congress, laws are
ultimately articulations of the people’s
will and expressions of the power
inherent in them as citizens of a free
country. Thus, we remind our lawmak-
ers that their mandate emanates from
the people, and their duty is to address
their constituents’ needs, even if it
means sacrificing their own interests.
We reiterate that by eliminating com-
pulsory acquisition, the agrarian reform
program is reduced to no more than an
empty promise. Without it, there is no
reform, only more of the same.
We, who study the law, are no
strangers to policies that look resolute
on paper, but are torn apart and rendered
useless by the selfsame provisions,
where motherhood statements mask
gaps, loopholes and false pretenses.
Thus, we demand that Congress deliver
an agrarian reform program that is
responsive, sincere and faithful to the
principles of social justice.
The second regular session of Con-
gress ends in less than a month. Too
much has been lost, too much sacrificed
and there is too much at stake for our
legislature to fail us now. We take up
this cause because we, who study the
law, owe it to this country. We owe it
to the farmers who walked thousands
of miles, and spent weeks in hunger
strikes, asking to be heard. We owe it
to the blood shed and lives lost. We
owe it to the law that we study and
pledge to serve. Because, if the law
cannot be used to protect those who
need it the most, then it betrays its
own purpose.
TIME IS RUNNING OUT! PASS
THE CARPER BILLS (HB 4077 and
SB 2666) NOW!!
We Know that the Law is on
the Farmers’ Side
Student Council
Ateneo Law School
Makati City, Metro Manila
Supreme Law Council
College of Law
Silliman University
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental
Student Council
College of Law
University of Baguio
Baguio City, Benguet
Civil Law Student Council
College of Law
University of Sto. Tomas
Metro Manila
Law Student Government
College of Law
University of the Philippines
Quezon City, Metro Manila
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W
e, the farmers, advocates of
Agrarian Reform, the bishops
and the religious, appreciate
the efforts of the Senate in fast-tracking
the passage of Senate Bill 2666. We have
witnessed the interpellations by Senators
and were also able to talk with some
members of the Senate who generously
promised support for this essential social
justice program.
We were assured time and again of
the early passage of the CARP Extension
with Reforms bill. We would also like to
express gratitude to Senator Honasan who
gave us assurances that ‘killer’ amend-
ments will not find their way into the bill.
This makes us glad but we continuously
plead with the Honorable Senators to
ensure that amendments that could water
down the CARP and would defeat the
purpose of the agrarian reform program
shall not be included in the final version
of the bill. In particular, we are disturbed
about the possibility that there will be an
introduction of an inequitable phasing of
the Land Acquisition and Distribution
component of the program.
Under the most recent proposal on
phasing, lands over 50 hectares and above
will be prioritized. The acquisition and
distribution will be done on a province
to province basis. And, an accomplish-
ment rate of 90% per province will set
as a trigger. This tight and complicated
phasing of acquisition and distribution
almost ensures that many provinces in
the country will end up not being covered
under the program.
We aim to find a just and equitable
meeting point. We propose that that
90% trigger of accomplishment for the
50 hectares and above landholdings be
removed. Instead, landholdings of all
sizes should be simultaneously targeted
for acquisition and distribution, with
those bigger landholdings as priority.
The Senate may also study and come up
with other equitable alternative phasing
or prioritization systems. For instance,
we appeal that your committee give
priority for all lands over ten hectares.
That is an equitable compromise for the
legitimate small farmers owning 5-10
hectares (covering a total area of about
186,000 has). Otherwise, we foresee
stalling of compulsory acquisition after
coverage of 136,000 hectares (of lands
measuring over 50 has.), especially in
contentious areas like Negros which
would render CARP meaningless for
thousands of farmers.
There is also a proposal on the re-
consolidation of agricultural lands after
the expiration of the 10-year moratorium
on transfers of awarded land. This is
antithetical to the objective of CARP
because this would result in nullifying
the gains of the program in the past 20
years. In fact, 2.8 million hectares of
lands covered under CARP for ten years
will be vulnerable to reconsolidation
under this proposal. This would then take
away lands already rendered productive
by the farmer-beneficiaries whose rights
will be disregarded systematically by
legislation.
