Manila, Philippines – Barely a week after Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes tendered his resignation and the Palace dithered on it, reports on his fitness to hold the Cabinet portfolio have surfaced.
Sources at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said the resignation of De los Reyes should have been accepted since “he continues to manage and own a real estate company operating out of Makati City that had been involved in land conversion cases before the department.”
De los Reyes Realty, the sources said, “is not listed in the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) of the secretary, whose listed business interest is one Information Technology (IT) firm.”
A religious leader in Batangas also reported that De los Reyes belongs to a landed family in Balayan, Batangas even as some parcels of land are said to be in the neighboring town of Tuy.
“De los Reyes was also involved in the conversion of land in Laguna for the benefit of a big bank,” the source said. “The area was agricultural and irrigated but it was converted for commercial and residential uses.”
On the basis of conflict of interest and the ethical requirements of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, also known as Republic Act (RA) No. 6713, and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, otherwise known as RA 3019, the sources said De los Reyes should have been out of the DAR a long time ago.
De los Reyes has offered to quit two weeks ago and was present during the June 14 meeting of President Benigno S. Aquino III with protesting farmers.
In that meeting, Palace sources said the President asked the farmers who among the DAR officials still merited their trust and promised to sack Region 11 DAR Director Yusoph Mama for issuing exemption orders on areas covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) beyond his authority.
DAR officials stressed that De los Reyes has been roundly criticized by religious leaders for broken promises and for not shuffling municipal agrarian reform officers (MAROs) who had been remiss in issuing notices of coverage (NOCs) on CARP areas and pussyfooting on the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component of agrarian reform.
In spite of all this, De los Reyes is reportedly still being backed by Palace heavyweights led by Budget Secretary Butch Abad, a former DAR chief himself. (Marvyn N. Benaning)