By Raul Socrates Banzuela
Ang puno ng manggang hitik sa pamumunga...pinupukol.
During the Langkaan Controversy in 1990, the peasant movement was deeply united to defend Butch when he was being bypassed each time by the powerful Committee on ConfIrmation of Congress. The public debate then was raging whether or not the piece of prime agricultural land (Langkaan) in Cavite should give way to Joe Concepcion-supported Marubeni industry.
Having been among the staunch proponents of HB 400, which later became the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), together with Edcel Lagman and the late Boni Gillego, Butch becoming Secretary of the DAR after the coup of 1989 and the ouster of Miriam as DAR Secretary, was received by the peasant and the NGO movement with great enthusiasm and anticipation of great things to come in the agrarian reform front. It was no surprise then that even Jimmy Tadeo of KMP who REJECTED CARP, came to join us in the gallery in the Senate supporting Butch's confirmation and to witness the gallant defense for Butch's confirmation by some Senators like Nene Pimentel.
The rest was history...and tragedy.
After a series of bypass, and an expected awkward situation in the Cabinet where Joe Concepcion, DTI Secretary, and Butch Abad, DAR Secretary, would be sitting side by side with President Cory, he finally succumbed and resigned. It was among the saddest moments in the peasant movement, feeling a great loss amidst the advance of the anti-reform forces. Twenty four years hence, almost all prime agricultural lands in CALABARZON has been wiped out, prime and precious limited alluvial soil cemented to subdivisions and factories. Meanwhile the peasant movement has remained in the streets, many of its leaders, now senior citizens, still pushing, even pathetically just so Congress would extend the life of CARPER two more years and Notice of Coverage could still be issued to hundreds of thousands of hectares of land left uncovered, including the 14,000 hectares of grabbed land (by Danding) in Bugsuk Island in Balabac, Palawan.
Far from its original vision, a government centerpiece program not very much unlike that which catapulted Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to industrialization and modernization, CARP did not get the Presidential leadership it badly needed (except, perhaps during Ramos). Some 4 million farmers who received land (some 7 million hectares reportedly distributed) remained un-attended with the necessary support services (credit, extension, market, etc.), mostly still living below poverty line.
Butch, as DBM Secretary, and with strong support from PNoy, could have the second chance to help ensure funding availability to support millions of agrarian reform beneficiaries achieve their historic nation building role.
We just hope and pray, he does not experience another awkward situation in the Cabinet and succumb the second time...and resign.
We encourage him to stay put and stand his ground, and remain united with reform forces in government, and to continue to join the march of a people who has finally decided to take head-on the scourge of patronage politics. A new day is dawning...three Senators will soon be in jail.