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Dec 03rd
Quo Vadis, DAR? PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - This Week With Nene Pimentel
Monday, 22 September 2008 10:21

[Privilege Speech of Senator Nene Pimentel on
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, September  22, 2008]


T he Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program expired last June 10. Like the typhoon Katrina and the cyclone Kit that left hundreds dead and thousands of property devastated in Louisiana several months back and Texas just recently, the expiration of CARP left thousands of pending cases for land  acquisition and distribution in disarray.

In addition proposals to extend CARP are unattended and the hopes of farmers for the resolution of these cases diminish by the day.


LAD stopped


The process of Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD), a major component, if not, the very soul of CARP, has practically stopped.


I wonder why this should be the case. It cannot be for the lack of funds because Republic Act No. 8532 provides funding for CARP implementation for the entire year 2008.


The farmers’ organizations and peasant advocacy groups are complaining.


Nothing illegal


The processing of landowners’ claim folders for lands that are ready for distribution is at a stand-still. Field officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) have reportedly stopped processing all LAD cases because landowners have threatened them with lawsuits.


There is, however, nothing illegal about completing the CARP process until the end of this year. Still local DAR officials who should do their work are immobilized, among other things, for the reason already adverted to.


I suggest that the DAR has the law on its side but its officials are also timorous because of what is a perceived to be a clueless department.


In fairness, last June 19, Secretary Nasser Pangandaman issued a memorandum to all DAR officials enjoining them to continue “the implementation of the three-pronged CARP”.


The Secretary had to issue the memorandum because precisely of the misapprehension of DAR officials that the expiration of the CARP on June 10 meant that they could no longer continue with the land acquisition and distribution aspect of the Agrarian Reform program. The Secretary told his subordinates that under R.A. 8532 the funds for said implementation are made available.


Still no official in DAR, to our knowledge, responded positively to his memorandum. Even more unfortunate is that the Secretary left it at that.


How DAR money spent?


The last time I asked Secretary Pangandaman how DAR had spent the money for CARP he came up with unsatisfactory answers. Until now, for example, there is no coherent explanation of how DAR spent the P30-billion fund from the Marcos wealth in just two years. Or why DAR money was funneled to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao when CARP does not embrace the ARMM in its provisions.


In a recent news article that appeared in the Business World of September 5-6, Secretary Pangandaman said that 70-percent of DAR’s annual budget is spent on LAD, 20-percent on support services, and 10-percent on adjudication of agrarian cases. Based on the 2008 1,762,158,000.00 billion-peso budget of the DAR, 70% totals P1,233,510,600; 20% is P352,431,600 and 10% is P176,215,800.


Discretionary fund?


Considering that the LAD process is at a standstill, we should probably ask Secretary Pangandaman how DAR is spending the fund that is intended for the land acquisition and distribution part of the CARP?


Is this huge fund, totaling at the very least P1,233,510,600 million, now placed at the discretion of the secretary to be disbursed as he pleases or at the instance of powerful influences operating in the darkened corridors of Malacanang and the Augean offices of the DAR?


Check and balance


Under the principle of checks and balances, the Senate has a mandate to find out how DAR officials are discharging their public functions. How is the budget for land acquisition and distribution under R.A. 8532 being spent now?


I think the Senate deserves a forthright answer from the DAR officials concerned. As the elected representatives of the people, we have the right to elicit unequivocal answers from them so that we can plug loopholes in the law that give rise to the misuse or downright abuse of public funds.



Leaning on DAR


Now, one reason why the land acquisition and distribution phase of the CARP is in limbo, I suggest is that political heavyweights are leaning on the DAR to go in the direction they point to.


I cite a case — that of Hacienda Bacan in Isabela, Negros Occidental. The hacienda is owned by the family of the Mike Arroyo, the president’s husband. The First Dude (to borrow Governor Sarah Palin’s term in reference to her husband), however, had issued a statement saying that Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corporation was the owner of the hacienda, not Mike Arroyo or, in effect, his family. He, however, clarified that he had agreed to sell the property under  the provision of the CARP.


The property was voluntarily offered for sale to CARP on June 11, 2001 by authority of a board resolution issued by the Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corporation. It also authorized Congressman Ignacio Arroyo, manager of the corporation, to make the voluntary offer.


