Transcript of House Plenary Proceedings


June 11, 2008

The distinguished Gentleman may now proceed, he has ten minutes.

QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE OF REP. CASIÑO

REP. CASIÑO. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues.

This morning, I chanced upon several articles in the newspapers which had my name. Apparently, they were quoting from a press release released yesterday by the Akbayan Party-List, this is a press release dated June 10 copy of which, I have here. The title of the press release, Mr. Speaker, is “Akbayan: Landlords Cum Legislators Solons from the Bayan Bloc out to Kill Agrarian Reform.” The first paragraph says: As the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program expires today, Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel , principal author of the CARP extension with reforms bill, warned that the landlords in Congress in collusion with leftist Solons from the Bayan Bloc are out to maim, cripple and kill agrarian reform in the country. The news release goes on to say that Honorable Hontiveros-Baraquel slammed the emerging collusion between landlords in Congress and leftist Solons pushing for the so called genuine agrarian reform bill. “The similarity in their agenda is revoting,” Representative Hontiveros-Baraquel said. “They are doing a very synchronized performance to kill agrarian reform.”

The release further quotes our colleague, Honorable Hontiveros-Baraquel , as saying that the genuine agrarian reform bill authored by this Representation, by Congressman Ocampo, Congresswoman Liza Maza and Congresswoman Luz Ilagan and the late Congressman Crispin Beltran is all about stewardship and not a land reform program, it is confiscatory and even elderly farmers can lose their land.

Now, Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues, we in the progressive Party-List Bloc composed of Representative from Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela denounce these malicious and irresponsible charges. Such grave accusations and blatant lies are meant to destroy our reputation, honor and integrity. May I remind our colleague and her Party that if they want to gain media millage, and want to portrait themselves as heroes, please, don’t do it at our expense.

The Representative from Akbayan accused us, accuses us of killing agrarian reform in the country. May I remind my colleague what the original Sponsor of House Bill No. 400, the late and well-respected Representative Bonifacio Gillego, declared 20 years ago in explaining his negative vote on the mangled and maimed CARP bill enacted by the Eighth Congress. Congressman Gillego said, “Now the CARP has become a corpse. We the defunct Sponsors of House Bill No. 400 are called upon to render our final function to serve as pallbearers in the funeral rites of the original House Bill No. 400. As principal Sponsor of the deceased House Bill No. 400, my task is to deliver a funeral oration on CARP.”

Mr. Speaker, how can we possibly kill a 20-year old corpse? Matagal nang pinatay ng mga panginoong may-lupa sa Kongreso at mga korapt na opisyal ng gobyerno ang repormang agraryo sa Pilipinas. Ito’y isa nang zombie, isang halimaw na gustong bigyan ng panibagong buhay ng CARP extension bill. Ano ang pumatay sa repormang agraryo? Ang sarili nitong mga butas, congenital defects, kung tawagin ni Kagalang-galang Congressman Edcel Lagman, na inilagay ng mga kaaway ng CARP noong mga nagdaang Kongreso.

The most glaring defects, Mr. Speaker, of Republic Act No. 6657 and its extension House Bill No. 4077, which House Bill No. 4077 fails to correct, are, and let me cite just five:

(1) the limited coverage of agrarian reform. This includes the exclusion of lands that are technically classified as either forest, mineral, commercial or residential land, even if these are tenanted and actually used or suitable for agriculture. The exclusion of lands devoted to livestock, swine and poultry, fishponds, prawn farms, salt beds, fruit farms, orchards, vegetable and cut-flower farms, cacao, coffee and rubber plantations. Allowing the conversion and exclusion of lands already awarded to farmer-beneficiarie s from the program; allowing landowners to retain vast landholdings by instituting open-ended retention limits of five hectares for the owner, plus three hectares per child whether natural, adopted, legitimate or not.

