Agrarian reform advocacy based on research

Had Bel not phoned me this late morning, I would not have known about and attended two important events today.

The first one was about the meeting of research institutions concerned about agrarian reform and rural development. I think it was the second time they gathered and took up next actions in support of the National Rural Congress slated to be held in first quarter of 2008. They gathered because the Roman Catholic leaders believe (which the civil society shares) that convincing the public and the policy makers about our advocacies takes bombarding them with information based on academic and institutional researches. The CBCP has offered to help out these research institutions propagate their studies by putting up a website that hosts bibliographies, documents or links to research documents.

There was a lot of known civil society-associated research institutions present, with the likes of the ASI (the host of the meeting), IPC, ICSI, Ibon, and UP-SOLAIR-Agrarian Reform Team. The other groups are NGOs that have their respective research units, with the likes of PARRDS, PARFUND, PDI, and PEACE. The meeting was chaired by Abp. Tony Ledesma. He asked each one to share something about its or his/her agrarian reform and rural development-related research materials which may be useful.

I wasn’t able to attend the previous meeting. So I was lucky to attend this one because my organization–PEACE Foundation–had to be heard about by the other institutions. I shared with them that PEACE has published “Agrarian Notes” that are most often case studies of agrarian reform issues as they are felt at the ground. Abp. Tony Ledesma affirmed the need to collect case studies as a type of research.

Three personalities were present as well–UP Professor Rene Ofreneo, former DA Secretary Leonie Montemayor, and former COMELEC Chair Christian Monsod. Each had his own way of suggesting things. Dr. Ofreneo was the most critical, saying that he and his colleagues in UP Agrarian Reform Team are closely monitoring the effects of globalization on agriculture, citing as an example the ever controversial agri-business deals of Phil. government with China. Sec. Montemayor was more exploring and emphatic of good things. He wanted studies that shed light on, for example, the effects of micro-financing to farmers. He also stressed the need to research on and publish success stories of agrarian reform and rural development. (I think he raised that as soon as he heard the lady from Ibon Foundation about its plan to come up with a primer this yearend, which aims to highlight the negative side of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program [CARP].)

Commissioner Monsod was more practical and emphatic of what’s already existing. He suggested that the research studies commissioned or collected by the relevant agencies must be tapped into and shared with the website that is going to be put up by CBCP Media Office. He also stressed the value of the website in that it will shed light on policy issues like the farmland collateralization that is being peddled by Pres. Gloria Arroyo. Without batting an eyelash, he emphasized that collateralizing a farmer’s farmland to access credit is good. With three conditions: a) there should be National Land and Water Use Law, b) progressive taxation in lands must be institutionalized, and c) the land redistribution component of CARP is finished. When I chatted with him after the meeting, I said that the fourth important precondition for farmland collateralization is the farmers’ empowerment to decide after weighing options.

More research institutions will be tapped to partake in the advocacy endeavor. In fact, there will be a symposium in October (?) to be held by them together with the CBCP about rural poverty issues. It will also be a venue for them to inform the public about the coming-together.

The meeting ended at past 5. Bel and I went out of the ASI together. We were caught in a bad traffic in Taft Ave. After spending time to decide what to do, I suggested that we take the LRT and then MRT en route to a place in Kamias where the next meeting is going to be held. She concurred. So we battled ‘human traffic’ to get to the trains and out.

The meeting, which was a preparation for the Bishops-Peasants Forum the next day, was supposed to start at 6. But Bel and I only managed to arrive at the venue at around 7. Also, other participants (from TFM) had to be awaited before the meeting could start.

As expected, that meeting started late and ended late in the evening. But everyone was happy about the results, which should have made the participants excited for the meetup with the Bishops the next day.

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