Philippines, 6 February 2014 — Farmers belonging to the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance  (SARA) blasted DAR’s Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes for misleading the public and the legislative branch in its report on the agency’s previous accomplishments and future targets during the February 5 Committee on Agrarian Reform hearing at the House of Representatives,.

Around 200 farmers from HACIENDA LUISITA (Tarlac), BONDOC PENINSULA (Quezon), HACIENDA DOLORES (Pampanga), and MACABUD (Rizal), picketed the Department of Agrarian Reform to bring attention to the ineffectiveness of the department in implementing land reform and support services since 2010.

“Sec. Delos Reyes revealed that the 4,099 hectares in Hacienda Luisita were already included in the 2013 accomplishment report. Yet, farmworkers are not physically installed and could not enjoy their awarded lands. This form of reporting is not only misleading; it’s an outright padding of accomplishments and statistics when clearly land distribution has not been completed”, said Jaime Tadeo, SARA spokesperson and former Constitutional Commissioner.

From this, SARA farmers also criticized DAR’s inability to issue Notice of Coverage (NOCs) for 206,000 hectares of land. “DAR is on the defensive, hiding behind technical excuses. Why not be on the offensive? With barely 5 months to go before the June 30, 2014 deadline for land distribution, it is high time for the agency to issue all NOCs now and deal with the landowners later”, added Tadeo.

According to the farmers, beyond the chronic underperformance of DAR’s land titling component, DAR’s implementation of support services programs in their communities are being hampered by critical problems such as its failure to effectively install agrarian reform beneficiaries, its failure to extend sufficient support services, and failure to stop violations of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) and farmers’ rights through land use conversions, evictions in rural communities, and outright killings.

“Exactly a year after land titles were distributed in Hacienda Reyes (Bondoc Peninsula), farmers have unfortunately not received any support services—no access to socialized credit, initial capitalization, nothing.  This renders the redistribution a failure”, stressed Jansept Geronimo of KATARUNGAN and co-convenor of SARA.

SARA farmers emphasized that a stronger state is needed to make CARPER a success, not weak and conservative governance under Sec. delos Reyes. “A leader with balls, like Ombudswoman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, is needed to effectively implement the program,” lamented Geronimo.

SARA calls on the Aquino government to conduct a joint-level accounting of land distribution to investigate how many lands are in the hands of the farmers and have received support services. SARA dared DAR to start with Hacienda Luisita to prove it is not deceiving the public through its accomplishments on paper that in itself is very low compared to original target.

SARA vowed to intensify its mass actions to press for the effective implementation of CARPER and overhauling of DAR leadership, starting with Sec. delos Reyes. The coalition will conduct a Lakbayan at the end of February to urgently demand for a swift and effective land distribution, adequate support services provision, and stopping of land grabbing and land-related violence.#

Contact: Mary Ann Manahan, SARA, +639063983206 [email protected]