Bureaucratic behavior

Agrarian land reform via the CARP law and its much vaunted ‘land-to-the-tiller’ or ‘promised land’ has miserably failed in several respects.

September 5, 2022

The President is predisposed to grant a year-long moratorium on the payment of amortization and interest by agrarian reform beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program law.

However, it could set dangerous precedent if enforced through an executive order signed by FM Jr.

Most people tend to compare administrations with one another, even worry of “twists and turns” in the policy domain when a new leadership takes over the reins of power. Often, governance takes the wrong turn and bureaucratic behavior alters or entirely disavows a prevailing status quo.

The CARP law or Republic Act 6657 (June 1988) alone repealed specific sections of RA 3844 (August 1963); Presidential Decree 316 (October 1973); PD 946 (June 1976); and PD 1038 (October 1976). Sadly, the policymaking landscape offers little incentive for scholars to do high level research toward the best formulation of public policy away from the oftentimes myopic view of politicians.

Interestingly, the moratorium is called many names — an “amortization freeze; loan condonation; debt burden; recovery plan” and its perceived impact as neither good for ARBs nor for government.

Reason being simple, land reform (i.e., “land for the landless”) is being laid out as mere political platform by one regime after another.

Ordinarily, only an amendatory bill passed into law can amend the specific section of the CARP law. Outside this parameter, the strength of an EO over that of the RA might be akin to putting the cart before the horse.

The policymaking power of the Executive and the Legislative is not normally known to come in collision course nor should one overtake the other along policy lanes. In policymaking, it can happen that the cure becomes worse than the illness.

While it is commendable for government to relieve ARBs of fiscal burden through a moratorium on their CARP payments due to the pandemic, it would bring about some negative repercussions, viz:
One, a new EO or RA that imposes no obligation on the ARBs betrays the very concept upon which the CARP law is built. If it happens, Land Bank no longer has to recover from ARBs their 30 annual amortization plus interest, which translates into “foregone revenues” or losses.

Two, the list of ARBs should be subjected to thorough audit of CoA in order to check whether the beneficiaries were really those contemplated in the program lest government programs become convenient modes of land acquisition by unscrupulous brokers.

Three, the healthy notion of “fiscal space” becomes more aggravated when government no longer generates revenue streams from annual amortization including interest from ARBs that go in the billions of pesos. Borrowings or PPPs would then become “default” alternatives for government to acquire fiscal space.

Lastly, a campaign promise should just be what it is when one realizes that the conditions are simply not present at ground level. In the pecking order, economic survival takes first priority over other public values.

Meantime, at what stage of development are we in Rostow’s? How badly have we violated so-called Keynesian argument? When was the last time we sold goods or services to other countries, if any?

All truths prove how we became a vast junkyard for imports with our chronic overdependence to the same.

Studies did show that poor farmers or land beneficiaries of rubber plantations in Mindanao were worse off than better off when they were made to inherit old and matured rubber trees that resulted in zero latex production. The landowning elites and their corporate lawyers gained double whammy in having disposed lands to CARP, valued and compensated with hefty sums based on false or flawed revenue estimates.

In the final analysis, agrarian land reform via the CARP law and its much vaunted “land-to-the-tiller” or “promised land” has miserably failed in several respects. It might have even widened the gap between the landed elites and the poor landless farmers turned ARBs as it neither resolved inequality nor reduced poverty.

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