We are also concerned about a pro-
posal to remove agrarian cases from the
jurisdiction of the Department of Agrarian
Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB)
and putting these under the jurisdic-
tion of the regular courts. This proposal
disregards the unique nature of agrarian
cases and the particular need for experi-
ence and expertise of the administrative
agency mandated to implement agrarian
reform laws. This also poses the danger of
further oppression to farmer beneficiaries
whose legal personality is usually not
recognized in regular courts and poses
the risk of further isolating these indigent
farmers from court processes in the very
likely event that they will not be able to
avail of counsel's services. We agree,
however, that the DARAB and the DAR,
in general, should address loopholes in
implementation and arrest problems in
Agrarian Justice Delivery.
These are the provisions we found
objectionable among the many propos-
als raised by members of the Senate. We
remain vigilant and will continue to watch
Senate processes, and call on our Sena-
tors to perform their duty to the Filipino
people and to abide by the Constitutional
Mandate of undertaking an effective and
equitable agrarian reform program. We
appeal to the moral principles and con-
viction of our national leaders and ask
the Honorable Senators to help us guard
against any proposal which will water
down the CARP, and take away from the
gains of this program which is among the
essential vehicles for food security, peace
in the countryside, and social justice.
We remain confident that the Honor-
able Senators will be guided by discern-
ment in finalizing this legislation and
in protecting the rights of the Filipino
farmers.
("For I was hungry and You gave me
food." USCCB, November 12, 2003)
"The Lord gave us mind and con-
science; we cannot hide from ourselves."
(Proverbs 20.27)
ATTY. CHRISTIAN S. MONSOD
PARFUND

+BRODERICK S. PABILLO, D.D.
Chair, Episcopal Commission on
Social Action Justice and Peace, CBCP
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
May 12, 2009
Appeal to the Senators for the Passage
of CARPER Sans Killer Amendments
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Volume 43 • Number 6
25
STATEMENTS
T
he alarming news of the outbreak of “swine flu” or
“influenza A” in several countries, after Mexico,
behooves us to take some health precautions as may
be coming from our Doctors of Medicine or the Department
of Health. There is no news yet of the flu having reached
our shore. Panic would not be the correct response. Let
us rather be guided by the precautionary measures which
health practitioners may give.
Alongside with this counsel, we exhort the people to pray
for our country as well as for the countries already affected
by the “swine fu”: that it may be effectively controlled.
Earnest and humble prayer addressed to the Divine Healer,
the Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of
Mary, is the need of the hour. Prayer may be as powerful as
T
he feast of St. Isidore, the Farmer
on May 15 is an occasion for us
Filipinos to recall and acknowl-
edge the important roles our own farmers
play in nation-building. They are the
co-creators of God; the representatives
of society entrusted with the noble
task of making the earth fruitful.
Faithful to this calling, the farmers
tirelessly work hard to provide the
basic food for our daily needs.
As we celebrate Farmers’ Day,
may we go beyond simply acknowl-
edging the farmers’ vital contribu-
tion to society. More importantly,
the celebration should compel us to
focus our attention on the problems
they continue to face, such as the
absence of a comprehensive and
reformed agrarian law that genu-
inely serves the interest of the poor
farmers, and address the lack of basic
infrastructure and support services, and
agrarian harassments, among others.
In the spirit of the celebration,
we call on all Filipinos to stand in
solidarity for the respect, defense, and
promotion of farmers’ rights. We appeal
to the conscience and compassionate
hearts of our legislators to finally pass
an extended and reformed CARP with:
(1) five-year implementation period
including Compulsory Acquisition,
and without the proposed phasing of
distribution; (2) collateral free credit
and increased support services to farm-
ers; (3) creation of an oversight com-
mittee with the inclusion of private
sector representatives to monitor the
implementation of agrarian reform;
(4) recognition of the farmers’ le-
gal standing and non-cancellation of
Press Statement on the occasion of Farmers’ Day 2009
‘Whatever you do to the least of my
brethren, you do it to me’
As our legislators go about the very
important task of passing an agrarian
reform law, I pray that they draw inspira-
tion from St. Isidore, who, despite being
very poor himself, gave of what little he
had to those who were poorer. May his
generosity remind our elected of-
ficials that life is not to be a selfish
quest for profit, but an opportunity
for service. This preferential op-
tion for the poor is emphasized
in Jesus Christ’s ministry when
he told His disciples: “Whatever
you do to the least of my brethren
you do it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
The feast of St. Isidore on May 15
is an auspicious moment for the
legislators to live up to our mission
of discipleship and to demonstrate
selflessness and genuine service to
the poor farmers by gifting them
with a reformed and authentic agrarian
reform law.
