By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has ordered authorities to cut down the distribution period of agrarian reform lands from six months to just three months in Leyte province.
During his visit to Leyte on Thursday, the President said the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) must hasten the distribution of lands under agrarian reform program to the qualified beneficiaries.
“I will give all the lands to the Filipino. How many months? How many months will the processing take? Six months? That’s too long. Make it three months. Just stay here,” he told Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones during the distribution of benefits to former communist rebels in San Isidro, Leyte.
“That’s just too long. I will give you the 2,000 (hectares) they mentioned. As long as it’s government-owned, it’s yours, claim it,” he said.
He said Castriciones initially asked for six months to distribute the lands but he told the Cabinet secretary to do a faster job.
“His name is Castriciones. He asked for six months. I told him that’s too long. Three months would be better. Unless you just spend the day picking your nose without really doing your job,” he added.
Duterte noted that his administration has distributed around 140,000 hectares as part of the land reform program since he assumed office in 2016. He considers land distribution as means to resolve the decades-old communist insurgency in the country.
He explained he was merely implementing the agrarian reform law passed by then President Corazon Aquino. But he found unfortunate that the Aquino-owned estate was excluded in the program that led to violence.
“Regardless if I liked it or not, regardless if it made you happy or not, that’s the law. I didn’t create that law. It was made during Cory Aquino’s time when she declared land reform in the whole Philippines. The problem with Aquino she didn’t include the land she owns in the land reform,” he said.
“That’s why decades after, the killing hasn’t stopped. And they would use the military and the police to kill the protesting workers,” he said.
Duterte said when he won the presidency, he strongly pushed for the distribution of the vast estate and prohibited the deployment of police to curb any violence.
“Eventually, during my term I said, give it away. Don’t deploy police there. Leave them be, let the people enter. Under the law, they now own Doña Luisita. That is land reform. That’s the shortcoming,” he said.
Early this month, the President vowed to ensure the swift implementation of the country’s agrarian reform program without becoming a dictator.
Duterte, in his recent visit to North Cotabato, said he would follow the country’s law in the distribution of lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries and would not order the government forces to do anything illegal.