File photo from DAR

With 245 affirmative votes and one abstention, the House of Representatives on Monday approved on final reading a bill seeking to emancipate agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) from the financial burden of paying loans extended in relation to awarded agricultural land under the agrarian reform program.

House Bill (HB) No. 6336, or the New Agrarian Emancipation Act, also seeks to provide broadened support services to ARBs and make them more productive and economically emancipated.

Under the proposed law, the unpaid amortizations, interest payments, surcharges and penalties of existing loans of ARBs secured under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), or other agrarian reform programs or laws, shall be condoned and written off “relieving all ARBs from the payment, thereof.”

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) shall issue a Certificate of Condonation which shall be annotated on the beneficiary’s emancipation patent (EP), certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) or any other title based on the applicable agrarian reform law.

The condonation shall erase all mortgage liens in favor of the national government, as represented by Land Bank of the Philippines. The balances of unpaid obligations of ARBs to landowners shall be assumed by the Land Bank.

The bill defines agrarian reform beneficiaries as “farmers or farmworkers who were granted lands under Presidential Decree No. 27, Republic Act No. 6657 and Republic Act No. 9700, and who have outstanding loan balances payable to the Land Bank of the Philippines.”

PD 27 was the Tenant Emancipation Decree of the late President Marcos Sr. which was issued on Oct. 21, 1972.

RA 6657 was the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, while RA 9700 was the legislation extending the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands under CARP.

Bill No. 6336 prohibits the sale, transfer or conveyance of awarded lands to another except through hereditary succession for 10 years from the issuance of the certificate of condonation or certificate of land ownership award.

Awarded agricultural lands also under this Act “shall not be subject to conversion for a period of 10 years from the issuance of the certificate of condonation or CLOA.”

HB 6336 further provides for free land distribution to ARBs who are still to receive their awarded lands under the CARP or any other agrarian reform program or laws.

“All private agricultural lands covered under CARP or any agrarian reform program or laws that have not been distributed at the time of the effectivity of this Act shall be distributed at no cost to the qualified beneficiaries,” the bill said.

HB 6336 also provides for the restitution of the agrarian reform award that was forfeited solely due to non-payment of annual amortization and Interest. To emancipate ARBs from the financial burden of paying loans extended in relation to awarded agricultural land under the agrarian reform program

“Any pending administrative or judicial case involving the forfeiture by the DAR of the agrarian reform award solely due to the failure of an ARB to pay the 30-year amortization plus 6 percent annual interest shall immediately be dismissed motu proprio, by the DAR or the court,” the proposed measure said.

The bill provides that “the execution of a final and executory administrative or judicial case decision due to the failure of an ARB to pay the 30-year amortization plus 6 percent annual interest resulting in the disqualification of the ARB, the cancellation of the agrarian reform title, the extinguishment of the rights of possession and ownership of the awarded land, as well as the removal of the person from the awarded land or the dismantling of any improvements found therein, shall be immediately terminated, the agrarian reform award immediately restored, and the forfeiture of decision accordingly reversed.”

Any agrarian reform title cancelled as a result of the final and executory administrative or judicial case decision shall immediately be reconstituted.

In the event that the agricultural land has been awarded to another beneficiary, the DAR shall, as far as equitable, award another land to the disqualified ARB.

On the other hand, HB 6336 also upholds the right of landowners to just compensation for their agricultural lands acquired under the agrarian reform program. (PNA)

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