BAYAN MUNA, a left-wing party-list group that holds a maximum of three seats in the current Congress, vowed to refile a bill that aims to improve the agrarian reform program if they win again in the May elections. 

“We will refile it, surely [if our party-list gets reelected],” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate told BusinessWorld in a Viber message. 

The group filed House Bill (HB) 239 or the proposed Genuine Agrarian Act of 2019, which remains at the committee level. 

“This was never a legislative priority of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration, which was why, despite our HB 239 among others filed in the House of Representatives, this was never given importance,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand R. Gaite in a separate Viber message.  

“It is also known that more representatives in Congress are not in favor of genuine land reform and side with the landlords,” he added.

Mr. Zarate said all previous administrations are also to blame since they only gave “token importance to agrarian reforms” and do not want to change the current system. 

The law on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was passed in 1988 under the administration of the late President Corazon C. Aquino. Amendments have since been passed. 

Mr. Zarate said previous agrarian reforms failed because members of Congress intentionally put loopholes in those laws.

“The previous agrarian reform programs (including CARP and CARPER) failed because of the many legal loopholes inserted by the landlord-dominated  Congress, which were taken advantage of by landowners and corrupt bureaucrats,” he said. 

Agrarian Reform Undersecretary David D. Erro said they support House Bill (HB) 239, which is similar to a measure filed by a former department secretary and congressman, Rafael V. Mariano. 

“DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) has been supporting bills catering to the interest and welfare of the small farmers such as HB 239,” he said.

“Free amortization or beneficiaries will not pay the land awarded to them and giving DAR the power to cover again agricultural lands are the striking provisions of HB 239. [We] fully support these provisions,” he added. — Jaspearl Emerald G. Tan