Trust in prayer and benevolence to
the needy were the most distinguishing
traits of St. Isidore. In these times of
difficulty, I, together with the farmers,
offer and entrust our troubles, heart-
aches, and triumphs to the Heavenly
Father, through the intercession of the
Immaculate Heart of Mary.
+ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, DD
Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
May 15, 2009
Pastoral Exhortation on the ‘Swine Flu’ pandemic
or even may be more powerful than anti-biotic or anti-virus
pills which may not be accessible to many very poor people.
The combination of prayer and prescribed medical precaution
would be a proactive response to the present concern.
Let us pray that the rise of “swine flu” cases in other
countries may be put under control. We call upon the
Apostleship of Prayer, the Charismatic Movements, all
Church organizations to include this intention in their
prayer, as individuals, as families and communities.
+ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO, DD
Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
May 2, 2009
Certificate of Land Ownership Award
(CLOA) on lands already distributed
to and developed by the farmers; and
(5) increased penalty for obstruction
of CARP implementation.
Introducing amendments into the
proposed bill that cancel out the above
proposals inconspicuously weaken the
gains of CARP for the poor farmers.
Instead of working for their own in-
terests, I pray that the Holy Spirit will
move our Senators and Congressmen
into heeding the cries of the rural poor,
in accordance to the dictates of moral
and social justice.
©

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IMPACT • June 2009 26
FROM THE
BLOGS
Armed Forces of
the Philippines
“…The Armed Forces of the Philippines
is the protector of the people and the State…”
(Phil. Constitution: Art. 11, Sec. 3)
W
hile probably unsaid and possibly unfelt, these
are the times that try the AFP soul. “Declaration
of Principles and State Policies” having the above
cited constitutional provision notwithstanding, there are
marked indications that it is becoming harder and harder
for the AFP to be the “protector of the people”. Reason: The
present administration has been long trying its utmost best to
instead make the AFP protect the former—at the expense of
the people. In other words, the incumbent government well
perceived as corruption incarnate, appears to spare no one
and nothing for its self-perpetuation in power and wealth
by temptations of affluence and convenience continuously
and consistently laid at the feet of the AFP.
Otherwise—and this is an open secret—how come more
and more former highest ranking AFP officers are in fact
appointed to likewise high ranking offices in the administra-
tion? Why is that the highest government official—and this
is public knowledge—has been long exerting extra effort to
be effectively surrounded and served by many latest ex-AFP
generals? For all intents and purposes, there appears to be a
deliberate desire and design for the AFP to be the protector
of the ruling administration, of the present government—
not of the people. It would not be difficult to conclude that
nothing less than the above cited constitutionally declared
principle and policy could be anything but reality.
All the above bad news notwithstanding, the People of the
Philippines finds consolation in the truth that a great number
of AFP officers and men still remain faithful to their noble
and difficult calling of laying their lives on the line—and
not infrequently losing them—for the Country, viz, for the
good of the Filipino people and the welfare of their State.
They are the admirable men and women in uniform who
adhere to their crucial vocation and comply with their vital
mission—all strong temptations and devious enticements to
the contrary, notwithstanding. The Filipino people may not
but salute them with high admiration and much gratitude.
The way things are with the supreme Malacañang
tenant plus minions vis-à-vis the AFP as a whole, not few
thinking people are heard speaking of either “explosion” or
“implosion”—two terms which have acquired distinct sig-
nificance and relevance to the now obtaining socio-political
situation in the Philippines. There would be an “explosion”
when those in uniform rise to protect the people. On the
other hand, there might be “implosion” in event that those
supposed to be protecting someone else precisely move to
dispose of the latter and place themselves instead in the lat-
ter’s seat of power and wealth. Would that such talks remain
but words without translating themselves into reality. Would
that the highest public official be also the highest servant of
the people—not their supreme master.
www.ovc.blogspot.com
Dignity of the
human person
T
he ontological dignity and intrinsic invaluable na-
ture of the human person is the fundamental basis
of society, the radical premise of civilization and
raison d’etre of development. Without the human person,
the reality and purpose of society become a physical and
moral impossibility; the essence and finality of civiliza-
tion have no sense, no bearing neither here nor there; the
significance and pursuit of development is not only irrel-
evant but also nonsensical. Reason: In the last analysis,
the human person is the underlying cause and reason of
society, civilization and development.
