Recent developments in the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) are very disturbing.  The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), a social justice program enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, may soon expire without substantial accomplishment.  Millions of landless tillers will remain landless.  Worse, thousands of DAR employees would soon be jobless.

The National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) – the advocacy and development arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in solidarity with Agrarian Reform advocates, condemns the impending move of the government to abolish DAR by 2014.

NASSA is concerned with the commitment of the Aquino administration to implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reforms (CARPER).

–          While the President, during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA), promised to complete land distributionunder CARPER before 2014, the actual DAR accomplishment, from July 2010 to August 2012, however, is only 255,506 hectares out of the remaining 1,209,236 hectares of land committed to be distributed to farmer beneficiaries.  Out of the 2012 target of 180,000 hectares plus the backlog of 74,653 hectares in 2011 or a total of 254,653 hectares, DAR accomplishment from January to August 2012 is only 42,232.  This is a very dismal performance. 

–          In terms of budget, the CARPER law or R.A. 9700 allocates P150 billion for 5 years or P30 billion per year.  Yet, DAR’s budget in 2011 was only P18 billion, P21 billion in 2012 and another P21.7 billion for 2013.  Since 2009 to the present only P76 billion or half has been spent out of the total budget.  This underspending reflects the government is not serious in implementing the program and did not consider it as its priority. 

–          In this critical situation, transition plan of DAR, allegedly prepared by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) without consultation with the members of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) and DAR employees, is questionable.  To move ahead with the transition plan or transfer of resources and personnel from DAR to various Departments as early as June 2013, at a time when there is backlog of land allocation and distribution, will do more harm than good to this social justice program.  If DAR could not finish implementing CARPER with its present number of personnel, how much more can it do when it scales down its personnel and budget?  It puts into question the real intention of the transition plan – does it want to speed up the distribution of lands or is it simply a ploy to abandon the agrarian reform program?

If the problem of CARPER implementation is on workload or backlog, then there should be increased support to the personnel for greater efficiency.  If the problem is the lack of budget, then it should be increased.  If the problem is with policies, amend them. If the problem is in the leadership, as employees and AR advocates have identified, replace the leadership with someone who can ensure more efficient implementation of the Agrarian Reform program.

The concern at this stage should be the full implementation of the program which includes full support services to the beneficiaries rather than the down-sizing of DAR.  Moreover, like all workers, DAR employees have the right to security of tenure, especially those who do their jobs justly.  DAR should have a strong leadership that can motivate and invigorate the personnel to do justice for what the Department stands for: Agrarian Reform, and can be assertive enough to reprimand those who fail their duties and further suppress farmers.  Full support and motivation should be given to DAR personnel instead of demoralizing news of imminent joblessness that will not help ensure their full energy to their noble work.

As a social justice program, CARPER must continue because it helps to provide solution to poverty, especially in the low income rural communities.  It helps to solve the insurgency problem as land issue is the root of many armed conflicts.  It also helps in food security.  The abolition of DAR or scaling down the personnel and budget, will pave a way to the termination of CARPER, and aggravate the problem of land distribution, poverty, insurgency and food insecurity.

In lieu of abolishing DAR, NASSA calls upon President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino, if he is truly committed to CARPER, to have someone at the helm of DAR who has the will, heart and skills to manage and implement the program.

NASSA urges all peace-loving Filipinos to be vigilant and to participate in advocating for land distribution to the landless tillers because it is everyone’s mission to ensure that the goods of the earth should be enjoyed by all.


National Director
8 October 2012

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