Nene backs farmers on SC suit

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE farmers belonging to Task Force Mapalad have valid grounds to question before the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the just-approved Congressional Joint Resolution 19 extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program by six months.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. said he also advised the farmers to thoroughly study the implications of such action.

Resolution 19 extends CARP for agricultural lands that are offered by their owners under the voluntary offer to sell and under the voluntary land transfer schemes.

He pointed out to them that if Resolution 19 in its entirety is declared unconstitutional, CARP will be deemed expired by the end of this year. However, this does not preclude the possibility of Congress subsequently passing a new legislation governing agrarian reform.

“Resolution 19 is merely an extraordinary device to meet an out-of-the ordinary problem like the impending lapsing of the funding of DAR activities by the end of December 2008,” Pimentel said.

It also authorizes the Department of Agrarian to continue its support services to beneficiaries of lands that have already been acquired and distributed as of Dec.15, 2008.

The farmers said their stand that the resolution is unconstitutional is anchored on two grounds: first, compulsory acquisition of lands cannot be suspended because it is mandated by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law itself; and second, the presidential certification was flawed because it was specifically intended for a bill, and not for a resolution.

Pimentel said the farmers have every right to elevate the issue to the Supreme Court because without compulsory land acquisition, they believe that CARP will be diluted and therefore detrimental to their interest.

“They believe it is contrary to the intent of the Constitution which provides that all agricultural lands should be subject to CARP,” he said.

Pimentel said he opted to cast an affirmative vote for Joint Resolution l9 because during the floor deliberations, his understanding was that if the resolution was not passed, CARP would be terminated.

He said he did not bother anymore with the nuances in the resolution that were cited by the farmers “because our primary concern at that time – the last day of session before the Christmas break — was whether to extend CARP or not.”