It is the inherent dignity of the human person that in fact
necessarily, strictly and formally forwards the distinction
and import of human rights. Such is the objective reality of
the essential and intimate pairing of the human person and
human rights that the former cannot be without the latter,
and vice versa. The truth is that the mandatory respect for
human rights is in more ways than one, equals to the obliga-
tory reverence for the human person. It is futile to separate
one from the other as this would be basically contrary to
both the postulate of reality and the light of reason.
Furthermore, the dignity of the human person and
the consequent respect for human rights, begin from the
moment of conception of the human being, continues to
his gestation, goes on with his birth and accompanies him
until death. In the event that human dignity plus human
rights do not begin to exist and to command respect from
conception, exactly when do such precious personal at-
tributions actually become realities? One, two or three
months or more, after conception? And why? Are these
legal months of 30 days or real months of either 30 or 21
days? Why? And what happens if the month has but 28 or
29 days? What now?
Woe to those who fool around with human persons,
who belittle human lives, who trample upon human dignity,
who violate human rights—in the event that these have the
gall to claim that they too are human persons. Such char-
acters should know and remember how they treat others
cannot but eventually have its impact on how others will
subsequently treat them. This is neither a mere sterile theory
not a kind of mental gymnastics. Such eventual reciprocity
is living reality as testified to by continuing human his-
tory. The constant lamentation is man never learns—so it
seems. This pathetic reality usually comes to fore when
certain individuals assume positions of power hold offices
of authority and/or begin having guns.
The challenge is simple enough: Without human per-
sons, what is really left but Divinity? Without the fami-
lies, communities and the society would be but thoughts
and drawings. Countries, continents and the world, too,
would have no purpose or reason to be. Then, business
and industry, education and employment, public welfare
and social services, food and drink as well would be all
irrelevant. Bless you Divinity for humanity! Praise to you
Divine Person for the human person!
www.ovc.blogspot.com
Volume 43 • Number 6
27
EDITORIAL
Unemployment
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L
ately, a trusted survey frm came out with the conclu-
sion that there is a much higher unemployment rate
in the country during these depressed and depressing
times—compared to those obtained since 2005.
Concretely, the survey said that there are some 11 million
employable yet in fact unemployed Filipinos to date. And
immediately, the distrusted administration made the vain
self-serving option to make its very own survey with the
immediate conclusion that unemployment in the Philippines
is in fact very much less—even before its own desired and
designed survey started.
Despite the happy spins of Malacañang that anyway go
contrary to ground report, the core signifcance of unemploy-
ment is not really its rate in number and scope. Rather, it is in
a principle that there is something inherently dehumanizing
in unemployment, irrespective of its lesser or bigger num-
ber. Human persons are much more in their intrinsic nature
and immediate implications than whether they are few or
more, numerically. This is a very sad reality among many
politicos these days, i.e., what is true or false, what is good
or bad, depends but on numerical count, thereby denying
any ontological value system.
This is certainly not in defense of either those who are
unemployed because of their indolent behavioral pattern,
or those who engage in many and different criminal acts by
reason of their unemployment as an excuse. This is rather
about those trying their best to seek employment—spending
much of their time and little of their already little money in
their pockets. The main chapters of their futile search for em-
ployment are but three: Chapter 1: They ask for some money
from their spouses, parents and/or relatives, eat something
called a "breakfast" and leave home with the standard papers
about their persons. Chapter 2: They take a ride and/or walk
to this and that company, work place and/or job fair, carrying
the usual Manila envelopes with their personal papers that
are most of times not opened, much less read respectively
by those such are meant for. Chapter 3: They eventually take
a ride and/or walk back home, remaining jobless, eating
something called "supper", resting only to repeat the routine
of job seeking—again and again and again.
