Farmers urge Pres. Aquino to sack DAR chief
MORE than 100 farmers belonging to Task Force Mapalad (TFM) occupied the office of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes at noon yesterday, December 14 and asked President Aquino to replace him.
The farmers from Negros Occidental, Davao Oriental, Bukidnon and Batangas stormed the main office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) at Elliptical Road, Quezon City and, breaking through the security, massed at the secretary’s office at the fourth floor, brandishing placards and plastering the walls with posters describing De los Reyes as “ineffective” and a “disgrace” to the Aquino administration.
Enraged by the low accomplishment rating of the DAR on the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the TFM farmers asked that President Aquino himself take over the department.
Even the DAR Employees Association (DAREA) is demanding that De los Reyes be sacked for supporting the plan to abolish the department and transfer its functions to the Department of Agriculture (DAR). DAREA posted several posters all over the building and has these words: “Off The DAR is declared off limits to DAR Sec. Gil delos Reyes, et al.”
TFM also criticized De los Reyes for his dismal performance in delivering support services to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).
In the afternoon of December 12, the same group of farmers massed in front of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) main office in Manila to urge the bank to speed up the valuation of land covered by CARP as the valuation of land in 119 claim folders (CFs) covering 3,629 hectares in Negros is still pending with the bank.
Compounding the problem is that the CFs covering CARP areas in Bukidnon and Davao Oriental are also languishing at LBP, with many of the farmers battered by the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo.
They are also demanding that Pico speed up the processing of P300-million in loans to them at a rate of 8.5 percent.
The allocation was released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in October yet.
They asked LBP president and chief executive officer (CEO) Gilda E. Pico to act on the valuation expeditiously, noting that De los Reyes also claimed that the delay in valuation has been hindering LAD.
The delegation farmers are in town to follow up on the promises made by President Aquino on June 14 that he will ensure the speedy disposition of cases handled by LBP under Pico, and hasten land acquisition and disposition (LAD) by Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes.
Speaking on behalf of the delegation, Task Force Mapalad-Negros (TFM-Negros) president Alberto Jayme said “this action is not only a follow-up on the President’s commitments. We are now demanding that Pico and De los Reyes show that they can make time and act with resolve. If they can’t abide by Mr. Aquino’s marching orders, then they have become part of the problem rather than the solution.”
While the President has delivered on his promise to provide P1-billion in loans to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), Jayme said “we are asking his subalterns to be as forthright as Mr. Aquino and deliver on what the administration had promised.”
“Hindi po tayo namamasko. Tayo po ay naniningil na sapagkat ipinakita ng Pangulo na ang pangako ay di dapat napapako,” he said.
This fund, Task Force Mapalad-Negros (TFM-Negros) president Alberto Jayme explained, is part of the P1-billion in financial assistance promised by President Aquino during a meeting with farmers in Malacanang on June 14.
“We urge Ms. Pico to work with dispatch in processing the 119 CFs and speed up the long-delayed distribution of 3,629 hectares to the farmers, consistent with the President’s directive. There is absolutely no reason for any bureaucratic delay,” Jayme stressed.
On the other hand, De los Reyes, who was at LBP when the delegation staged a picket, has been roundly criticized for underperformance, with his admitted LAD record of 42,234 hectares from January 2012 to August 2012 only constituting 25 percent of the target of 180,000 hectares for the entire year.
De los Reyes is under fire not only from TFM but from other farmers’ groups nationwide for offering excuses for failure to turn in a better performance in spite of President Aquino’s order for him to accomplish his target.
The farmers led by Jayme said they are in Manila to bring the bad news that by October 31, De los Reyes actually distributed only 45,392 hectares nationwide.
This would be cut down further to only 18 percent if the backlog of 74,653 hectares is added to the 180,000-hectare target, Jayme argued.
Worse, he revealed, De los Reyes has already admitted that DAR will not be able to distribute 321,974 hectares of land to farmers by June 2014, when the program ends.
In northern Negros Occidental, his LAD record by October 31 even slid to 4 percent, distributing only 1,099 hectares out of the target of 17,483 hectares, with only 871 hectares of CARP areas and 229 in non-CARP areas distributed.
In the southern section of the province, DAR only distributed a total of 1,226 hectares, or 780 hectares in CARP areas and 446 hectares in non-CARP areas, for an accomplishment rate of 8 percent. The target was 9,445 hectares.