DAR Sec. Castriciones steps down for 2022 polls

Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones has resigned from his post to give way for his aspiration to become a senator in next year's elections.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) made the announcement Thursday, saying Castriciones' resignation took effect last Oct. 8 when he was sworn in as a member of ruling party PDP-Laban.

The agency said Castriciones was "the proponent of some of the firsts" in DAR's history, such as the implementation of the housing program for the farmers as well as the "radical" reduction of unresolved and pending land-related legal cases.

He also resolved the farmers' problems on collective land ownership awards and launched a program enabling urban farmers to grow and produce vegetables in the city.

Prior to the announcement of his Senate bid, Castriciones was criticized for his supposed unnecessary presence in DAR's events in the province—which critics called "political gimmickry."

Former DAR Sec. John Castriciones/DAR/MANILA BULLETIN

Farmers' group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairperson Danilo Ramos accused Castriciones of “early campaigning” by taking time “to personally hand over CLOAs (Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to select farmer-beneficiaries... before proceeding to a designated venue for the ceremonial CLOA distribution.”

DAR hit back by calling KMP "insensitive to the plight of the farmers needing hope and inspiration during this pandemic."

"I am very proud that I have my DAR family as my partner in the service of agrarian reform beneficiaries. I am sure that with all the achievements that we did together, we have now a resounding name throughout the country. I couldn’t have made all those milestones without them behind me"” Castriciones said in a statement Thursday.

Castriciones was supposed to run for senator during the 2019 midterm elections, but he eventually decided to keep his post as DAR secretary.