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DAR chief defends self amid calls to quit.

Byline: DJ Yap

MANILA -- The open letter of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes to his department defending himself against a host of issues was met with disdain and rebuttals by a peasant group that is leading calls for his resignation.

The Negros Occidental-based Task Force Mapalad (TFM) said De los Reyes' message to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) community explaining why he was being accused of poor performance was full of empty boasts.

"De los Reyes may already be hallucinating, announcing record accomplishments when, in fact, there is nothing to gloat about," TFM said in a statement. In his letter, De los Reyes said he considered 2012 a good year for DAR, saying it was able to accomplish much more than what his critics were claiming.

He noted that DAR had issued memoranda of valuation (MOV) to 13,327 landholdings covering 92,129 hectares as of November. He said the public did not know that the issuance of the MOV, following a long and tedious process, meant that DAR's work was basically finished.

"Very few among the agrarian reform advocates, much less the general public, know that with the issuance of the MOV, the DAR's work is essentially done," he said. But TFM-Negros president Alberto Jayme said De los Reyes was only trying to make a "grand thing" out of the issuance of the MOV, which did not yet involve the land being paid for, taken over and distributed to farmers.

"MOVs are simply memoranda, and the Land Bank of the Philippines will have to pay the landlords before the land can be subdivided and distributed," he said. Jayme added that he was "stupefied" by De los Reyes' claim in his open letter that DAR was on its way to exceeding last year's accomplishment in terms of non-Land Bank-compensable lands.

He said that in 2012, only 10,507 hectares of private lands were distributed by DAR, "practically nil compared to the original target of 260,000 hectares that De los Reyes cut to 240,000 hectares and then to 180,000 hectares."

"How on earth can this fellow claim to have done his best during 2012? His overall performance in land acquisition and distribution is only 18 percent when ranged against the target and the backlog, and only 25 percent when the target alone is considered?" Jayme said.

As this developed, a Catholic bishop on Thursday urged De los Reyes to resign for failing to implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said De los Reyes should leave his post because he was "underperforming" and had become a "hindrance" to the implementation of agrarian reform in the country.

"The DAR secretary himself, Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, has become a big hindrance to the implementation of the law so we are for him to resign if he really cares about the farmers," Pabillo told Church-run Radio Veritas.

Pabillo dismissed as "theories" the data De los Reyes was presenting to the media to show DAR's supposed accomplishments under his leadership. "He is giving out a lot of data but those are just theories. When we go to the ground, we see that a lot of projects have yet to be implemented," he said.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Dec 28, 2012
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