MANILA, Feb. 7, 2013— Prospects for dialogue between Catholic bishops and the Agrarian Reform Sec. Virgilio de los Reyes appear dim with the prelates standing by their call for a revamp of DAR leadership.
An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said their position remains that de los Reyes should be replaced for the sake of the prompt and proper implementation of the agrarian reform law.
De los Reyes earlier said he is ready to dialogue with the bishops who urged President Benigno Aquino III, through a letter, to overhaul DAR leadership, which “underperformed” these past two years.
They also criticized the government for the slow implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reforms (Carper).
“First of all, we wrote to the President and not to him (de los Reyes). Why is he going to hold dialogue with us if our issue is with the President?” Pabillo said.
The bishop chairs the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (Nassa) which is at the forefront of the church’s campaign for genuine land reform.
No reply yet
Pabillo said they are still waiting for Aquino’s reply to their letter, which they sent to Malacañang last January 24.
The letter was signed by 84 archbishops and bishops, including Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishops Jose Palma of Cebu and Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan.
He also revealed that the President had so far not responded to the letter sent to him by the Nassa about issues concerning DAR.
“What’s taking him so long to answer? Until now, he has not yet replied,” Pabillo lamented.
The church leaders were “greatly alarmed” at the prospect of agrarian reform law expiring in July 2014 but the DAR’s accomplishments has been “dismal.”
Easier said than done
For his part, de los Reyes disputed allegations of the bishops that the country is facing an “agrarian reform crisis.”
According to him, the bishops’ apprehension that the DAR only has until next year to distribute land to the farmers under Carper is misleading and a wrong reading of what the law states.
He explained that under Section 30 of RA 9700, the agency can continue its acquisition and distribution of landholdings with pending cases or proceedings even beyond 2014.
But Pabillo brushed off de los Reyes’ arguments is easier said than done, claiming that the land distribution will become more problematic if Carper will expire.
“That is his (DAR chief) theory but will lawmakers and landowners accept that later on? It will be more contentious because there is no more law. So why wait for something that is not sure?” said Pabillo.
He added: “The law is good for five years so we should follow it. We even have the law right now but the implementation is still very slow… how much more later?” (CBCPNews)