Confirmation of new DAR boss hits bump
Opposition and questions about the qualifications of newly-appointed Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones have stalled his confirmation by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA).
Senator Grace Poe, who presided over the CA’s committee on agrarian reform, suspended the hearing of the panel citing many questions regarding the appointment of Castriciones.
At the start of the hearing, Poe enumerated the issues raised against Castriciones such as his “seeming lack of background or experience in land reform, his involvement in a fatal hazing, and his alleged involvement in a money-making scheme.”
Poe noted however that the committee received 13 endorsements for the appointee.
Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin faced the committee to oppose the appointment.
“First he lacks the qualification, the special training and track record of the head of an agency which is mandated by law, by Constitution as a social justice measure for the farmers, for the benefit of farmer-beneficiaries,” Villarin said.
Saying that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program has been in existence for 30 years, the new head of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) should “hit the ground running” from day one.
In his opening statement, Castriciones boasted of his legal background, which he said could be useful in accomplishing work in the department.
He noted that there were 14,000 pending cases in the department and that it would be difficult if the person at the helm had no legal background.
Responding to Villarin, the nominee pointed out that he belonged to a family of farmers and that one did not have to be a farmer to understand the work at the department.
And when asked in jest by Sen. Panfilo Lacson whether he was “lawyering” for landowners or farmers in handling agrarian cases, Castriciones answered: “I’ve been handling cases for land owners and farmer beneficiaries.”
Senator Manny Pacquiao manifested his support for Castriciones, saying it would be unfair to judge the appointee without giving him a chance to prove what he could do for the department. /cbb
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