Wednesday, August 12, 2009




You shall not knowingly or deliberately by overt or covert acts or omissions impede compliance or implementation of a law for this is necessary and important in keeping order in a society. Study shows that respect for the law is developed by a realization that law represents accumulated wisdom, that it is in harmony with laws of nature and that it is necessary to prevent trouble. In the Philippines, something seemed to have shifted some decades ago and part of that something that seemed to shift was that, collectively, we lose a respect for the law. Maybe it was the continuing instability of our country or of too much politics, or perhaps based on reciprocity and mutual exchange, or reward for loyalty. Maybe it was something else or a combination of somethings else but whatever it was, it appears to me, as both an attorney for a good part of the above time span and an observer of legal behavior, that many people appear to have lost their respect for the law.

I love the CARPER LAW, RA 9700, known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms, signed by the President on August 7, 2009. When I hear legal scholars speaking about the law, I find myself moved to tears. That we have nothing but an idea separating us from chaos is quite remarkable when you consider it.

We now have many kinds of beautifully worded laws on agrarian reform that to encode all of them here would surely cause my fingers to freeze or numb. And all of them are complementing and supplementing one another and each other that it is near to impossible you will not be confused, especially for those who are not familiar with them. I focus on agrarian reform because my job deals with agrarian reform. The CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms) which is RA 9700, will surely invite many issues because we as a society have created a climate conducive to creating the issue. This CARPER issue is a demand-side issue at present because of its amendments it introduced.

I love the CARPER law. When I read the amendments, my heart and emotion soar and waves majestically in the air because it gives us new hope that our dream of lifting our poor farmers out of extreme poverty and become self-reliant and independent in their daily needs and subsistence is not a lost cause. It stresses the absolute centrality of our poor farmers and the power of unity, as well as the gender discrimination and the importance of farmers’ organization. It sets out to change perceptions of who the poor are – not a static, monochrome set of people waiting for change – but a dynamic group of individuals with energy and initiative. It makes constant allusions to subjects close to my own understanding of what drives development -- personal empowerment, power and gender relations, families, collective action and, therefore, makes social relations a central theme.

But the CARPER law is an elusive and indeed, in many of the amendments, a fragile thing, just like any other laws. There is no “one size fits all” concept of the law. These qualities are part of its beauty. It can be molded to fit a wide variety of situations. However, that elusiveness makes some people uncomfortable since we often seek constancy. We would often like to have things “carved into stone” as it were. But it is the very nature of the law being so elusive that gives it its power to last as long as it has in this country.

The fragility of the law is due, in large part, to the fact that there actually is no law outside of that which we elect to have as law. The law is not self-fulfilling. Writing a statute into a code book, having a court interpret a law, does not make anything happen. Law only is effective to the degree that we, the individuals who make up our society, elect to have it be effective. We are totally responsible for the continuation and effectiveness of the law. If enough of us agree the law or a given aspect of the law is not reflective of who we are as a society, that law goes unenforced or in some instances, is repealed or overruled by court decision.

So the law is now and always has been a reflection of the values of the society in which it is found. But in truth there is no such thing as “society.” Society is merely the totality of the input that all of us, individually and through our institutions such as media, business and the like, create. “Society” includes as well all of those same inputs of everyone who came before us including parents, grandparents and others not related to us individually. But in the end, all of that input came from a person, not a thing called “society.” Some persons created each value that we now attribute to “society.” When enough of us adopted that same value, it seemed to become some sort of argumentum ad populum ("If many believe so, it is so."). Some of those “truths” became our law.

Thus, the law is a reflection of each of our individual values, writ onto the larger canvas that we, for convenience if not literal correctness, call society. Having a “thing” to blame it on, excuses our individual responsibility. We are the law in a very real sense. We are part of its creation and it reflects who we are.

It follows that if the law is reflective of our individual values, then we have to examine those individual values and how we thus play a part in the shaping of the “societal” values. It requires a sense of ourselves. It requires a sense of our individual power and yes, responsibility for who we are as a “society” and the laws that reflect that society.

