Quezon City, Philippines, 24 July 2014 — On the eve of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address the People’s Agrarian Reform Congress (PARC) strongly calls for transparency in governance and use of public funds, amidst the Disbursement Acceleration Program imbroglio. We are also taking to task all public officials to account for failures and inefficiencies in implementing fundamental reforms under their purview—the incomplete implementation of the agrarian reform program, being a major one.

PARC, which was initially convened last June 6, 2014, continues to expand as a multi-sector platform composed of farmers’ groups and organizations campaigning for agrarian reform. It counts among its ranks other sectoral organizations such as labor, urban poor,youth, women, Catholic Church, academe and other advocates. Currently, its leaders are campaigning for the speeding up of the process titling lands in light of the ‘deadline’ of the land acquisition and distribution component (LAD) of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP/Republic Act No. 6657)last June 30.

For the period June 2010 to June 2013, the Aquino administration was only able to release a total of 360,464 hectares to farmers, with an annual achievement average of 120,154.7 hectares ― among the lowest distribution rate across administrations since President Corazon Aquino. As of February 2014, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has only achieved an additional 123,731 hectares under land acquisition, representing less than 48% of its target acquisition rate of240,707 hectares.

More significantly, the accomplishment reports of the DAR continue to remain questionable because of contradictory figures from the Land Registration Authority (LRA), as shown below (access the link below to view the table). There is a visible difference in the figures claimed by DAR and the actual figures of hectares registered with land titles in the LRA. The figures reveal a remarkable deficit of 106,528.73 hectares from the actual official accomplishments in land distribution of the current Aquino administration.

Thus, we deem it urgent for President Aquino to underscore plans for serious and substantive agrarian reform implementation in his upcoming SONA. We are also calling for a shake up in the leadership of DAR, in light of the lamentable and disappointing track record of Secretary Virgilio “Gil” Delos Reyes. The Secretary has been monumentally incompetent in properly addressing the slow processing of land titles, has been willfully not taking action on continuing land conversions and criminalization of peasant struggles, and has engaged in systematic misinformation regarding the actual status of land distribution in thePresident’s own Hacienda Luisita. We call for his replacement with a new, responsible officer, who should be an aggressive advocate of land reform and not a legal, conservative lawyer like Delos Reyes.

We are also calling upon the formation of an independent high-level commission to properly audit the accomplishments of previous and current DAR and other CARP implementing agencies with regards to land distribution, installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries, and provision of support services to farmers. In tandem with these calls, we in PARC are also pushing for government and public support for the passage of House Bill No. 4375, “An Act Creating the Agrarian Reform Commission” (filed by Representatives Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Island and Leni Robredo of Camarines Sur), and the congressional bills mandating the completion of land distribution (House Bill No. 4296) filed by Representative Teodoro Baguilat of Ifugao and Representative Cresente Paez of COOP-NATCCO and Senate Bill No. 2188 filed by Senator Gregorio Honasan II).

The People’s Agrarian Reform Congress is aware that agrarian reform has,unfortunately, never been a priority program of the Aquino administration. With the agrarian reform program in danger of lapsing into obscurity even as countless agrarian reform beneficiaries still have to be physically installed on their rightful lands and benefit from their fruits, now is the time for President Aquino to directly address this vital concern and issue a strong and uncompromising SONA statement reaffirming the social justice goals of the program. Failure to do so will be tantamount to deliberately neglecting his sworn duty to uphold the interests of the Filipino people in general and the rural poor in particular.

Mary Ann Manahan, [email protected] (+63) 906-298-3206