Manila (AsiaNews) - The Filipino Catholic Church is supporting the poor farmers in the country, and asking for the extension of the law on agrarian reform (CARP). Last March 6, two cardinals, Gaudencio Rosales of Manila and Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, met with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to discuss the law under consideration in parliament. The cardinals express the hope that this may benefit "poor farmers" and call on politicians to "give the CARP additional five years."
According to Fr. Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila, the president promised the two cardinals that her administration is "one with the Church" in the fight for approval of the CARP. "Malacanang [the presidential palace] is not the problem. The Church has the full support of the president."
Arroyo's full support is an important point for the Church, but it is the parliament that must decide whether or not to extend the law. Fr. Pascual is asking for "moral pressure" on the country's politicians, and is inviting the bishops to "personally call on their respective legislators" in order to convince them "to pass CARP. We have three months to turn the tide to CARP’s favor."
The effects of the law on agrarian reform - promulgated in 1988, and extended ten years later - expired in December of 2008. The authors of the CARP and farmers in the country have criticized the manner in which the law was extended to June of 2009, because it does not include a provision on "compulsory land acquisition and distribution" on behalf of poor farmers. This, he stresses, "is the heart and soul of the CARP."
Finally, Arroyo has asked both of her sons, members of the House of Representatives, to vote in favor of the reform, and not "to break the legacy of the Macapagal family" in this matter. The president's family has vast land holdings; there are rumors from various directions that Arroyo is more interested in "protecting property" than in the well-being of the country.