Farmers’ group questions qualifications of new DAR acting secretary
The employees of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) welcomed the appointment of the new acting chief of the agency, Undersecretary John Castriciones from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). But the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), a leftist farmers’ group from which former DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano hailed, turned its nose up on Castriciones for his apparent lack of any background in agrarian concerns.
On Saturday, a day after Castriciones’ appointment was announced by Malacañang, the DAR Employees’ Association (Darea) said they “welcomed” him as the agency’s secretary, since they “respect the prerogative of President Rodrigo Duterte” on his Cabinet appointments.
“We are willing to work with anybody appointed by the President for better service at the DAR,” said Nanette Pascual, Darea national president, in a phone interview with the Inquirer. Darea is composed of around 8,000 members nationwide.
But Darea likewise made an appeal to Castriciones: That he allow pending promotions and appointments to push through, affecting more than 2,000 DAR employees nationwide.
“More than 2,000 vacancies are now in the selection, recruitment, and promotions process,” Pascual said. “We appeal to the new acting DAR secretary to let the [selection and promotions boards] continue ongoing deliberations for the vacancies and the issuance of appointments.”
Pascual explained that the employees – some of whom are officers-in-charge who have been discharging functions for years without the appropriate placement – had “apprehensions” that a new DAR chief might mean the suspension or restarting of the process since it was ultimately still the secretary’s call.
Pascual appealed to the new DAR chief “to look after the employees too.”
But for the KMP, counting among its ranks Castriciones’ rejected predecessor in the DAR’s top post, the appointment was Casticiones was a cause for “lamentation.”
“He doesn’t ring a bell,” Antonio Flrores, KMP secretary general, said in a statement. “No mention of background on agrarian reform. How would he perform at DAR?”
Castriciones, a lawyer even before he took up a post in the DILG, was also the vice president of the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte volunteers group which campaigned for Duterte in the 2016 elections, and a former Philippine Military Academy cadet.
Castriciones also became controversial when he was named among three DILG officials linked to the sacking of former Interior Secretary Mike Sueño.
“Another fan, minion was given a strategic government post,” Flores said. “Castriciones’ appointment at DAR clearly shows how Duterte regard land reform and the cause of farmers in the country. He treats it like some sort of a joke. This is sickening and unacceptable.”
Flores expressed concern that Mariano’s efforts at DAR would be “totally wiped out” with a new acting secretary.
“DAR OIC Rosalino Bistoyong…already started to reverse Mariano’s pro-farmer thrust and policy directives at DAR,” he said. “We are expecting far worse from Castriciones who is a legit [Duterte supporter].” /atm
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