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DAR appeals for retention of agrarian reform in new charter

Updated
By Charissa Luci-Atienza  
The Department of Agrarian Reform appealed on Monday to lawmakers to retain the provisions of the 1987 Constitution concerning the agrarian reform, as it has yet to distribute 621, 085 hectares of land to farmer beneficiaries under its Land Acquisition and Distribution  (LAD) program.

House of Representatives (Michael Varcas / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

House of Representatives (Michael Varcas / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Monday’s deliberations by the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments on the proposed federal system of government, DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Meinrado C. Pañgulayan expressed the department’s support for the Lower Chamber’s initiative to put in place a new Federal Constitution by the end of President Duterte’s term in 2022.

“Should agrarian reform remain a policy of the State under a federal form of government, it is important that provisions of the 1987 Constitution concerning agrarian reform be retained. The protection of the landless farmers should be considered,” he told the panel.

He noted that the lapse of Republic Act 97000, popularly known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), has left the DAR with 621, 085 hectares in its LAD balance for distribution to farmer beneficiaries.

He said of the LAD balance, 93 percent or 577, 609.05 hectares, are private agricultural lands, the bulk of which totalling 512,712.68 hectares, will be distributed through compulsory acquisition (CA) and voluntary offer to sell (VOS).

According to Pañgulayan , the acquisition via CA and VOS will require new legislation for funding, since the landowners will be paid just compensation through the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

“We would like to request the provisions of social justice, human rights and agrarian reform be included in the new Constitution. We believe that regardless as to the form the government , we can still proceed with agrarian reform agenda, which remains to be completed,” he said.

The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments created four technical working groups (TWGs) to draft the new Philippine Federal Constitution and have it approved by November. The President created a 25-man commission to make a careful study and prepare a draft Federal Constitution.

Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez said Congress is flexing its muscles to put in place a new Federal Constitution by the end of President Duterte’s term in 2022. He maintained that they are keen to convene the Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) “by first quarter of 2018” to debate and scrutinize the draft Charter.

Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said the TWG members agreed that the final draft of the Philippine FederalConstitution will be submitted to the House Committee on Rules, chaired by Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas by December this year.

During the second Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting on August 29, House and Senate leaders agreed that the deliberations on proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution should be jumpstarted.

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