By Chito Chavez
Militant farmer’s group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said outgoing House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s legacy was marred by “laws that are detrimental to the people’s interests.’’
“We say goodbye and good riddance to outgoing House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She will continue to be known as among the most loathed public officials in history. Arroyo and her enabler Rodrigo Duterte deserve condemnation for all the anti-people policies they are implementing,’’ said Rafael Mariano, KMP chairperson emeritus and Anakpawis President.
Under Arroyo’s leadership as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mariano said Congress has approved an endless string of anti-people policies and legislation – “the Rice Tariffication Law, the lowering of minimum age of criminality, additional taxes under the regressive TRABAHO/TRAIN laws, the revival of the mandatory ROTC, the anti-farmer re-filed coco levy bill and many other measures that are detrimental to the interests and demands of the people’’.
Under Arroyo’s helm in Congress, Mariano insisted that “pro-people measures such as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill and P750 national minimum wage hike were snubbed and archived’’.
Mariano was referring to Anakpawis Partylist’s landmark bills in Congress.
Arroyo railroaded the anti-farmer coco levy bill, according to Mariano.
A couple of weeks ago, Mariano noted that Congress allegedly railroaded and approved on third and final reading the refiled version of the coco levy bill that reduced the number of farmer-representatives to the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee from nine to only three.
“The coco levy bill approved by Congress will not guarantee the return of the multibillion coco levy fund and assets to farmers. Duterte and his allies will only gain control of the fund,” Mariano said.
Under the ‘Duterte coco levy bill, Mariano said the trust fund committee will have an annual capitalization budget of P10-billion, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee to be appointed by the President will be composed of six representatives from government sector (DA, DOF, DTI, NEDA, PCA, Office of The Executive Secretary), two representatives from the private coconut industry sector and only three farmer-representatives.
He noted the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will serve as Executive Director of the Trust Fund Committee which will draft a medium-term Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan to be approved by the President upon the endorsement of the Economic Development Cluster.
Mariano a former Agrarian Reform Secretary under the Duterte administration said “the coco levy assets will be privatized under the supervision of the Privatization Management Office’’.
“These are not the demands of small coconut farmers. Ito ang gusto ni Duterte kaya ito ang sinunod ng Kongreso (This is what Duterte wants that is what Congress followed),’’ Mariano said.
“This long and drawn out battle for the return of the coco levy fund has burdened millions of small coconut farmers and their families. Many of them have died without actually benefiting from the coco levy fund,’’ he added.
Mariano said small coconut farmers will continue to assert the genuine return of the coco levy fund.