Meantime, in the course of honest and earnest but futile
pursuit of employment, the able and willing to work remain
workless, thereby nurturing a mixed feeling of exhaustion
and despair, self-depreciation and anger. To feel "useless"
is demeaning. To feel "unwanted" is nerve-wracking. The
profound predicament of everyone assiduously seeking
employment and continuously fnding none is defnitely not
something that magnifes but belittles their human dignity.
And this has special relevance and application to parental
fgures, adult children and responsible individuals who are
pursuing jobs yet remain jobless, and thereby instead become
forced dependents.
This is one concrete psycho-social malady in the country,
i.e., unemployment does not only have negative material but
also psychological effects, not simply adverse social but also
deeply personal impacts. And this is precisely why to be job-
less transcends the sphere of but numerical count whereas it
in effect undermines human dignity and self-worth.
IMPACT • June 2009 28
FROM THE
INBOX
From the e-mail messages of lanbergado@cbcpworld.net
T
he boy couldn't have been more
than 5 or 6 years old.
The Cashier said, “I'm sorry,
but you don't have enough money to
buy this doll.”
Then the little boy turned to the old
woman next to him: “Granny,
are you sure I don't have enough
money?”
The old lady replied: “You know
that you don't have enough money to
buy this doll, my dear.”
Then she asked him to stay there
for just five minutes while she went to
look a round. She left quickly.
The little boy was still holding the
doll in his hand.
Finally, I walked toward him and
asked him who he wished to give this
doll to.
“It's the doll that my sister loved
most and wanted so much for Christ-
mas. She was sure that Santa Claus
would bring it to her.”
I replied to him that maybe Santa
Claus would bring it to her after all,
and not to worry.
But he replied to me sadly. “No,
Santa Claus can't bring it to her where
she is now. I have to give the doll to
my mommy so that she can give it to
my sister when she goes there.”
His eyes were so sad while say-
ing this. “My sister has gone to be
with God.
Daddy says that Mommy is going
to see God very soon too, so I thought
that she could take the doll with her to
give it to my sister.”
My heart nearly stopped.
Doll
The little boy looked up at me and
said: “I told Daddy to tell Mommy not
to go yet. I need her to wait until I come
back from the mall.”
Then he showed me a very nice
photo of him where he was laughing.
He then told me “I want Mommy to
take my picture with her so she won't
forget me.”
“I love my mommy and I wish she
doesn't have to leave me, but Daddy
says that she has to go to be with my
little sister.”
Then he looked again at the doll
with sad eyes, very quietly.
I quickly reached for my wallet
and said to the boy. “Suppose we check
again, just in case you do have enough
money for the doll?”
“Okay,” he said, “I hope I do have
enough.” I added some of my money to
his without him seeing and we started
to count it.
There was enough for the doll and
even some spare money.
The little boy said: “Thank you,
God for giving me enough money!”
Then he looked at me and added,
“I asked God last night before I went to
sleep to make sure I had enough money
to buy this doll, so that Mommy could
give it to my sister. He heard me!”
“I also wanted to have enough
money to buy a white rose for my
mommy, but I didn't dare to ask God
for too much. But He gave me enough
to buy the doll and a white rose.”
“My mommy loves white roses.”
A few minutes later, the old lady
returned and I left with my basket.
I finished my shopping in a totally
different state from when I started. I
couldn't get the little boy out of my
mind. Then I remembered a local
newspaper article two days ago, which
mentioned a drunk man in a truck, who
hit a car occupied by a young woman
and a little girl.
The little girl died right away, and
the mother was left in a critical state.
The family had to decide whether to pull
the plug on the life-sustaining machine,
because the young woman would not
be able to recover from the coma. Was
this the family of the little boy?
Two days after this encounter with
the little boy, I read in the newspaper
that the young woman had passed
away.
I couldn't stop myself as I bought
a bunch of white roses and went to
the funeral home where the body of
the young woman was exposed for
people to see and make last wishes
before her burial.
She was there, in her coffin, hold-
ing a beautiful white rose in her hand
with the photo of the little boy and the
doll placed over her chest.
