SECRETARY Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform issued on Monday Administrative Order No. 1 to suspend the guidelines requiring farmers to sign promissory notes, or the application to purchase and farmers’ undertaking document, to qualify as beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
“APFU is arbitrary, discriminatory and self-incriminating. It is a ground for the farmer or farmworker to be stricken out of the list of beneficiaries and be replaced by other qualified beneficiaries,” he said.
AO No.1 of 2017 would suspend the guidelines, and at the same time amended Section 19 of AO No. 3 of 2012 and Section 60 of AO No. 7 of 2011 in compliance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to fast track the distribution of lands to farmers.
Citing Hacienda Luisita Inc., some 111 farmer-beneficiaries in Tarlac were disqualified by then agrarian reform secretary Virgilio delos Reyes over their refusal to sign the APFU document.
On April 24, 2012, the Supreme Court voted 14-0 to order the total distribution of Hacienda Luisita to about 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries.
In an Aug. 26, 2014 order, DAR disqualified the 111 farmers from becoming awardees of the lands covered by the agrarian reform program for failing to sign the promissory notes for the farm lands’ amortization.
AFPU binds the farmer-beneficiaries to pay for their monthly amortizations and real-estate taxes over a 30-year period.
Under the administration of Delos Reyes, after a promissory note is signed, the certificate of land ownership award shall be issued.
“Refusing to sign the APFU should not be a ground for disqualifying an individual as beneficiary of land reform,” Mariano said.
He said requiring the farmers to sign the AFPU has become a common practice to disenfranchise them.
Under AO No. 1, an agrarian reform beneficiary who qualifies under the screening process shall state under oath before the judge of the city or municipal court that he or she is willing to work on the land to make it productive and to assume the obligations under CARP.
The beneficiary’s oath shall be in a language or dialect known and spoken by the farmer-beneficiary.
The agrarian reform chief, however, clarified that failure to take the oath shall not be construed as a waiver of the right to become a beneficiary or as an exemption from fulfilling the obligations.
“Qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries who fails to take the required oath before the judge within the given period shall not be removed from the master list of the agrarian reform beneficiaries, which shall not be subject to any amendment notwithstanding the failure of the beneficiaries to take the oath,” he said.
“The AO is issued to ensure that the rights and welfare of all agrarian reform beneficiaries will be protected and to comply with the April 24, 2012, Supreme Court decision. It is also aimed to settle disputes and forge unity among agrarian reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.”