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Home Columns Sen. Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. DAR Has to Account for Billions in Funds Spent on CARP in 20 Years
DAR Has to Account for Billions in Funds Spent on CARP in 20 Years PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - This Week With Nene Pimentel
Saturday, 31 May 2008 14:09

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said many of the senators will remain hesitant to approve the bill extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) unless the Office of the President (OP) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Program fully account for the funds spent for the program since it was carried out in 1988.

Senator Pimentel said the OP and DAR should also identify the sources of funding for the extension, including possible revenue measures and proceeds from sale of sequestered ill-gotten corporations and other assets and whether or not DAR funds were spent in the ARMM.

He said that although he is inclined to favor CARP extension which is being sought by groups of farmers, the inability of DAR, under Secretary Nasser Pangandaman to make a detailed accounting of how it spent the billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money and proceeds from the disposition of recovered ill-gotten wealth is causing him to harbor second thoughts over the proposal.

“In my own case, I have been a supporter of CARP, and I want it extended but in a reasonable manner. And I have been asking the secretary and other officials of DAR to render an accounting of the money they received,” the senator from Mindanao said.

 

DAR should explain how it spent the P30-billion share from the Marcos bank deposits that were recovered from Switzerland, turned over to the National Treasury in 2003 and later transferred by installment to the department.Mr. Pimentel said he was deeply disappointed when he received a reply from Secretary Pangandaman, consisting of a few pages, including the cover letter, which contained scant information about the amount of funds released and spent for CARP. He said practically no data were given on how these funds were utilized, to whom the amounts were given and what programs or projects were implemented.

“In other words, this is a very cavalier way of dealing with public money. Let these funds be accounted properly. Government officials involved in the implementation of CARP should not act as if they are just playing around with people’s money,” he said.

Senator Pimentel said to make things easier for DAR, he is amenable to the submission of data on the release and utilization of funds for CARP covering only the last 10 years of its implementation.

He said it is particularly important for DAR to explain how it spent the P30-billion share from the Marcos bank deposits that were recovered from Switzerland, turned over to the National Treasury in 2003 and later transferred by installment to the department.

Senator Pimentel said the DAR should include in its report how much the government paid the owners of haciendas and other large tracts of agricultural lands that were compulsorily covered by CARP and broken up into parcels of lands that were distributed to tenant-farmers.

He said he was informed that the government paid more than a billion pesos to an owner of a big landed estate that was covered by CARP. And just recently, he said the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision granting a P225-million to a corporate owner of a land placed under CARP coverage.

 

Mr. Pimentel said they want to look into allegations that in many instances, the land conversions were made indiscriminately or with the intent of evading CARP coverage, resulting in the diminution of lands for rice and other agricultural crops.DAR, according to Senator Pimentel, should also shed light on reports that thousands of farmer-beneficiaries have sold the farmlands – totaling about 350,000 hectares – that were granted to them under CARP which made a mockery of the program.

He said the senators are also interested in the various cases of rice lands and other agricultural lands converted into housing subdivisions, industrial sites, golf courses, and other non-agricultural purposes that were made possible through the approval of DAR.

Mr. Pimentel said they want to look into allegations that in many instances, the land conversions were made indiscriminately or with the intent of evading CARP coverage, resulting in the diminution of lands for rice and other agricultural crops.

“This is something we must look into because we cannot allow CARP to be used as a plaything of the people in power,” Senator Pimentel said.The Arroyo administration and DAR have originally proposed the extension of CARP, which will expire on June 15, by another 10 years which will need a budget of P160-billion. But the target has reportedly been scaled down to only five years.

Senator Pimentel said another factor working against the passage of the measure is the time constraints, with only six days left of the current regular session of Congress before it adjourns sine die on June 13.

He said Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the committee on agrarian reform, has told him that it may not even be possible for his committee to come up with a report on the CARP extension bill and discuss it on the floor of the Senate within this short period of time before the adjournment. # # #



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Last Updated on Saturday, 31 May 2008 14:14
 

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