As we collectively and individually go through the transitions that are now and will remain an integral part of the development and success of the CARPER in particular and the program of agrarian reform in general, each of us must examine what role we play in those transitions. This may make some uncomfortable since we are not generally given to accepting responsibility for our own conduct.

I believe we are in a great period of transition very much on the scale of the Industrial Revolution. But like that and other “revolutions” it is hard to see it during the time we are in it. It takes a significant period of time to even see a revolution of that or this nature in process and certainly to understand the nature of the values at play now.

The success of the CARPER Law depends on how we, the people, receive it, how we respond to it, and how we give respect to the basic precept of it. The outcome of the Law, therefore, is dependent on those cases where the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the people's heart.

The commitments and the know-how to implement the CARPER Law are already in place in the DAR administrative agency. Surely, in the interregnum, the DAR officials will sometimes find that they are fated to accomplish some task or face some overwhelming foe. We can only speculate as of now but whatever lies ahead waiting in the sun can become a central issue for the DAR Officials, either as a goal to pursue or a fate to dodge, can drive much of a storyline.

Of course, it’s not about making one big leap to perfection but tiny little changes everyday until they get where they want to go. It’s little steps that will eventually get them to the promise land. It’s kind of a trek to the stars, keep reaching.

The task of the DAR officials isn't so simple a matter, that it isn't. The true answer is something they would find out for themselves and it is determined by how they perform their respective jobs from this day forward, that it is. Indeed, it’s some sort of Survival of the Fittest.

The blue sky is infinitely high, crystal clear...that's what the world should be, a world of infinite possibilities, laid before us, crystal clear. -Kentatsu


  1. thank you sir for these post.. i was once a legal officer of DAR North Bukidnon, i went out of DAR in the year 2006 (the DAR Bukidnon was not divided yet) hence, not anymore familiar with the CARPER... reading your post made me become aware of what i was, what i did for the sake of social justice and how my work at DAR had so much influence of what i am doing today.. again thank you for helping me come up with such realization

  2. I'm sorry to disagree. Corruption & Agrarian Reform are basic benchmarks of 3rd world countries. Those are 2 prevalent characteristics of the PI. Taking land from the rightful owners and giving to others is wrong. Property rights are the staple of any developed country and the Philippines is very far from that.
    Stating farmers are entitled to the lands they til is equivalent to stating the fisherman are entitled to own beaches or factory workers can own the land the factory sits on. CHOOSING to work somewhere does not entitle you to ownership.
    Further, it is very difficult to find any gov't department in the Philippines that is not corrupt and the DAR is no exception. The DAR takes land away from unwilling property owners and they may give portions to the actual tenants. However, they are more likely to give land to their friends, families, or other people they are conspiring with. I myself have seen a DAR employee driving a vehicle very out of range with his pay scale. If someone pays their taxes and does not want to sell their land, there is nothing left to argue.
    The DAR has proven time and time again to be a failure as food production significantly decreases and inflation increases. So these farmers who now have a piece of land now have soaring food prices with less arable land to farm.
    Most farmers do not have enough of an education or experience to understand costs, taxes, labor, or foresight to plan against disasters. They simply understand they have been given land and then each little plot turns into a shanty home that keeps expanding while the arable land decreases. The other farmers either sell their land to a developer, or person looking to build a home. Then the remaining farmers take out loans against their land at 50% the value to buy motorbikes or go on spending sprees. These farmers do not understand the terms of the loan, the land is repossessed by the bank and it is later sold again to a developer or person looking to build.
    Now, there are plenty of lands where people have not paid taxes, have been repossessed, or the politician/ gov't worker owner found guilty of corruption are very good substitutes.
    Finally, I am very against the exploitation of farmers. Many laws could be implemented to protect the farmer against exploitation. Laws can be implemented for farmers to share in a piece of the proceeds. That would benefit everyone involved, but there would have to be a TRUSTED gov't program to oversee the farmers are not exploited.
    The current system of AR is a complete failure. There may be success stories here and there, but it comes at a great cost to all. Quite frankly the DAR system is overly corrupt like all go'vt departments in the PI. There is a true lack of concern for the actual people and it is just another group of gov't workers taking part in the overall kleptocracy. It is simply a political tool to buy votes in the disguise of helping while underhandedly exploiting them.


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