After long delays that lasted seven years, and in the heat of protests by the farmers, the “claim folder” of the hacienda was finally prepared. The claim folder is the file of documents that would justify its voluntary sale of the hacienda to the government and for its subsequent distribution to the qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries.  


Naturally the intended beneficiaries were elated by this development. They were even made more happy by a subsequent assurance of the President, herself, that the hacienda would, indeed, be distributed to the qualified beneficiaries.


Lawyer stops valuation


 Last May, following a series of meetings with farmers and the DAR, the Land Bank made a commitment pursuant to the CARP law to do a valuation of the property.


However, during the initial process of valuation, the lawyer of the Rivulet Corporation, Ruy Alberto Rondain, intervened.  He wrote the Land Bank to stop the valuation process because according to him there was a pending application for conversion of the hacienda into an agro industrial use, mainly to produce ethanol. The lawyer also wrote Secretary Pangandaman to order the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) of DAR Negros Occidental to stop issuing any statement concerning Hacienda Bacan.


A check with at least three offices of DAR—the Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance (BALA), the Center for Land Use Policy Planning and Implementation (CLUPPI), and DAR Region VI — revealed that Rivulet’s lawyer was talking through his hat or to be more prosaic about it, he lied.


There was no pending application for conversion of the hacienda by Rivulet. On the basis of this finding, two senior officials of DAR, Undersecretary Renato Herrera and Assistant Secretary Dominador Andres, wrote the Land Bank to proceed with the valuation process.




Since the Land Bank had by then finished the valuation, the DAR provincial office then asked the Land Bank to deposit the payment due to landowner. 


The Land Bank, however, declined to make the required deposit because of the alleged application for conversion which was non-existent. Incidentally, Gary Teves, now the Secretary of Finance, and currently also Chair of the Board of Directors of the Land Bank, used to be the President of Land Bank, itself.  His parents own a land in Negros Oriental that is also being subjected to land reform as we shall discuss shortly.


Bureaucratese ploy?


But to go back to the Land Bank, it had to be formally informed that there was no such application for conversion. Its posture was classic bureaucratese. Its purpose, in my opinion, was to complicate an otherwise simple procedure.


The Land Bank said that it would make a deposit for the landowner but on condition that Secretary Pangandaman would officially write about it.


The Secretary, however, was not inclined to write any letter to the Land Bank. He probably did not want any paper trail to document the involvement of his office to the inexplicable delays of the distribution of the hacienda to the beneficiaries. Instead, in a most unusual move, his office asked to be given time to talk to Rivulet’s lawyer. Neither he nor his office gave any rationale for that odd development. Anybody’s guess, therefore, is as good as ours as to the reason for the Secretary’s bizarre act. Worse,the beneficiaries were not informed of the results of the conversation between the Secretary and the lawyer.


Land Bank complicit


One thing was now obvious: the Land Bank was complicit in a shell game to defer the subjection of the hacienda to the provisions of the CARP.


The suspension of the procedures to complete the paper work for the acquisition of Hacienda Bacan and its distribution to the beneficiaries was only one of numerous cases that are now pending action by DAR officials in several areas. In those cases, the papers required by law had already been completed and payments for landowners had been deposited with the bank and the farmer-beneficiaries are waiting to be installed in their newly-owned land.


Still, DAR has stalled, frozen and halted action on the land acquisition and distribution process.


Now, if DAR cannot accomplish this simple act of installing the legitimate farmer-beneficiaries in the lots being awarded to them, then, perhaps, the Secretary should explain to us why.


Then, there is the still-to-be resolved issue of the installation of farmer-beneficiaries in the landholding of Congressman Herminio Teves in Negros Oriental. In 2004, the Supreme Court issued a decision affirming the legitimate claim of the farmer-beneficiaries to the Teves property.


Twisting in the wind


Despite the Supreme Court ruling, the DAR Regional Director Yusoph Mama issued a cease-and-desist order to stop the DAR provincial officer from installing the farmer-beneficiaries on ground that the landowner has a pending petition for its exclusion or inclusion under the CARP.


Subsequent orders from the national office issued by senior DAR officials to install the farmers were simply ignored by Mama supposedly a protégé of the Secretary.


Until now, four years after the High Court decision, and long after Mama was replaced as regional director, the farmer-beneficiaries had not yet been placed as owners on the land. They are in effect twisting in the wind.


