Rethinking Society Over a Cup of Coffee

PEACE in Mindanaw Academy (PMA)

First Privilege Speech of Rep. Ariel C. Hernandez
May 18, 2009, House of Representatives

Mr. Speaker, Maayong Hapon! Maayad na hapon! Assalamu Alaikum! Peace be with you all!

First, let me express my personal gratitude for the warm welcome you bestowed upon us when we took our oath as new legislators in the house of the people. As the newly installed representative of our party Anak Mindanaw, I have been given the opportunity to join this august body that defines the future of this country. Thus, I would like to maximize my time and humble expertise to bring about long term and sustainable programs for our beloved yet troubled region of Mindanaw.

Anak Mindanaw would like to call on this house of the people not to forget the aspiration, dreams and fears of the tri-people of Mindanaw. In the heated discussion in the plenary on urgent bills of Charter Change, CARPER and other bills, I would like to put on record that Anak Mindanaw would like to introduce a legislation that will highlight the role of Mindanaw as a center of gravity of all peacebuilding initiatives of the country and even of the Asian region. Whereas before and even up to now, Mindanaw has been highlighted by the national and international press because of its mismanaged conflicts that resulted to wars every two to three years, terroristic activities every now and then, not to mention kidnappings that put the island in a very bad light … Anak Mindanaw is committed to proactively change this national and international perception, not by propaganda but by hard work and by running meaningful and relevant programs for the tripeople of Mindanaw.

Specifically, Mr. Speaker, this humble representation, molded by the institutional wisdom of Balay Mindanaw, which has been actively working for peace in Mindanaw these past years, and guided by Cong. Mujiv Hataman, is proposing for the establishment of Peace in Mindanaw Academy (PMA). If war and unpeace have dominated the picture of our beloved island over the last 5 decades, Anak Mindanaw believes that by setting up a PMA, our beloved region of Mindanaw will be known as the center of gravity of all peace education and peace building initiatives not only in Mindanaw and in the country but also in the Asian Region. While Anak Mindanaw acknowledges and supports the ongoing peace processes that tackle historical injustice, political marginalization and economic disparity, Anak Mindanaw adopts the new parallel mindset of the party that aims to set up institutions that are proactive, sustainable and, most of all, owned by stakeholders of peace in Mindanaw, in the country and in the Asian region. We need not wait for peace negotiations to arrive at political settlement and signed peace agreements. We can set up institutions like PMA to strengthen and maybe hasten the ongoing peace processes in Mindanaw, in the country and in the Asian Region, by a combination of academic inputs, field-based learning and community-based initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, the PMA will have the following distinct characteristics:

1. It will be a premiere education center for peace in the country and the Asian region. I specifically highlight the Asian Region as the bigger arena of Peace in Mindanaw Academy because of the ongoing mismanaged conflicts in the region, namely, Sri Lanka, parts of Indonesia, and East Timor. Rather than seeking help from these countries, we might even be able to provide help for them.

2. The curriculum and education program will be designed by CHED, OPAPP, Defense Department, the civil society, and the Church, which are all actively involved in Peacebuilding in Mindanaw, in the country and the Asian region.

3. The target clientele of the academy will be the state and non-state security sector, the local government units, the business sector, the different churches and denominations and the civil society and the lawmakers from Mindanaw, the Philippines and the Asian region.

4. The PMA is envisioned to offer full courses on conflict management and peacebuilding, peace negotiations, transitional and restorative justice and demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR).

Mr. Speaker, with your support, and with the support of the members of this house, the PMA will usher a new dawn for Peacebuilding in Mindanaw. I have great faith in the constituency of the house of the people; the state and non-state combatants; the LGUs which do not anymore see conflicts as things to avoid but rather as an integral challenge for local development; the Church, which brings peace building into action rather than as mere words spoken in the pulpit; the academe, which has transcended the four walls of the schools; and the national and international peace constituency.

This proposal will remain relevant in the years to come and this 14th Congress will proudly look at this institution as a source of pride for Mindanawans, Filipinos and Asians alike.

Daghan salamat Mr. Speaker…


Joint Resolution No. 19, which extends the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program but without providing for compulsory acquisition, expires on June 30. On June 5, however, the second regular session of Congress will end, resuming only on the first week of July. This means that despite months of campaigning and lobbying for a struggle that has spanned decades, and because of the indifference or neglect of our representatives in Congress, we are again in the eleventh hour, with only nine session days left to pass a law that is not only constitutionality mandated, but is required by basic notions of equity and social justice.

The implementation of an agrarian reform program is a Constitutional mandate which the State may not avoid by legislative inaction. Section 4, Art. XIII of the 1987 Constitution requires the State to “undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farmworkers who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farmworkers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof.” As it is, Joint Resolution No. 19 is unconstitutional for being contrary to the very spirit of agrarian reform. If Congress again fails to pass an agrarian reform law by June 5, it will be nothing short of a dereliction of a duty reposed on the legislative body by our Constitution.

The CARP has been in existence for 20 years, but the fruits of authentic agrarian reform in the country have yet to be reaped. 80% of privately owned agricultural lands remain undistributed. 18% of CARP beneficiaries have not received titles to the lands that they till and should rightfully own. 65% of CARP beneficiaries have no access to government support services that should be available in agrarian reform areas. Rural poverty still accounts for 70% of the country’s poor. If we are to attain social justice eloquently defined by Justice Jose P. Laurel in Calalang vs. Williams as “…the humanization of laws and the equalization of social and economic forces by the State…” then agrarian reform is a measure that must not only be continued, but must be among those prioritized.