Second, Mr. Speaker, provisions for alternative modes of compliance as outlined in the definition of agrarian reform and Sections 29 or 31 on corporate and commercial farms that allow landowners to enter into stock distribution schemes, leasehold, joint venture, lease back arrangements and other ways of going around the physical distribution of land to the ownership and control of the farmer-beneficiarie s. This leaves farmer-beneficiarie s confused, easily manipulated, and exploited by landowners and vulnerable to corporate back room maneuvers.

Third, Mr. Speaker, a payment scheme. Pinagbabayad po ang ating mga magsasaka ng 30 taon na may anim na porsiyentong interes bawat taon. Kaya marami ho sa mga beneficiaries ay ilegal na isinasangla o ibinebenta iyong kanilang lupa upang makabayad lamang sa Land Bank.

Pang-apat, isang valuation at compensation scheme na napakakumplikado at puno ng butas kaya ang DAR ay tinitingnan bilang isa sa mga corrupt na ahensiya ng ating pamahalaan.

At pang-lima, a voluntary offer to sell and voluntary land transfer scheme that gives landowners the upper hand in imposing their will on their former tenants with the connivance of unscrupulous DAR officials.

Mr. Speaker, Akbayan and the Honorable Hontiveros-Baraquel accuse us of colluding with landlords in the House. Nothing can be further from the truth. The landlords are against any form of agrarian reform. We, in the party-list, Progressive Party-List Bloc, want the opposite, a more comprehensive, thoroughgoing, and radical agrarian reform. And, in fact, we have filed a measure to this effect, House Bill No. 3059 or the genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.

Allow me to cite just some of the provisions of our bill that we would like to present as an alternative to the flawed program that I earlier discussed.

Una po, sa aming genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, ini-expand po natin ang coverage ng agrarian reform to cover even those lands that were earlier exempted by RA 6657;

Pangalawa, libreng lupa para sa mga magsasaka, free land for the tiller;

Third, free land but just compensation to the landowners based on a transparent procedure which will be based on the tax assessment of the land for the last three years;

Pang-apat, a ban on the conversion of agricultural lands at pagbawi po ng mga kinanselang CLOA at IPPs dahil sa land conversion;

And last, among other features, full control and ownership of the land, not the mere stewardship, provided that the farmer-beneficiary actually tills the land. Ang sa amin po, ibigay ang pagmamay-ari ng lupa sa magsasaka. Pero dapat naman, eh, sakahin at bungkalin ng magsasaka iyong lupa. Hindi iyong ibibigay sa kanya, ibebenta lang niya, isasangla lang niya, o kung ano pang gagawin. Kung ibinigay sa iyo ang lupa, make it productive at isaka mo, o ibungkal mo ang iyong lupa. Such property can be passed on to the beneficiary’ s children, if for any reason he cannot till the land. So, in fact, hindi lang ownership ng mismong benepisyaryo, puwede po itong manahin, puwede itong ipasa sa kanyang mga anak.

For the record, Mr. Speaker, we, in the Progressive Party-List Bloc have always been present at the committee hearings. Lahat ho ng hearings ng committee nandoon kami, maging sa probinsya. Present ho kami araw-araw dito sa plenaryo. And we have never, not once, questioned the quorum out of respect for our colleagues in the Minority who are for the bill even if we are against it.

We oppose the CARP Extension Bill because of our belief that the program has failed our farmers and will fail them again in the future. To cast unfounded aspersions on our motives without addressing the legitimate issues we have been raising is the height of irresponsibility and unparliamentary practice. The flaws of Agrarian Reform Law are the very reasons why the implementation of Agrarian Reform Program has taken a world record breaking 20 years with distressing results. What R.A. No. 6657 could not achieve in 20 years, I think we will never achieve through a five-year extension as long as this flawed provisions remain. A CARP Extension Bill that fails to correct these most glaring defects, is a bill that is more deplorable than the existing law it seeks to attend.

