Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) called out Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones for “using agrarian reform funds for counter-insurgency and red-tagging.” “The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is desperate at reporting any sort of achievement, and the DAR is a willing accomplice to these unrepentant red-taggers,” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos says. The peasant leader added that the task force has been instrumental in the red-tagging, harassment, arbitrary arrest, and killing of leaders and members of progressive farmer organizations.
The 2020 Commission on Audit (COA) report revealed that DAR attributed P410.606 million, or 4.6% of its ₱9.43 billion budget, for the NTF-ELCAC. ₱266.208 million of this (65%) also remained unobligated.
“Worse, the handling of this fund was highly suspicious. Dapat imbestigahan ang mga kaduda-dudang pasahan ng pondo na nangyari, lalo na ang ₱92 milyong nasa opisina mismo ni Castriciones,” Ramos comments.
COA took note that the ₱91.575 million allocated to the DAR Central Office (DARCO), from the ₱411 million, was later modified to finance the “The PaSSOver: ARBold Move for Deliverance of ARBs from COVID 19 Pandemic” project. Some ₱40 million (43.68%) of this was then downloaded by DARCO to 61 field operating units.
However, only eight DAR provincial offices have so far confirmed receiving and recording the funds. The ₱51.574 million that remained with the DARCO, directly under Castriciones, also remained unliquidated.
State auditors observed that the ₱92 million DARCO allocation, in particular, “cannot be properly evaluated due to [the] absence of relevant documents/incomplete information.”
Further, the redirection of funds to the ARBold project which “has its own purpose/objectives as well as a funding source as contemplated in its guidelines… defeats the purpose for which the fund was originally intended.” Further, DAR failed to provide the “rationale and/or authority to modify the attributed ELCAC funds to ARBold,” a work and financial plan, the basis for its distribution of the fund among different units, and to whom and how much of it was disbursed.
The COA report also revealed that ₱103.193 million or 86% of DAR’s fund transfers to implementing agencies and NGOs remained unliquidated.#