DAR: CARPER extension not needed

Pia Ranada

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But the department wants Congress to pass a law allowing DAR to issue Notices of Coverage after June 30

LAND REFORM DEADLINE. As the CARPER nears its June 30, 2014 deadline, some farmers claim the DAR's land distribution still favors landlords. Photo by Arcel Cometa

MANILA, Philippines – An extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reforms (CARPER) is unnecessary but a law needs to be passed allowing the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to issue Notices of Coverage even after the June 30 CARPER deadline.

This was the DAR’s opinion in a position paper obtained by Rappler that was sent last March 3 to the Committee on Agrarian Reform in the House of Representatives. The paper was penned by Anthony Parungao, DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs.

The DAR maintained that “a law to extend the CARP is not necessary to acquire and distribute private agricultural lands that are already covered by Notices of Coverage (NOCs), provide support services to agrarian reform beneficiaries and adjudicate agrarian-related issues.”

A provision in the CARPER law itself allows these land reform programs to continue even after the impending deadline, said the DAR. 

Section 30 of the law says “Any case and/or proceeding involving the implementation of the provisions of Republic Act No 6637 (CARP law), as amended, which may remain pending on June 30, 2014 shall be allowed to proceed to its finality and be executed even beyond such date.”

The term “case and/or proceeding” includes not just pending administrative or quasi-judicial cases but also proceedings involving the coverage of landholdings, according to a bicameral conference committee on the matter.

A comprehensive agrarian reform law was crafted under the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino, in an effort to boost countryside development by allowing farmers to own, till and earn from their own land. Landlords and big landholding businesses however made the implementation of the law very difficult. 

The delay in the implementation led to CARPER. 

More time for NOCs

Continued delays however should not result in the extension of CARPER, according to DAR. Government just needs to avoid a rigid interpretation of the June 30, 2014 distribution deadline, it added.

“Imagine a situation where, by June 30, 2014, a landholding had been identified and issued a Notice of Coverage, its beneficiaries duly qualified, the requisite segregation and subdivision survey completed and approved by the Land Management Sector of the DENR, the valuation of the landholding completed by the Land Bank and where the initial payment to the landowner had been deposited by the Land Bank. This landholding will NOT be distributed with a literal interpretation of the June 30, 2014 ‘deadline.'” 

Given that land distribution is kickstarted by the issuing of a NOC, then the acquisition and distribution of landholdings with NOCs should continue even beyond the deadline, DAR emphasized.

So what happens to the more than 206,000 hectares of land that are still not under NOCs?

It’s “possible” that these landholdings will not be issued NOCs by June 30, admitted the DAR. That’s why the DAR hopes for Congress to pass a law allowing the department to issue NOCs after June 30. Even a “one-liner amendment” to the CARPER law will suffice, the position paper reads. 

A MATTER OF WILL. Land reform advocates say the DAR should be able to meet the CARPER deadline if they had enough political will. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

What’s delaying the issuance of NOCs is the lack of documents needed for processing by the DAR.

Many land titles, for example, are destroyed or unreadable. In some cases, the certified true copies of the titles requested by the DAR have not yet been released by the Register of Deeds. 

To fast-track the process, the DAR even issued an administrative order allowing them to issue NOCs based on documents other than the certified true copy of the titles themselves. 

Extension and DAR request ‘not the same’

The position paper maintains that though their request sounds very similar to an extension of CARPER, the two are different.

To believe in the need to extend CARPER “is to admit that the same will expire,” DAR said.

This would place the agrarian reform program in the same situation in 2009 when the CARP ended. Because of the expiration, DAR was unable to acquire and distribute land to beneficiaries until the CARPER was passed 7 months after.  

But land reform advocates are not convinced

“That is essentially an extension move,” said Danny Carranza, secretary general of Katarungan (Kilusan Para Sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan). 

“The problem actually is political, not legal. How to implement the law faster and more comprehensively by using the full force of the state. The DAR is once again legalizing what in reality is a political will issue.”

Akbayan Representative Walden Bello refuses to give in to DAR’s request.

“No way will we agree to this. They have to issue all NOCs by June 30, 2014. In fact, installation (physical occupancy of farmers) on all ‘CARPable’ lands should be complete by June 30,” he told Rappler.

On the DAR’s reasoning that problems with documents are delaying the NOCs, he said, “They’ve had 4 and a half years to get their records straight.” – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.