Land-reform law still valid

Published by rudy Date posted on January 3, 2009

DOJ argues only funding source was terminated.

The implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) would continue even if the budget for a land program under it lapsed on December 31, 2008, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said Friday.

In a memorandum to President Gloria Arroyo dated December 10, Gonzalez said the implementation of CARL or Republic Act 6657 would go on even after its expiry. He added that it was only the funding source for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), as provided under Section 63 of the law and as amended by Republic Act 8532, that was terminated upon the end of 2008.

Gonzalez recommended enactment of a new budget for CARP “because Republic Act 8532 provides for funding only up to the end of the year 2008.”

The Department of Justice issued its latest opinion on CARL amid moves in Congress to come up with legislation extending the agrarian-reform law.

“In effect, while the implementation of the [CARP] continues, the same can be hampered by the fact that funding [expired in December 2008]. Hence, there is a need for appropriation of funds from Congress,” Gonzalez said.

DOJ opinion

In recommending the enactment of a new legislation to fund CARP, he cited an opinion from the Justice department stated in 1997 on CARL’s schedule of implementation (Section 5, Republic Act 6657).

“It is believed that the 10-year period of implementation prescribed in [Section 5] is merely directory in character,” a portion of the opinion read.

“It has been held that the difference between a mandatory and a directory provision is often determined on grounds of expediency. And where a provision embodies a rule of procedure rather than one of substance, the provision as to time will be regarded as directory only notwithstanding the mandatory nature of the language used,” it said.

The legal opinion added that the section cited only “prescribes a 10-year schedule of implementation to dramatize the urgency of the CARP which must be implemented immediately and completed, ideally, within the time frame prescribed by law.”

“It could not have been the intention of the law to prescribe a fixed and rigid period of 10 years for CARP. Such intention would have frustrated the policy and purpose of the law,” it said.

“The very essence of CARP, which goes beyond the concepts of land acquisition and land distribution, does not justify a myopic view of Section 5. The policy of the law will be effectuated if the period prescribed in Section 5 is liberally construed,” the opinion added.

The 10-year period of implementation, it said, is only a time frame given to the Department of Agrarian Reform for the acquisition and distribution of public and private agricultural lands covered by Republic Act 6657. According to the opinion, the period is a schedule to guide the department in setting its priorities, but it is not a limitation of authority in the absence of more categorical language providing to that effect. –Angelo S. Samonte, Reporter, Manila Times

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