Mapalad Task Force


A look at some areas in Negros Occidental covered by the peasant federation Task Force Mapalad (TFM) one of the many groups that support the farmers in their struggle for land, is enough to convince a rightful thinking individual that DAR’s failure to act on pending LAD cases has reached scandalous proportions.


Task Force Mapalad (TFM) and its affiliate organizations have pending LAD claims for a total of 11,239 hectares covering 134 haciendas and involving 5,731 farmer-beneficiaries in Negros Occidental alone.


DAR’s backlog for these areas at various levels of the CARP process is shown below:


For installation                 

: 18 haciendas, 752 FBs, 932 hectares

For CLOA generation                   

: 7 haciendas, 120 FBs, 195 hectares

For LBP valuation/Certificate of Deposit (COD)

: 6 haciendas, 285 FBs. 516 hectares

At Pre-Processing Unit (PPU level) of DAR-LBP 

: 36 haciendas, 2,022 FBs, 4,129 hectares

For ASP (Area Approved Survey Plan)               

: 11 haciendas, 521 FBs, 2,153 hectares

For Survey and Final Survey            

: 21 haciendas, 1,049 FBs, 2,154 hectares

For Notice of Coverage (NOC)        

: 35 haciendas, 982 FBs, 2,468 hectares



In other areas of the country, TFM is currently engaged in various stages of land claims under CARP in Negros Oriental, Davao, Bukidnon, Cagayan Valley and Batangas covering 17,189 hectares with 7,062 farmer beneficiaries.

Considering that similar problems occur in many other provinces, we may say that the DAR Secretary has many things to explain to us.


Death wish


Reports have it that the field officials of DAR—the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officers (MAROs)  and the PAROs—are simply waiting for CARP to heave its last breathe in December so that they will be relieved of any responsibility for the neglected LAD cases.


While this is not a just case of the DAR people en masse not wanting to do their job, it seems that fear of facing reprisals from powerful individuals has entered into their appraisal of what they should do under the circumstances.


Deeper than friendship


But as we have already mentioned, there is nothing wrong with completing the CARP process until the end of 2008. One reason why the DAR people are not performing their tasks is that the feet of the Secretary appear to be planted on the high grounds of power not on the low level fields under CARP which are his turf.


As a Mindanaonon from Misamis Oriental, I hate to belittle the capabilities of the Secretary who comes from the nearby province of Lanao. Moreover His father, Lindy, is a friend of mine. I might also state at this point that Miniong Teves and his son, Gary, who I mentioned earlier in this speech, are likewise friends of mine.


Lindy was a colleague in the Constitutional Convention of 1971 and I had Miniong Teves appointed as the Governor (Officer-in-Charge) of Negros Oriental at the start of the Cory Aquino government in 1986.


Unfortunately, deeper than my fraternal feelings for the Secretary or my personal connections with the Teveses is my commitment to the poor and the oppressed sectors of our society, the landless tillers of the soil. They are the intended beneficiaries of land reform in this country. And I would like to see that justice is done to them no matter who owns the land that is being subjected to the CARP.


I would like to say to the Secretary and the DAR officials that the landless tillers of this country are their special constituents, too. And they should without reservation execute what the law tells them to do so that they would fulfill the mandate of the department.


Serving People


I know that the Secretary is a young man who has many years ahead of him. He does not need to be a puppet of anyone to earn the support of his own people in Lanao. I know the Pangandaman clan to which he belongs. They are a power house in their province.


But if he continues to act the way he has been acting, then he would lose the respect of his constituents in the DAR and his own people in his home province might even terminate their trust and confidence in him as a leader. And that would indeed be a pity.


If he can take a few words from an old man, let me say that a leader will do things for the good of the people he serves. But if it is perceived that the Secretary is doing things for the benefit of those lurking in the shadows of power, then, he will wind up an automaton or a robot not worthy of the respect that his father had achieved for his people in Lanao.


Investigate issues

            That is why before it is too late may I ask the proper committee of the Senate look into the matters discussed in this intervention? And more specifically, may I suggest that this matter be taken up by the Committee on Agrarian Reform headed by Senator Gregorio Honasan. He has told me recently that he is in the process of making recommendations affecting agrarian reform in this country.


In the hearings of the Committee of Senator Honasan, we can probably reply to the question for the benefit of our people, Quo Vadis, DAR?


Thank you. # # #

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2008 07:18

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