Thursday, May 14, 2009

“Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do it to me”

The feast of St. Isidore, the Farmer on May 15 is an occasion for us Filipinos to recall and acknowledge the important roles our own farmers play in nation-building. They are the co-creators of God; the representatives of society entrusted with the noble task of making the earth fruitful. Faithful to this calling, the farmers tirelessly work hard to provide the basic food for our daily needs.

As we celebrate Farmers’ Day, may we go beyond simply acknowledging the farmers’ vital contribution to society. More importantly, the celebration should compel us to focus our attention on the problems they continue to face, such as the absence of a comprehensive and reformed agrarian law that genuinely serves the interest of the poor farmers, and address the lack of basic infrastructure and support services, and agrarian harassments, among others.

In the spirit of the celebration, we call on all Filipinos to stand in solidarity for the respect, defense, and promotion of farmers’ rights. We appeal to the conscience and compassionate hearts of our legislators to finally pass an extended and reformed CARP with: (1) five-year implementation period including Compulsory Acquisition, and without the proposed phasing of distribution; (2) collateral free credit and increased support services to farmers; (3) creation of an oversight committee with the inclusion of private sector representatives to monitor the implementation of agrarian reform; (4) recognition of the farmers’ legal standing and non-cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) on lands already distributed to and developed by the farmers; and (5) increased penalty for obstruction of CARP implementation.

Introducing amendments into the proposed bill that cancel out the above proposals inconspicuously weaken the gains of CARP for the poor farmers. Instead of working for their own interests, I pray that the Holy Spirit will move our Senators and Congressmen into heeding the cries of the rural poor, in accordance to the dictates of moral and social justice.

As our legislators go about the very important task of passing an agrarian reform law, I pray that they draw inspiration from St. Isidore, who, despite being very poor himself, gave of what little he had to those who were poorer. May his generosity remind our elected officials that life is not to be a selfish quest for profit, but an opportunity for service. This preferential option for the poor is emphasized in Jesus Christ’s ministry when he told His disciples: “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren you do it to me” (Matthew 25:40). The feast of St. Isidore on May 15 is an auspicious moment for the legislators to live up to our mission of discipleship and to demonstrate selflessness and genuine service to the poor farmers by gifting them with a reformed and authentic agrarian reform law.

Trust in prayer and benevolence to the needy were the most distinguishing traits of St. Isidore. In these times of difficulty, I, together with the farmers, offer and entrust our troubles, heartaches, and triumphs to the Heavenly Father, through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.