I left the place, teary-eyed, feel-
ing that my life had been changed for
ever. The love that the little boy had
for his mother and his sister is still, to
this day, hard to imagine.
A
holy man was having
a conversation with
the Lord one day and
said, “Lord, I would like to
know what Heaven and Hell
are like.”
The Lord led the holy
man to two doors. He opened
one of the doors and the holy
man looked in. In the middle
of the room was a large
round table. In the middle
of the table was a large
Heav en and Hel l
pot of stew which smelled
delicious and made the holy
man's mouth water. The people
sitting around the table were
thin and sickly. They appeared
to be famished. They were
holding spoons with very long
handles that were strapped to
their arms and each found it
possible to reach into the pot
of stew and take a spoonful,
but because the handle was
longer than their arms, they
could not get the spoons back
into their mouths. The holy
man shuddered at the sight of
their misery and suffering.
The Lord said, “You have
seen Hell.”
They went to the next
room and opened the door.
It was exactly the same as
the frst one. There was the
large round table with the
large pot of stew which made
the holy man's mouth water.
The people were equipped
with the same long-handled
spoons, but here the people
were well nourished and
plump, laughing and talking.
The holy man said, “I don't
understand.”
“It is simple,” said the
Lord, “it requires but one
skill. You see, they have
learned to feed each other,
while the greedy think only
of themselves.”
©

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Volume 43 • Number 6
29
book
Reviews
Saint Paul
Apostles of the Gentiles
Mary Lea Hill, FSP
Although the
Church cel-
ebrat i on of
the Paul i ne
Year is near-
i ng i t s cl o-
sure, reading
on the saint’s
life, as well as
the letters he
has written for
the Christian
communities
he founded
shoul d r e-
main a must-
do. This book
of onl y 117
pages is an
entertaining
read for this
year of St .
Paul. Narra-
tive and bio-
graphical in
sketch, it chronicles the life of the great apostle
Paul, his conversion, missionary journeys and mar-
tyrdom. For young readers who are easily drawn to
reading daring exploits of courageous people and
in constant search of role models this book is highly
recommended.
Going by the Bible and History
Catholic Beliefs and Practices
(Questions and Answers)
Sr. Ines Atendido Tan, FMM
Published in English, Ce-
buano and Tagalog, this
book is a good resource
material for catechists,
biblical animators and lay
leaders. Anyone who has
a lot of questions on the
bible, and the Church will
fnd this little book instruc-
tive. Simply written but
rich in insights, the book
gives a historical glimpse
of Old and New Testa-
ments and the Church. It
presents a historical and
biblical background on
the sacraments and an-
swers as well frequently
asked questions on the
Scriptures and Catholic
beliefs and practices. A
member of the Franciscan
Missionaries of Mary, Tan taught in the Archdiocese of Ozamiz
Bible Institute and was in-charge of the Biblical and Catechetical
Formation in Pope Paul VI Biblical Center in Mindanao. This
volume is published by St. Pauls.
Like A Shepherd
God-Tales for Young and Old Vol. 33
Nil Guillemette
A master storyteller, Nil
Guillemette is again offer-
ing his readers a plateful
of inspiring stories that
are sure to uplift even the
most disheartened spirit.
Already the 33rd volume
in the series, this collec-
tion of narratives brings to
fore the undeniable truth
of God’s loving presence
in the ordinariness of a
person’s daily existence.
Peppered with thematic
scriptural quotations and
insights from spiritual writ-
ers the 25 stories spread
across 155 pages abound
in wisdom and moral les-
sons. Published by Pau-
lines Publishing House,
this book is an excellent
resource material for cate-
chists, teachers, homilists
or anyone who seeks to live a deeply Christian life. Guillemette
is a Scripture scholar who has written a number of books on
Scriptures, homiletics and narratives.
A Fire on the Island
A Fresh Look at the First Mass Controversy
Greg Hontiveros
The only Christian nation in Asia,
that is, before Catholic East Timor
became an independent nation,
evangelization of the early Filipinos
and the advance of Christianity in the
Philippine islands was spearheaded
by missionaries who came with the
Portuguese and Spanish explorers.
