DAR investigates alleged informal leases in Hacienda Luisita

MANILA, Sept. 27 (PNA) — The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had been monitoring and investigating reports of illegal lease and sale of CARP-awarded lands in Hacienda Luisita after the Department installed the beneficiaries on their land.

The DAR made this clarification following reports that a former officer of the Land Transportation Office has been leasing or renting out parcels of agricultural lands within the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

“I already instructed our Regional and Provincial Office to investigate reported informal leasing in the Hacienda even before Ms. Torres made her public statement,” said DAR Secretary Virgilio R. de los Reyes.

The agrarian reform agency explained that the law prohibits the informal leasing of awarded lands.

“Under the law, the conveyance of rights to possess CARP-distributed lands, such as leases, must be approved by the government before it can be undertaken,” explained DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Meinrado Pañgulayan.

He added that any leasing out of agricultural lands without the said approval is illegal. Erring beneficiaries may face penalties under Sections 73 and 74 of the CARP Law (R.A. No. 6657).

“The unlawful leasing of land may also be a ground for the cancellation of the Titles awarded to them,” Pañgulayan said.

He emphasized that they are also looking into possible penalties on the part of the lessees.

Hacienda Luisita is covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). It was distributed to more than 6,000 beneficiaries from 2013 to 2014 in compliance with the directive of the Supreme Court.

The reports of illegal leasing activities came amid the ongoing assistance being provided by the government to ensure the viability of the agrarian activities in the area.

The government has undertaken support services programs to assist the new smallholders in Hacienda Luisita and in other parts of the country. These programs are meant, among other reasons, to mitigate enticements on the part of the beneficiaries to sell their rights over lands awarded to them.

Direct government support to the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) came in form of equipment grants and the provision of third-party professional services to assist ARB organizations in improving farm management, agricultural-technology and product marketing.

ARBs who voluntarily organized themselves to business organizations are assisted by the government to register themselves as ARB organizations.

Furthermore, credit and insurance support were provided to ARBs, and rural infrastructures were also constructed. To date, credit support through the DAR-Agrarian Production Credit Program (APCP) in partnership with the Land Bank of the Philippines (amounting to PhP 18.3 million) has already been released to the ARBs.

The same support strategies are being employed by the government nationwide to assist farmers who became smallholders by virtue of CARP. (PNA)