DAR wants Luisita land lease deals investigated

AGRARIAN Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes on Sunday ordered an investigation into the alleged illegal lease and sale of land awarded through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program-awarded in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

De los Reyes said he was prompted to conduct an investigation following reports that former Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres was leasing parcels of agricultural land within the sugar plantation owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino III.

“I already instructed our regional and provincial offices to investigate reported informal leasing in the hacienda even before Torres made her public statement,” he said.

Informal leasing of lands awarded to farmer-beneficiaries is prohibited under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

“Under the law, the conveyance of rights to possess CARP-distributed lands, such as leases, must be approved by the government before it can be undertaken,” Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Meinardo Pangulayan said.

An erring beneficiary may face penalties for leasing out land under Sections 73 and 74 of CARL or Republic Act 6657.

Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap earlier accused Torres of entering into massive illicit lease agreements at the hacienda as a “dummy” of the family of President Aquino.

The Supreme Court ordered DAR to distribute close to 5,000 hectares of land of Hacienda Luisita Inc. to over 6,000 beneficiaries from 2013 to 2014.

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