MANILA – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has uncovered undistributed certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) covering 254,000 hectares (ha) and dating back to 1987.
Secretary John Castriciones announced in a press conference on Monday the discovery of DAR’s Task Force Undistributed CLOAs – land titles consisting of 1,620 CLOAs and 387 Emancipation Patents (EPs), dated 1987 to 2020, hidden in two sacks inside the DAR-Cebu Land Transfer and Implementation Division.
Castriciones said the discovery is the result of various investigations to address the failure of the distribution of CLOAs from previous years.
Of the total 2,007 titles, CLOAs in Cebu alone cover at least 1,636.7 ha.
“We will be filing charges against 13 officials whose responsibility should be to distribute these CLOAs. When the formal investigation begins, they will be reassigned to other posts and will be replaced by officials who are neutral to the case so the operations in DAR Cebu Province will continue,” Castriciones said.
The motives of the officials to keep the CLOAs away from their rightful owners will be the subject of the investigation.
“As far as the perspective of management is concerned, the fact that they were not able to distribute the CLOAs makes them liable. Whatever the reasons are, the fact that there is a failure to distribute those CLOAs, there will be sanctions,” he continued.
Lawyer Jazon Collado, DAR Director for Legal Service, told the Philippine News Agency in an interview that more officials, aside from the initial 13 in Cebu, will be held liable as the case progresses.
“That will be a growing number. They will face criminal and administrative charges,” he said.
Collado shared that the failure to deliver the owner’s duplicate copy of the EP or CLOA within 180 days from generation by the Registry of Deeds may constitute prohibited omission.
“It is punishable by imprisonment and the payment of a fine if it is proven that the failure is due to a culpable neglect or a willful omission,” he explained.
Castriciones vowed the CLOAs will be immediately released to farmer beneficiaries.
“The need to ensure that we remain faithful to our task of delivering the EP or CLOA to the ARBS (agrarian reform beneficiaries) cannot be over emphasized. This task is of paramount importance and should not be delayed on the pretext that there is an existing technical, legal, or operational issue,” he said.
Castriciones previously said in interviews that distributing lands to ARBS is the main mandate of the department under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
“That is, to address the social injustice of our land acquisition and distribution, considering that many of the lands here in our country are actually owned by a very few people, landed people,” he said.
An inventory from the Task Force showed that of the undistributed 2,007 documents, there are 1,585 titles still subject for validation.
DAR Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Office Elmer Distor said it could be due to reasons like retention cases, double titling, actual occupancy by farmers, overlapping of boundaries, and conflict of ownership.
“The second phase of the validation will include reports and recommendations from DAR municipal agrarian reform officers on the circumstance of the 2,007 stored CLOAS, survey of the landholdings, and strategic plans from the DAR provincial and municipal offices to hasten the process flow obtaining CLOAS,” he said. (PNA)