History tells it was in Cebu that the
frst Church was established and it
has always been commemorated
as such. But there has been a con-
tention lately on where exactly in
the country the frst mass was cel-
ebrated. This book is a presentation
of recent fndings borne of research
from early manuscripts that point
to the possibility that the frst mass
in the country actually happened in
another place than what is written in
history books. The argument that the
frst mass was said, not in Limasawa
as what historical accounts report,
but in Butuan as the author claims,
indeed gives a fresh take on the de-
bate. But what difference does it make for a Filipino Catholic whether the frst
mass was said in one place different from what had been known all along—or
does it? If not for its intriguing proposition, the fresh perspective that it gives
on the issue at hand makes the book really interesting to read. The author,
who is an NGO organizer engaged in social justice, environment, cultural
heritage and development issues, is currently the president of Butuan City
Historical and Cultural foundation.
IMPACT • June 2009 30
ENTERTAINMENT
CATHOLIC INITIATIVE FOR
ENLIGHTENED MOVIE APPRECIATION
M
ay to August in
the northern hemi-
sphere spring and
summer is a time for almost
weekly release of blockbust-
ers with huge budgets, action
and effects and potential for
high grosses at the box offce.
2009 has seen Wolverine,
Star Trek, followed by An-
gels and Demons, with Night
at the Museum 2, Transform-
ers 2 and Terminator Salva-
tion in the offng.
Here is a doomsday
plot, murder mystery, action
thriller with a cast led by
Tom Hanks as symbologist
Robert Langdon and Ewan
McGregor as the Vatican
Camerlengo and an inter-
national cast portraying
scientists, police, bishops
and cardinals.
Angels and Demons,
unlike the film of The Da
Vinci Code, is fast-paced,
the L'Osservatore Romano
review referring to Ron
Howard's dynamic direc-
tion. It also used the word
'commercial' as well as not-
ing that it was 'harmless
entertainment' and not a
danger to the Church.
In fact, the film treats
the church quite interesting-
ly, scenes behind a conclave
and inside the conclave, fine
sets of the Sistine Chapel,
the interiors of St Peter's,
Castel San Angelo, the Vati-
can Necropolis, the Swiss
Guards centre, the Vatican
archives and several church-
es with art by Bernini. The
film won't harm tourism
to Rome or to the Vatican.
Probably, the contrary.
The issue is science and
religion. There are some
very impressive scenes of
CERN in Switzerland where
the Big Bang was re-created
in 2008. Dan Brown, writing
years earlier, posited this
explosion and the formation
of anti-matter which is then
used as a terrorist threat in
Rome. Arguments are put
forward about the church's
record in persecuting sci-
entists in past centuries,
especially Galileo (true)
with some inquisitorial in-
terrogations and tortures.
The material about the Il-
luminati, the underground
society of scientists has
some foundation but was
not as extensive as specu-
lated on here – a kind of
Masonic brotherhood of
scientists. (They appeared
in the first Lara Croft film
without anybody taking to
controversy.)
One of the issues facing
the conclave in the film is
the Church in the Modern
World vis-a-vis science,
with the dialogue for the
meeting of ideas of science
and theology or extremist
attitudes towards religion
capitulating to science and
so destroying the church
– the point being that this
kind of fanatic stance can
become a cause, righteous-
ly crusading with violence
against those who hold more
moderate views – leading
to what could be labelled
'ecclesiastical terrorism'.
Oh, the tale has so many
plot-holes (with the action
moving so fast you don't
quite have time to follow
through on them) that they
don't bear thinking about –
so, either one sits irritated
at the inaccuracies about
dates and historical figures
and driven up the wall by
the lack of coherence in
the course of events or, as
one does, offer a willing
suspension of disbelief and
enjoy the action for what it
is, a lavishly-mounted, pot-
boiling thriller.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet
Stellan Skarsgard, Pierfrancesco, Nikolaj
Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Director: Ron Howard
Producers: John Calley, Brian Grazer, Ron
Howard
Screenwriters: David Koepp, Akiva Golds-
man
Music: Hans Zimmer
Editor: Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill
Genre: Crime/ Drama/ Mystery
Cinematography: Salvatore Totino
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Location: California, USA
Running Time: 138 min
Technical Assessment: ½
Moral Assessment: 
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18
and above
Volume 43 • Number 6
31
NEWS
BRI EFS
JAPAN
Swine flu fears shut
4,000 schools
In a bid to slow spread of
swine fu, Japan shut over
4,000 schools on May 19.
