Farmers on a hunger strike at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) building on Friday accused Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes of deceiving the public when he said his department would be able to distribute 160,000 hectares of land by the end of 2012.
For the second straight day, a scheduled meeting on Friday in Malacañang between representatives of the 56 fasting farmers and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman was called off at the last minute. The meeting was rescheduled for Saturday night.
Several dozens of the hunger strikers had passed out and had been hospitalized, but most of them were back on Friday at the DAR building in Quezon City—about a dozen on the fourth floor outside the office of De los Reyes and the rest encamped outside its compound on Elliptical Road.
Reacting to De los Reyes’ statements in an Inquirer interview, the peasant group Task Force Mapalad based in Negros Occidental province said the official was not being truthful.
“His own data show that only 49,349 hectares were covered by LAD (land acquisition and distribution),” Task Force Mapalad-Negros (TFM-Negros) president Alberto Jayme said in a statement.
“There are only three remaining working days for 2012… He is telling the President, the farmers and the entire Filipino people that in three days, he will be more than Santa Claus who will produce gifts from his sled and distribute a maximum of 140,651 hectares by Dec. 28, the last working day of the year,” Jayme said.
“He has not even distributed 50,000 ha nationwide for this year. Now, he is talking of covering 160,000 ha in three days. Mr. De los Reyes should stop deceiving the President, farmers like us and the Filipino people,” he said.
The TFM also said that based on DAR records, 38,842 ha of lands distributed in 2012 were public lands, while private agricultural lands covered only 10,507 ha. De los Reyes earlier said most of the lands left to be distributed by the DAR were private landholdings.
The group also disputed De los Reyes’ statement that it was the Department of Agriculture that was processing the P1 billion in loan assistance promised to the farmers by President Aquino in June.
Jayme said the DAR remains responsible for certifying loan applications by agrarian reform beneficiaries before they could be entertained by Land Bank of the Philippines.