[Agrarian problem in PH far from over] Farmers slam DAR Sec’s early campaigning disguised as CLOA distribution

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) slams Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones for “early campaigning.” “The DAR-to-door program is a blatant nationwide electoral sortie for Castriciones – funded by public funds allocated for farmers!” KMP Chairperson Danilo Ramos said. 

“Land distribution is about social justice and not about Castriciones nor President Duterte. The land problem in the country is also far from over as long as the majority of farmers and rural population remain landless and impoverished,” the KMP leader said, in response to Duterte’s preposterous claim that he had already resolved the problem of agrarian reform. 

The DAR-to-Door program consists of Castriciones “[taking time] to personally hand over CLOAs to select farmer-beneficiaries… before proceeding to a designated venue for the ceremonial CLOA distribution.” Reports from the DAR website as of August 17 reveal that Castriciones has been to at least 38 different provinces all over the country in the past 13 months, amid the COVID pandemic and various lockdowns. 

However, KMP also noted that DAR only pursues the distribution of government-owned lands and public lands while safekeeping vast private agricultural lands and haciendas still under the ownership and control of local landlords. Likewise, the group said that the DAR-to-Door program is no more than a counterinsurgency program meant to dissipate farmers’ united struggle for free land distribution and genuine agrarian reform. 

“Seemingly on an almost weekly basis, Castriciones and his junket tour a different province. He is unnecessary in the deliverance of CLOAs. Magkano ang ginagastos ng bayan para pondohan ang mga byahe niyang ito?” Ramos asks. The peasant leader adds that the program is made more unnecessary and excessive by the increased costs of traveling due to the need for COVID tests and successive oil price hikes.

Hindi kami ipinanganak kahapon, napakalinaw na ginagamit itong pangampanya ni Castriciones. Paano niya sasabihing hindi e puro pagmumukha at pangalan niya ang nakalagay, naka-epal sa mga tarpolin, piktyur, at bidyo? Nakakasuka!” Ramos declares. Castriciones earlier denied allegations of political gimmickry after being named by PDP Laban as a possible senatorial candidate last week.

Castriciones was already accused of receiving a P5 million bribe for land use conversion in 2019. Before his appointment at DAR, Castriciones was a DILG undersecretary who was also accused by employees of corruption back in 2017. Castriciones was executive vice president of the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte (MRRD) group during the 2016 presidential elections and had no prior labor or agrarian reform background.

The peasant leader ends by insisting that Castriciones “should efficiently utilize DAR’s paltry funds and let its provincial offices perform their tasks.” #

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