The Philippine’s agrarian reform program needs to be given more time to fully attain the goals it was created to accomplish. Twenty years of unsatisfactory implementation clearly leaves much room for improvement and reform. House Bill 4077 and Senate Bill 2666, or the CARP Extension with Reforms Bill, reflect the needed changes to address the shortcomings that have prevented the law’s noble purpose from coming into fruition.

We, who study the law, know that laws are there for a reason. Agrarian reform is explicitly identified as a fundamental State policy in Art II Sec 21 of the Constitution. Thus, we ask that our lawmakers breathe life into this policy by enacting laws that set in motion and ensure actual and speedy results.

We, who study the law, know that while the actual provisions are drafted by the members of Congress, laws are ultimately articulations of the people’s will and expressions of the power inherent in them as citizens of a free country. Thus, we remind our lawmakers that their mandate emanates from the people, and their duty is to address their constituents’ needs, even if it means sacrificing their own interests. We reiterate that by eliminating compulsory acquisition, the agrarian reform program is reduced to no more than an empty promise. Without it, there is no reform, only more of the same.

We, who study the law, are no strangers to policies that look resolute on paper, but are torn apart and rendered useless by the selfsame provisions, where motherhood statements mask gaps, loopholes and false pretenses. Thus, we demand that Congress deliver an agrarian reform program that is responsive, sincere and faithful to the principles of social justice.
The second regular session of Congress ends in less than a month. Too much has been lost, too much sacrificed and there is too much at stake for our legislature to fail us now. We take up this cause because we, who study the law, owe it to this country. We owe it to the farmers who walked thousands of miles, and spent weeks in hunger strikes, asking to be heard. We owe it to the blood shed and lives lost. We owe it to the law that we study and pledge to serve. Because if the law cannot be used to protect those who need it the most, then it betrays its own purpose.


Student Council
Ateneo Law School
Makati City, Metro Manila

Supreme Law Council
College of Law
Silliman University
Dumaguete City, Oriental Negros

Student Council
College of Law
University of Baguio
Baguio City, Benguet

Civil Law Student Council
College of Law
University of Santo Tomas
Manila City, Metro Manila

Law Student Government
College of Law
University of the Philippines
Quezon City, Metro Manila

No More Broken Promises, No More Delays PASS CARPER NOW

(This Manifesto was given by the new party-list representatives during a press conference in Congress last May 5, 2009)

For over a year now, we have witnessed the struggle of the farmers and agrarian reform advocates in pushing for the enactment of the CARP Extension with Reforms (CARPER) in Congress. We have shared their joy when HB 4077 and SB 2666 were finally reported out in the respective plenary sessions of both houses of Congress and when CARP extension with reforms was declared a priority legislation by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as early as June last year.

We have witnessed how the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate promised to enact the law before Congress went on recess last June 2008. We have shared the dismay and anger of the farmers when Congress only managed to make another promise to pass the law before the end of December 2008. The failure of Congress to enact the CARP extension law last June 2008 has virtually put agrarian reform implementation on a stand still as the Department of Agrarian Reform dragged its feet and preferred to play safe for fear of legal suits from the big landowners should they pursue agrarian reform implementation sans an extension law.

We have also witnessed how Congress once again dragged its feet and succumbed to the whims and caprices of the landlord bloc and broke its promise last December 2008. Despite the hunger strike of more than 50 farmers which was joined by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and several other bishops, Congress allowed itself to be held hostage by the landlord bloc and managed only to pass Joint Resolution No. 19 which purportedly extends CARP until June this year but removed the compulsory acquisition mode of land acquisition and distribution. The Joint Resolution did not help the farmers any, it only gave the Department of Agrarian Reform a convenient alibi to extend the halt in agrarian reform implementation.

Once again, promises of passing HB 4077 and SB 2666 and to restore the compulsory acquisition mode before June 5, 2009 have been hurled left and right by MalacaƱang, the Senate and the leadership of the House of Representatives. Technical working groups were created by both chambers to address the queries and iron out the issues on the CARPER bills. Both TWGs have already finished their reports. The House of Representatives has done its part of the bargain. What remains to be done is the crux of legislation and that is to pass House Bill 4077 into law.

However, here in the House of Representatives, we are yet to see signs that the House will make good of its promise. While the House has spent precious time discussing HB 737, which proposes to allow foreigners to own land in the Philippines, it has not spent a single second in pursuing the deliberations on the CARP extension with reforms bill (HB 4077).

As newly proclaimed party-list representatives, we will not be able to serve our full terms. With so little time remaining in our hands, we want to spend whatever precious time we have as members of the 14th Congress by pushing for the most critical pieces of reform legislation.

Today, as one of our first acts as members of the House Representatives, we will sign as co-author of HB4077, the CARP Extension with Reforms bill. With this act, we will join Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Agrarian Reform Committee chairperson Rep. Elias Bulut and AKBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros in taking the cudgels for CARP extension with Reforms. As new co-authors of the CARPER bill, we call on the House leadership to begin fulfilling its promises to the people especially to the millions of farmers and resume the deliberations on CARP extension with reforms.

Time is running out on Congress. From today, we barely have fourteen (14) more session days before the Congress’ self-imposed deadline for enacting HB 4077. We cannot afford nor tolerate any more delays. We cannot afford any more broken promises.