Press Release
May 13, 2009


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today dared Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman to resign as he accused him of using his Cabinet post to promote his congressional candidacy and of being remiss in his duty to fight for the interest of marginalized tenant farmers.

He said that Cabinet members and other officials of the executive branch who are planning to run for president or senator should quit to prevent them from taking advantage of the funds and other resources of their office to advance their political ambitions.

"In my honest opinion, out of delicadeza, they should resign their positions. Let them run for whatever positions they are eyeing. But certainly, they should not be allowed to continue occupying high positions in government where billions of pesos of the people's hard-earned money are placed under their disposal," the minority leader said.

Pimentel said he was reliably informed that Pangandaman has started his campaign for his future candidacy for congressman in the first district of Lanao del Sur by holding a series of meetings with local political leaders and promising to provide them with funds for livelihood and other projects in exchange for their support.

He said Pangandaman recently met with the governor of Lanao del Sur and the mayors of the first district of the province at the Ortigas Center in Pasig City. Instead of speaking about agrarian reform, he said that the Cabinet member formally announced his plan to run for Congress and in the process promised to give the governor P10 million and the mayors P2 million each for projects for a total of P44 million.

Only last May 9, Pimentel said Pangandaman visited Wao, Lanao del Sur and met with the mayor and 22 barangay chairmen. Reports that reached him said that he distributed P2,000 cash to each of the attendees and promised to give P100,000 for every barangay for livelihood projects and farm-to-market roads.

"If Secretary Pangandaman speaks of so many millions of pesos at his disposal, the first question is where is the money coming from? Now obviously because the secretary of agrarian reform in whose department millions of pesos in government money is subject to his disposition, the suspicion is inevitable that Mr. Pangandaman would in all likelihood poke his dirty fingers into the funds intended for agrarian reform," he said.

He added that the DAR secretary should account for the two incidents he cited. Obviously, he said Pangandaman and his family "do not have the wherewithal to deliver on his promise" to the local officials in Lanao del Sur.

Pimentel said that it is not often that a Muslim leader and a fellow Mindanaonon gets appointed to a high government post that has great relevance to the life of the Filipino people.

However, he decried that Secretary Pangandaman has disregarded the request of Congress for a complete assessment of the implementation of the comprehensive agrarian reform program over the last 20 years specially in terms of accounting for the huge amount of public funds. He said the DAR chief's uncooperative attitude has contributed to the delay in the passage of the bill extending the lifetime of CARP and instituting reforms in the program.

Calling the DAR secretary as a major stumbling block to the enactment of this vital piece of legislation Pimentel said Pangandaman cannot pursue his congressional candidacy without jeopardizing the program.

"Now that he has declared his candidacy for Congress, this may be an opportune time for him to get out of the department and allow a much better person, more oriented towards the needs of our agrarian reform constituents to occupy that position," the senator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel said that since the six-month extension of CARP under Joint Congressional Resolution l9 is due to expire on June 30, Congress should work fast to have the amendatory bill passed before it adjourns sine die on June 5.

"There is not much time for us to give ourselves in order to assure our people that we will be able to finish the bill extending the CARP with reforms as demanded by our constituents who come from the ranks of the landless tenants in this country," he said.

Pimentel expressed appreciation for the stand of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Gregorio Honasan, sponsor of the measure, to approve the same as soon as possible. He said it would best to pass the bill today as the Senate's gift to the farmers on the occasion of the May l5 observance of the feast of San Isidro, their patron saint.

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