Bishops want Cabinet member fired; Palace reacts

Posted at 01/31/2014 5:39 PM | Updated as of 01/31/2014 5:39 PM

MANILA - Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of President Aquino despite calls from some Catholic bishops that he should be removed from his post.

In a press briefing, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said Secretary de los Reyes "continues to enjoy the President's trust and confidence."

"Like all Cabinet members, he must continually meet performance targets and standards that are aligned with the objectives of the PDP," he added.

A group of bishops under the church's National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) earlier said they want the President to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) until the end of his term in 2016.

The bishops, who are seeking an audience with the President, said they want an "overhaul" of the leadership of the Department of Agrarian Reform, noting that the current DAR Secretary "clearly does not fit the role of a transformational leader for the demanding task ahead for CARP."

In a CBCPNews report, the bishops said the government has been underperforming in land acquisition and distribution. They noted that from July 2010 to June 2013, the Department of Agrarian Reform was only able to provide notices of coverage (NOC) or merely 314, 422 hectares of land against the original CARP balance of 1.2 million hectares.

They said: "This gives us deep cause of concern whether most remaining (and most resistant) agricultural landholdings will receive NOCs by that deadline."

The bishops have submitted a four-page letter to Malacañang, asking for a dialogue with President Aquino.

Among the signatories of the 4-page letter dated Jan. 22 include NASSA chairman and Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tirona, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Palo Archbishop John Du, Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud, Capiz Archbishop Jose Advincula, Jolo Bishop Angelito Lampon, and Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad.

Attorney Christian Monsod, co-convenor of Sulong CARPER, CBCP-NASSA executive secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez, and executive committee representative Sr. Ma. Eden Orlino were also signatories.