CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—An impeachment complaint to be filed Monday by a peasant group will take President Aquino to task for the P5.4 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that was allegedly used to pay his family for Hacienda Luisita and other landowners under the agrarian reform program.
“It will be part of the whole DAP complaint,” Rafael Mariano, chair of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said in a text message on Sunday.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) website carries an “admission” by its head, Virgilio de los Reyes, that the agency had received the DAP funds for landowners’ compensation, according to Mariano.
De los Reyes explained that his agency implemented the Agrarian Reform Communities Project 2 (ARCP2) that benefited 738,505 farmers using the DAP, which the Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling July 1 declared unconstitutional.
“In October 2011, a notice of cash allocation in the amount of P7.932 billion corresponding to appropriations in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of both 2010 and 2011 was released to Landbank (Land Bank of the Philippines). A part of this amount, P5.4 billion, was through the Disbursement Acceleration Program. P5.4 billion of the cash release was indicated as part of the disbursement strategy,” the secretary said on the DAR post.
“I wish to emphasize that this P5.432 billion was not an augmentation of the fund for landowners’ compensation,” De los Reyes said, arguing that “the entire P7.932 billion corresponds to the 2010 and 2011 appropriation for landowners’ compensation in the GAA for those years.”
He also said that “from 2011 to June 2014, Landbank disbursed P4.052 billion representing the cash portion of landowners’ compensation to more than 4,000 landowners whose lands were distributed to farmer-beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program.”
“The landowners of Apo Fruits Corp./Hijo Plantation and of Hacienda Luisita are but two of the more than 4,000 landowners paid by Landbank,” De los Reyes said.
Mariano described De los Reyes’ statement as “damning evidence against the President, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and De los Reyes himself.”
“This is also indicative of a scheme by Mr. Aquino’s relatives to plunder the DAP funds,” Mariano added.
Retired Justice Harriet Demetriou, legal adviser of Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), said the company did not benefit from the DAP because what was paid by Landbank “came from its own funds.”
“That’s part of the regular congressional appropriations as mandated by CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) law in payment of just compensation to the affected landowners as required under the Constitution,” Demetriou said.
Cojuangcos in control
“Complying with the high court’s final ruling in April 2012, the DAR issued titles of 6,600-square farm lots to more than 6,000 farm workers who held stocks since 1989,” she said.
Mariano asked: “Why did the DAR use the DAP when it has a definite, regular and specific appropriation for 2010 and 2011 for landowner compensation? It should have pushed the release of the budget instead of utilizing the DAP.”
“Despite [P471.5 million] in compensation [for 4,500 hectares] using the DAP funds, Hacienda Luisita remains under the control of the Cojuangcos,” Mariano said of the President’s family that owns the estate straddling parts of Tarlac City, Concepcion and La Paz towns.
“That’s brazen plunder of the DAP funds,” he said.
De los Reyes said it was through the DAP that the DAR was able to subsidize local governments for equity in the ARCP2.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), he said, released more than P800 million in six installments to the ARCP2 from January 2012 to August 2013. These allowed the construction of 612.46 kilometers of roads, 31 postharvest facilities, 144 units of social infrastructure and nine units of potable water systems in 19 provinces.
Funding from regular budget
Alex Lorayes, Landbank first vice president, told the Inquirer that the “P7.9 billion credited to the Agrarian Reform Fund for the CARP landowners’ compensation, administered by Landbank, was appropriated by Congress and [was] covered by a notice of cash allocation issued by the DBM for Saros (special allotment release orders) covering calendar years 2010-2011.”
Farm workers have yet to receive their shares from the P1.3 billion that the Supreme Court had ordered HLI to pay to them from the sale of parts of the estate.
Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said in a statement Sunday that the DAR and the DBM had issued contradicting statements regarding the agrarian reform fund coursed through the DAP.
“Which is which now? The DBM claimed that DAP-released funds are an augmentation. Yet, De los Reyes is now saying that what his department received is not an augmentation but a part of appropriations under the General Appropriations Act. If so, why did the amount of P5.432 billion come from the DAP and not from the National Treasury?” Colmenares asked.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said in a text message on Sunday that the use of the DAP for landowners’ compensation belied “the claim that the DAP was beneficial for the poor.”
He said that in this case, “it was the already rich landowners who benefited” from the facility.–With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan