“Mar Roxas tried to sidestep the agrarian reform issue against him and is seeking cover behind legal technicalities,” NP-NPC-LDP vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda said shortly after participating in the Harapan: The ABS-CBN Vice Presidential Debate on Sunday.
Legarda was referring to a pending Supreme Court case filed by the Department of Agrarian Reform against the estate of J. Amado Araneta. Roxas is a member of the Araneta family.
The Aranetas are trying to get 1,645 hectares of land in Barangay Mascap in Montalban, Rizal, converted to residential commercial use to avoid being subjected to agrarian reform, which stand to benefit 100 tenant farmers.
In 1989, Jorge Araneta, as administrator of the estate of J. Amado Araneta, requested the DAR, then under Secretary Miriam Defensor Santiago, for the conversion. The DAR refused, but the Court of Appeals reversed the decision.
The DAR and the farmer tenants took the case to the Supreme Court.
During the vice presidential debate, Legarda asked Roxas point blank about the case: “Nasa Korte Suprema po ang (kaso ng) pamimigay ng lupa na napanalo na sana ng ating mga magsasaka. Bakit po di nyo pinamigay yung one thousand six hundred na ektarya sa mahihirap ng Montalban, Rizal. Pakisagot lang po.”
That was the second time, Legarda asked the question.
At first, Roxas tried to answer an earlier question about the Value Added Tax.
But Legarda insisted that he answer the question, saying: “Yung DAR po ang tinatanong ko.”
“Sandali lang po. Oras ko po ito. Huwag niyong kunin,” Roxas replied.
“That was evasive,” Legarda said after the debate. “He was trying to use up the allotted time to answer a question on VAT that he had already answered. Kung di ko kinulit, eh di naubos time niya talking about VAT. Then he insists that it’s up to the court to decide. But that’s not my point. My point is how could he be pro-poor when his famiily has been trying to hold on to land that could have benefited poor farmers on legal technicalities?”