Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Kazel C. Celeste has ordered DAR Region 6 Director Sheila B. Enciso to proceed with the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) process covering landholdings in Negros Occidental in a memorandum issued on Feb. 21, 2024.

Enciso had refused to proceed with the LAD covering 20 landholdings covering 1,170 hectares with 914 agrarian reform beneficiaries on the basis of what she tagged as erroneous notices of coverage (NOCs) and protests against the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) or the nullification of the NOCs.

In her memo, Celeste, a lawyer like Enciso, said that Memorandum 226, Series 2023, dated May 2023, was clear in mandating that Enciso proceed with the completion of LAD notwithstanding the presence of any protest or pending action.

Celeste issued the new memo after meeting with the leaders of Task Force Mapalad (TFM) from Feb. 19 to 21 to tackle the failure of Enciso to abide by Memo 226, which was issued precisely to expedite LAD and distribute the land to the 914 ARBs, some of whom are holding a protest at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) main office at the Elliptical Road in Quezon City.

Enciso wrote to the DAR on June 6, 2023 to explain that her regional office was faced with a “dilemma” in implementing Memo 226 owing to the protests against the NOCs and CARP itself, which are pending issues that cannot be resolved without the “proper interpretation” of the memo. Celeste responded by telling Enciso that Memo 226 is but a “rehash and reiteration of Administrative Order No. 5, Series of 2017, and Administrative Order No. 2, Series of 2020.”

Celeste counseled Enciso that she was taking a contrary position to the regulation that DAR field offices are duty-bound to implement and stressed that Field Operations Office (FOO) is not budging on the LAD, which Enciso must implement.

The DAR undersecretary told Enciso that she is free to file a position paper against Memo 226 to the DAR Legal Affairs Office and even to the Policy Review and Formulation Committee of the DAR but argued her office is not issuing any instruction contrary to the spirit and letter of Memo 226.

TFM had complained about the inaction of the DAR in Region 6 under Enciso, who had spent years dilly-dallying on LAD due to the complaints filed by landowners to delay the implementation of CARP in Negros Occidental.

TFM also asked the DAR to investigate Enciso for frustrating the implementation of CARP in Region 6 and for blocking the LAD process despite the clear department policy to continue the process despite pending protests from landowners.

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