CEBU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 23, 2008) – Unidentified men exploded a grenade in an attack early Thursday at a provincial office of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Negros Occidental in central Philippines.
Police said the men tossed a grenade at the DAR compound in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental before dawn, but it reported no casualties in the attack that shattered glass windows and doors.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the blast blamed by farmers to private gangs of landowners opposed to the extension of the government's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
The peasant federation Task Force Mapalad (TFM) condemned the attack. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack on the provincial office of the DAR. While the police are still investigating the incident, there is no doubt for us that this is the start of another round of harassment by landlords opposing the extension of the CARP," Edna Sobrecaray, TFM spokesperson, said.
Police is still investigating the motive of the attack.
"Those behind the blast may be the same landlords who were behind the series of killings of TFM farmers. Now, these landlords are out to threaten even government officials supporting the extension of the CARP," Sobregacay said without further elaborating.
The attack occurred ahead of a schedule meeting between farmers and agrarian officials over the implementation of the CARP in the province. Sobrecaray said farmers would not be cowed by unscrupulous landlords hindering the implementation of the agrarian reform in Negros.
"We are ready to defend our ranks. We will not be cowed by landlords who want to hinder justice. We had shed blood to ensure that justice would reign. We will do this again, if this is the only way to fight for our rights to the lands we till," she said.
The government's agrarian reform program may be extended after President Gloria Arroyo certified as urgent a bill seeking a 10-year extension of the CARP, which is set to end in June 2008, ten years after it was passed. CARP was the result of the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) in 1988.
The passage of the CARL under Republic Act 6655 in 1988 was hailed as a historic occasion. CARL promised to redistribute agricultural lands -- in several phases -- to those who actually till them.
The CARP is primarily a social reform measure and addresses the need for a more equitable distribution of land ownership. Its end-goal is to improve the standards of living of beneficiaries and promote greater economic activity in the rural areas.
Most of the government funding for CARP came from the recovered P50-billion of the so-called Marcos' ill-gotten wealth; however, only P10 billion was allocated to the DAR, the rest of the money was distributed to other agencies, including P8-million for human rights victims under then President Ferdinand Marcos. Belgium, Spain and Japan among the countries that are supporting the CARP. (Mindanao Examiner)