13 DAR officials in Cebu face raps over undistributed land titles
At least 13 officials and personnel of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office in Cebu province face criminal and administrative charges following the discovery of over 2,000 undistributed land titles stashed inside sacks in one of their offices.
A team of investigators from the DAR found two sacks containing authentic certificates of land ownership award (CLOA) to agrarian reform beneficiaries after an inspection of the Land Transfer and Implementation Division of the provincial DAR office in late April, the agency revealed on Monday.
While the titles were in good condition, some were issued as far back as 1987, the team found.
Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), the award should be given to the beneficiary within six months after the land has been placed under the possession of the Philippine government.
Agrarian Secretary John Castriciones said he had ordered an investigation over the matter, as it remained unclear why the titles were not immediately awarded to the farmers.
He said that while there were at least 13 officials and personnel involved, the number could go up as they were still looking into the matter.
Castriciones did not disclose the names and positions of the officials and personnel pending investigation.
Some of the involved officials and personnel may already be retired from office or reassigned, as some land titles date back to three decades ago, Castriciones noted.
“It is unfair to our partners,” he said at a press briefing on Monday. “No official has the right to withhold these CLOAs.”
The DAR said the identified officials and personnel might face graft charges and violations of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program law.
Agrarian Undersecretary Elmer Distor, who leads the task force investigating the matter, said the discovered documents consisted of 387 emancipation patents and 1,620 CLOAs covering agricultural lands in at least 30 municipalities in Cebu province.
Castriciones ordered the immediate awarding of 422 individual certificates and patents, covering a total area of 315 hectares, which were ready for distribution.
Distor said the remaining 1,585 titles were still subject for validation, meaning that field personnel would have to verify the actual farm lots and their respective beneficiaries for potential conflicts of ownership, overlapping boundaries and pending cases.
Following the discovery, Castriciones also ordered other regional directors to audit their offices to determine if there were undistributed CLOAs within their respective regions.
An initial report from the DAR showed that there were some 254,000 ha of agricultural land to be distributed across the country. INQ
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