Aquino won’t heed bishops, to keep DAR chief
MANILA, Philippines—He may be under fire from Catholic bishops, but Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes isn’t going anywhere.
President Aquino sees no cogent reason to sack the agrarian reform chief over his failure to fully implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper).
“Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes continues to enjoy the President’s trust and confidence,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, when asked on Friday if the President would heed the bishops’ call to fire De los Reyes.
However, Coloma said, in effect, that De los Reyes had a lot of work to do.
“Like all Cabinet members, he must continually meet performance targets and standards that are aligned with the objectives of the Philippine Development Plan,” said Coloma.
This was precisely the complaint of nine Catholic bishops, who have appealed to the President to promptly fire the agrarian reform secretary.
In a letter dated Jan. 22, the bishops led by Manila Auxillary Bishop Broderick Pabillo enumerated how the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) failed to meet the target distribution of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) balance of 1.2 million hectares since the Carper law, the law extending the implementation of the 1963 agrarian reform code which was signed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Under the Aquino administration, or from July 2010 to June 2013, DAR distributed only 314,422 ha of land against the original CARP balance of 1.2 million ha, the bishops said.
The pace by which the Carper was being implemented was “sluggish,” the bishops claimed.
The prelates had brought to the DAR’s attention in Sept. 2012 the 9,915-ha landholdings of businessman Danding Cojuangco on Bugsuk-Pandanan islands in Palawan.
No notice of coverage has been issued by the DAR to date, they said.
The Catholic clergymen also raised the “underperformance” of the DAR in handling cases of farmers’ groups affiliated to Sulong Carper, a coalition of 33 land reform advocates that are nongovernment organizations closely monitoring the implementation of Carper.
“Secretary Gil de los Reyes clearly does not fit the role of a transformational leader for the demanding task ahead for CARP,” the Catholic prelates said in a strongly worded letter to the President. Michael Lim Ubac
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