Banks and railway offces
have also been closed. Ja-
pan now has over 170 cas-
es of the H1N1 virus─the
fourth largest national fg-
ure on the world infection
table.
PAKISTAN
War displaces 2 mil-
lion: UN
The UN said over 2 mil-
lion people have now been
displaced by fighting in
Pakistan's north-western
Swat Valley. It said extra
financial resources are
urgently needed and the
world body will soon launch
an appeal for hundreds of
millions of dollars to cover
the costs of refugees over
the next 12 months.
TAIWAN
Thousands protest vs
Taiwan's President
Thousands of people
have marched through
Taiwan's capital to protest
against the President's
China-friendly policies. The
march is the largest lead
by the pro-independence
Democratic Progressive
Party since President Ma
came to power last year.
Organizers say 500,000
people attended the rally,
but police have not provid-
ed an estimate of turnout.
S. KOREA
Truck drivers to go on
strike
Thousands of truck
drivers here agreed to go
on strike, to call for wage
hikes. The Korean Con-
federation of Trade Unions
said the 15,000-strong na-
tional union of truckers
voted for the collective ac-
tion, including 7,000 union
members who had gath-
ered in Daejeon City. Union
leaders say they will decide
when the planned action
will take place.
BURMA
US extends sanctions
vs Burma under
The US gov’t has formal-
ly extended its sanctions
against Burma, keeping
up pressure on the junta
to release detained de-
mocracy leader Aung San
Suu Kyi. The move came
as Indonesia and Malaysia
joined other governments
in expressing deep con-
cern over new charges
against Ms. Suu Kyi.
INDONESIA
Yudhoyono to face
Megawati in polls
Indonesia's president
Susilo Bambang Yud-
hoyono is set for a three-
way race in elections in
July after former president
Megawati Sukarnoputri de-
clared she would stand.
Yudhoyono also faces a
challenge from vice presi-
dent Jusuf Kalla, who is
expected to confrm his
nomination this month.
CAMBODIA
Tour i sm number s
drop
Due to economic crisis,
the number of tourists visit-
ing Cambodia has dropped
in the frst quarter of 2009
Overall the number is down
just 3.5 percent to 622,000
which is better than the
government had feared.
Cambodia has been rely-
ing on expanding tourist
trade as one of its pillars
for economic growth.
CHINA
Second swine fu case
recorded in mainland
A second case of swine
flu has been confirmed
in China’s mainland. The
Health Ministry said the
19 year-old Chinese man
who arrived in Beijing last
May 15 on a fight from
Canada has tested positive
of the virus. The man is now
under isolation in Jinan,
the capital of the eastern
province of Shandong.
VIETNAM
Offcials raise gender
imbalance concerns
Government officials
here said if the current
gender imbalance contin-
ues about three million men
will have diffculty fnding
wives by 2030. Deputy
PM Nguyen Thien Nhan
asked people's commit-
tees to raise awareness
about the consequences of
prenatal gender selection
through the mass media.
THAILAND
Asian Summit pushed
back
Thailand’s PM Abhisit
Vejjajiva said two key Asian
summits, cancelled last
month due to anti-govern-
ment protests, won’t recon-
vene next month as hoped.
He said the meetings are
likely to be pushed back to
October, 10 months later
than originally planned.
E. TIMOR
PM defends big salaries
for advisors
PM Xanana Gusmao de-
fended big salaries it gives
to his foreign advisors. He
said his gov’t inherited
the Finance Department
capacity-building program
that engages the advisors
from the opposition when it
was in gov’t. He said under
the previous administration
advisors were paid same
salaries to those which are
now being paid.
SRI LANKA
Gov’t declares end to
war
The gov’t here declared
an end to its decades-
old confict with the Tamil
Tigers, after routing the
remnants of the rebel army
and killing its leaders Ve-
lupillai Prabhakaran. The
army said its commandos
killed the rebel group’s last
300 fghters and decimat-
ing the rebel leadership. It
said Prabhakaran and two
deputies were shot dead
trying to fee in a van and
ambulance.