DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said it will not support the current bid of Atty. John Castriciones as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
The appointment of Castriciones was already bypassed by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) in its session last March 23. Inside sources at DAR said he is set to face the members of the CA for confirmation on May 31.
“We actually hope that he knows what he is doing at DAR. But by the looks of it, he has no aspiration or any plan whatsoever to address the widespread problem of landlessness, stop the conversion of agricultural lands and give farmers the social justice they truly deserve,” said Antonio Flores, secretary general of KMP in a statement sent to the media on Wednesday, May 23.
He was first named DAR chief by Duterte in December last year.
KMP also expressed the belief that Castriciones’ appointment at DAR is just “a political quid pro quo”, a sort of a favor coming from President Rodrigo Duterte for his support during the 2016 presidential race.
Castriciones led the group called Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC) which KMP described as a mere “Duterte fans club.”
KMP added that he is “a PMA kick-out and a former DILG official with a tainted background.”
Since his stay at the department, Castriciones was also reported to be in a spat with DAR’s employees’ union.
Earlier in April, members of the Department of Agrarian Reform Employees Association (DAREA) staged a picket in front of the central office calling for Castriciones to act on the pending appointments of DAR employees.
In response, the DAR management under the leadership of Castriciones, instead of responding to the demands, threatened the head of DAREA by posting into its website the alleged anomalies that the organization and its officers have supposedly committed.
But for KMP, there is nothing significant the DAR has done to the lives of the farmers since Castriciones was picked by Duterte.
“We have not seen anything monumental under his term at DAR. Vast haciendas and big landholdings in the country remain intact and under the control of landlords. No actual efforts were made to dismantle the land monopoly of oligarchs,” Flores said.
The group also hit Castriciones’ priority of increasing the distribution of certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) and help farmers retain their land titles, stay in their farms and utilize the family a focal point in agrarian reform.
“Castriciones is totally missing the point of agrarian reform and social justice. Land reform is not equivalent to the mere distribution of CLOAs. What is pivotal in agrarian reform is the breaking up of land monopolies and addressing the centuries-old problems of farmers to uproot them from feudal bondage,” the KMP asserted.
The group added that as long as the control and dominance of big landlords over the landholdings remain, farmers can be easily displaced and evicted.
“Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), a CLOA was never an assurance of social justice and farmers’ emancipation from feudal exploitation,” KMP further explained. (davaotoday.com)