In any case, Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to set the record straight. We in the Progressive Party-List Bloc look forward to the debates in the coming months and hope that this will be fruitful. I hope that our differences, our heated arguments, our emotional deliberations notwithstanding, we retain our decency and healthy respect for our colleagues and not resort to unfounded accusations and malicious charges.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues.

REP. OCAMPO. Mr. Speaker.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). What is the pleasure of the other Gentleman from Bayan Muna?

REP. OCAMPO. I just wish to make a manifestation in relation to the speech of Congressman Teddy Casiño.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). The Gentleman may proceed.

REP. OCAMPO. Yesterday, when I got hold of the press release of Akbayan in Congress, quoting our colleague, Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel warning that landlords in Congress in collusion with leftist solons from the Bayan Bloc are out to maim cripple and kill agrarian reform in the country, I felt a personal assault being the senior Member of this group alluded to consisting of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela Women’s Party. To be accused of colluding with the solons. I think in my personal capacity, I would assume that Congresswoman Hontiveros-Baraquel knows my background, that I have for forty years been fighting on the side of the peasants, that, I myself, I’m a son of peasants, that my family up to this day is a tenant family; and that I would never at in any instance collude with landlords to maim cripple and kill agrarian reform in the country. I am perfectly willing to dialogue and debate with the landlords and which we are prepared when our bill comes at the proper consideration. But to be so accused and put at a second level and say that our agenda is revolting, I think I cannot let this pass, Mr. Speaker, distinguished Gentleman. Being an elder, I am constrained to counsel my younger colleague; please in making such accusations look at our background, look at what we have worked through and lived through. Our lives are open books, and if she wishes to stand out as an advocate of agrarian reform, as my colleague said, not at our expense, please.

Congresswoman Hontiveros-Baraquel may recall that she thanked me because my group supported their position against allowing agricultural lot to be used as collateral for loans. Yet, she is now accusing us of colluding and trying to maim and kill agrarian reform in the country.

So, I would like to put on record – this is my personal feeling on this matter, and my advice to our colleague – we can debate on the merits of her bills and our bill but please, not such accusations gratuitously issued to the media if not delivered on the floor.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

REP. HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL . Mr. Speaker.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). The time of the Gentleman from Bayan Muna, the Honorable Casiňo, has already expired and unless the Majority Leader moves for an extension, then there will be no further interpellation.

REP. HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL . Mr. Speaker.

REP. BONDOC. Mr. Speaker, I move for a brief extension of the time of the Gentleman from Bayan Muna.

I so move, Mr. Speaker.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). By how many minutes?

REP. BONDOC. Five minutes.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). Any objection? (Silence) The Chair hears none; the motion is approved. The time of the Gentleman from Bayan Muna is extended by five minutes.

REP. HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL . Mr. Speaker.

REP. ABANTE. Mr. Speaker.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). What is the pleasure of the Gentleman from the Sixth District of Manila?

REP. ABANTE. Mr. Speaker, after the speech of Congressman Casiňo is referred to the proper committee, I would like to stand up also on the question of personal privilege.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). What is the pleasure now of the Lady from Akbayan?

REP. HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL . Mr. Speaker, since I was mentioned by both the previous Speakers, I wish to make a brief manifestation by way of response.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). Manifestation – so, this is another time. It’s not within the time of the Gentleman from Bayan Muna. The distinguished Lady may please proceed.

REP. HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL . Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Both the previous speakers, Congressman Casiňo and Congressman Ocampo, said that I made malicious and irresponsible statements, that I declared blatant lies, that I’m guilty of unparliamentary practice, etcetera.

Just one point of fact, Mr. Speaker. The statement I made about the collusion between Congresspersons allied in the House, allied with landlords and other leftist solons – and I said other because I am leftist solon too — against the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Bill, is based on our track record of action or interventions on this CARP Extension Bill that we just made a final decision in the House last night.

