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Duterte’s DAR appointee unqualified, inexperienced

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The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday suspended the confirmation hearing for the interim appointment of Agrarian Reform Secretary John Rualo Castriciones as members digest claims that he lacked qualifications and track record to head the agency.

Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said:“If ever we need a (Department of Agrarian Reform) secretary, that secretary should be, starting on day one, hit the ground running. Without the necessary background, such appointee would be bereft of that qualification that should befit a secretary of DAR,” he said.

Villarin cited the cases of farmer-beneficiaries who have written the DAR secretary about the implementation of their certificates of land ownership awards (CLOA), which have no legal impediments, since his first day in office, but no action has been taken yet.

Castriciones was appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on December 14, 2017 to replace former Agrarian Reform chief Rafael Mariano, whose appointment was rejected by the CA.

Villarin said the interim DAR chief also lacked the “necessary character” of a Cabinet Secretary that should really have patience and single-minded focus to really work for the sake of farmers.

He cited the libel case that Castriciones filed against a reporter when he was still Interior and Local Government Undersecretary as well as the many issues he allegedly had with agency personnel.

In his defense, Castriciones said that he was qualified for the position, saying that his 26 years as a practicing lawyer, he has handled agrarian reform cases.

“I belong to a family of farmers in Nueva Vizcaya and I know the sentiments of being a farmer,” he said.

“In my practice as a lawyer, I have given so many (pieces of ) advice to my province mates. I have also had past law students who are now lawyers and judges who have consulted me on agrarian cases. Because of that, I strongly believe that I am qualified for the position,” Castriciones said.

He also said that “most of the functions in the department as a secretary does not necessarily have to make you a farmer in order to understand.”

“In fact, all the functions of a Secretary would have to dwell on matters that are legal in nature and that is probably the reason why cases have filed up,” Castriciones said.

Occidental Mindoro Rep. Josephine Sato said that since the law required that an appointee should have adequate background and experience in land reform for at least five years, perhaps Castriciones’ “past experience in handling agrarian cases for both tenants and landlords could be considered as experience for him to become a Secretary.”

She asked Castriciones to submit to the CA the list of all agrarian cases he has handled, both for landlords and for the tenants.

“I believe that if we see these cases, the sentiments or the questions on his experience on land reform could be answered,” she said.

Senator Panfilo then asked that the list should also “include the disposition and the resolutions of the cases.”

Senator Grace Poe, the chair of the CA’s Committee on Agrarian Reform, said that the proposal “is actually something that will put to rest any issues regarding qualification” and asked Castriciones to comply with the motion.

“I will try my best considering that these cases happened a long time ago,” Castriciones replied.(PNA)

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