Philippines, 2 February 2014 — The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)’s land distribution component could very well be standing on its last legs— but none of DAR’s farmer-constituents know what’s happening.
With barely five months left before the June 30, 2014 deadline for DAR to distribute Notices of Coverage (NOC’s) for all lands still targeted for land acquisition and distribution (LAD), farmer-leaders of the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA), today urged DAR to enable public access to information on the present state of implementation of its LAD component.
The appeal for DAR to end its secrecy in handling public information relevant to at least a million peasant families comes amidst, not only the looming expiry of its LAD operations, but amidst a growing trend of land reform reversals and human rights violations across the countryside.
“DAR has come under fire for its role in the pork barrel scam. But while it is now investigating corruption charges, its transparency record continues to be half-hearted at best,” said Jaime Tadeo in Filipino, SARA spokesperson and former constitutional commissioner.
“Over the past two years we have requested DAR over and over for information that will help advocates support the accomplishment of the land reform program, but there is so much baseline data that DAR has still not made easily accessible,” maintained Tadeo. “How much land still needs to be distributed? Where these lands are located? These are data for which we continue to petition the agency in vain.”
Especially urgent, said Tadeo, is for DAR to make publicly transparent its master-list of landholdings. The creation of this master-list of landholdings, which identifies and classifies all farmlands, was mandated in Section 4 of R.A. 9700 (The CARPER Act of 2009), which stated that, “A comprehensive inventory system… shall be instituted by the Department of Agrarian Reform, in accordance with the Local Government Code…”
Yet up to the present, the information contained within this master-list has yet to be shared with farmers’ and civil society groups, despite numerous petitions since 2012 by SARA leaders.
“The agrarian reform program is again in an emergency situation,” asserted Trinidad Domingo, another SARA spokesperson. “The deadline for the issuance of NOC’s is only five months away, and land-grabbing cases being brought to SARA’s attention are on the rise.”
“Making this situation even worse is that DAR— at the municipal, provincial and national level— is still refusing to share key information with the farmers to whom it matters most,” Domingo added. “This lack of information is badly hampering the ability of small farmers to press for land distribution through the proper legal process.”
Apart from the provision of the DAR master-list of landholdings, SARA leaders are appealing to DAR to publicly release other up-to-date forms of information, such as:
- The full disclosure of DAR’s LAD budget expenditures from June 2010 to January 2014
- The identification, location and breakdown of backlogged lands for redistribution
- The status of land disputes currently being handled by the agency
- The number of agrarian reform beneficiaries successfully installed on their lands
- The total number of land reform reversals that have taken place since 2010
- The DAR balance in the processing and issuance of Notices of Coverage
“Transparency is at the center of this administration’s ‘matuwid na daan’, but DAR is clearly not measuring up,” Tadeo said. “Keeping its data away from the eyes of farmers will not help DAR fulfill its mandate in the longer run. It will only further alienate DAR from those who should be its biggest allies: landless farmers and civil society advocates.”
SARA farmers will be staging a picket at DAR on the morning of February 6 to call for the more effective, and transparent implementation of agrarian reform.
Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA)
Secretariat: c/o Focus on the Global South, 19 Maginhawa St., UP Village, Quezon City 1100