The good Congressman Casiňo did say that they had always been present in the committee hearings and in the plenaries. It is, for example, a matter of record that they voted, together with Congresspersons allied with landlords, to repeat the public hearings in the regions and I submitted to that majority vote on the matter. It is also a matter of public record that they voted against the committee report. And these two interventions, Mr. Speaker, were in conjunction, were of the same position or preceding from the same position as Congresspersons in the House allied with the landlords. This at a time that the extension of the land acquisition and distribution component was deemed by those of us who supported the CARP Extension Bill as necessary to set up a line of defense for the peasants against further conversions, against further non-redistributive measures, etcetera.

Congressman Ocampo said that he took my statements as a personal assault. It is true I know his background and nothing in my statement was meant to diminish from his more than 40 years of fighting on the side of peasants and himself being a child of peasants. I certainly give him and his colleagues their due. And as he said, I did thank their group for supporting my position against farmlands as collateral provision which, by the way, was not contested by Congresspersons allied with landlords here in the House. The amendments that we, ourselves, as Akbayan, were fighting to propose as additional reforms if we had only reached the period of amendments were meant to improve the law and improve the implementation of the program together with, not separate from and not contradictory to extending the land acquisition and distribution component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, thirty years ago as a high school student, I signed a petition letter seeking the release of the then political prisoner Satur Ocampo. And I have maintained that respect for him as a human being and the same to his colleagues until now in the same way that I do not take affront at the attacks against the Agrarian Reform Bill or even the personal attack against me in the past in connection with this bill by some of their allied peasant federations. I likewise wish to express to Congressman Ocampo and his colleagues that I have no desire to hurt his or their personal feelings, but I believe that our expression of our positions on our bills and our expression of critique towards each other’s positions are part of that parliamentary process.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, Your Honors.

REP. ESCUDERO. Mr. Speaker.

REP. CASIÑO. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, as a last point…

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). What is the pleasure of the Gentleman from Sorsogon?

REP. ESCUDERO. Mr. Speaker.

REP. CASIÑO. Mr. Speaker.

REP. ESCUDERO. Mr. Speaker.

REP. CASIÑO. Mr. Speaker.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). The Gentleman from Sorsogan is recognized.

REP. ESCUDERO. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, for further clarification of the issues raised…

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). Is the Gentleman…

REP. ESCUDERO. …a brief manifestation re the privilege speeches.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). Manifestation.

REP. ESCUDERO. As a further clarification re the three speeches delivered by the protagonists who incidentally are my colleagues in the Minority, may I make it of record of the 97 yesterday who voted for the extension of the agrarian reform, majority of them are landowners.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). What is now the pleasure of the Gentleman from… The Gentleman from Bayan Muna has still five minutes for interpellation. Is there any one who wishes to interpellate him? There being none, his time is of…

REP. CASIÑO. Mr. Speaker.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). The Gentleman from…

REP. CASIÑO. Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to be interpellated. I would just like to make a last comment. We in Bayan Muna and the progressive party-lists wish…

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). Comment on? Comment on?

REP. CASIÑO. On the response of Honorable Hontiveros-Baraquel .

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). Would the Gentleman from Bayan Muna rather interpellate the distinguished Lady from Akbayan?

REP. CASIÑO. No.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). Because a manifestation is subject to interpellation.

REP. CASIÑO. This is just a manifestation, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to prolong…

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Rep. Datumanong). Then, the Gentleman from Bayan Muna may proceed.

REP. CASIÑO. I do not want to prolong the issue. As I said, Mr. Speaker, we will always be open to critique. And we will be open to spirited debates, but to resort to these kinds of insinuations, name calling, which have no basis and which do not recognize at all the track record of our parties and our persons, I think, I am still of the position that that is not good parliamentary practice, Mr. Speaker. And so, I hope that in the succeeding debates, even though our colleague from Akbayan does not recognize our criticism of her statements, I hope that we will avoid these kinds of unparliamentary pronouncements and we will always be ready for debates. We will always be ready to be criticized, but there is a proper way of doing things in Congress, even in the parliament of the streets.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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