After Duterte outburst, DAR to probe 'irregularities' in land distribution

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) created a task force to investigate alleged irregularities in the agency a day after President Rodrigo Duterte's "outburst" at a Cabinet meeting that tackled delays in land use conversion.

Duterte already ordered DAR last month to speed up its distribution of land titles in Masbate as a counter-insurgency move. The President has also said that he would sack two DAR officials he deemed as corrupt.

Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones created a task force to address the issues causing the slow turnover of converted lands to farmer-beneficiaries. 

DAR will "re-survey the problematic lands, process land titles and attend to other concerns so that there will be no wasted time,” Castriciones was quoted as saying in a statement addressed to farmers.

The task force will focus first on Pampanga and Tarlac after a dialogue with farmers showed that there had been "anomalies" in the regional office for years, which supposedly delayed the awarding of land titles to farmer-beneficiaries.

DAR said that in particular, the areas covered by the investigation are Barangay Malonzo in Bamban and Barangay Concepcion in the town of Concepcion in Tarlac. Meanwhile, the areas covered in Pampanga are barangays Gutad in Florida and Cabcom in Clark. 

In a briefing last February 8, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the delay in the handing out of land titles was also due to the presence of armed rebels in these areas. "If you go to a place with a lot of NPA (New People's Army) [rebels], they are threatened so they won’t come back. So how can you come up with a permit?," he said. – Rappler.com