DAR Welcomes SC Action On Hacienda Luisita Special Audit Issue

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dar web news pix 1 feb. 13 2014Manila, Philippines -- The Department of Agrarian Reform welcomed the Supreme Court resolution to appoint a panel to conduct the special audit of the proceeds in the amount of Php1.3 Billion arising from the sale of a 580 hectare portion of Hacienda Luisita.

In a statement, DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Paruñgao said that the High Tribunal's action was in response to an urgent motion filed by the Department in May 2013 following an impasse among the parties to the case on the process of selecting the auditing firm to audit the proceeds of the said sales. He said that although both the DAR and the Solicitor General have yet to receive a copy of the SC's resolution, its issuance is most certainly a welcome development as it finally allows the process to move forward.

Paruñgao further said that the DAR was originally directed by the Supreme Court to facilitate the process of selection among the parties, but as there was disagreement among the parties in the selection process mechanics and on the identity, eligibility, and qualification of the firm to handle the special audit, it was constrained to seek clarification on a number of issues that resulted in the deadlock. Among these points were the meaning of the phrase ‘approved by the parties’, and the exact role of the DAR itself in the process, among others.

dar web news pix 2 feb. 13 2014 400It also sought the guidance of the High Court in determining the nature and extent of the ‘auditing period’ that will serve as the scope of the special audit, and even sought the review of the prescribed arrangement for it, suggesting that the task of choosing the audit firm may be best handled by another agency or third party.

The selection process involved Hacienda Luisita, Inc. on the one hand, and the farmers, represented by several groups such as AMBALA, United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), Farmers for Agrarian Reform Movement, Inc. (FARM), Supervisory Union of Hacienda Luisita, Inc., and Mr. Noel Mallari, on the other.

The process broke down following the AMBALA's motion to disqualify Manabat San Agustin & Co., which it had perceived as partial to HLI for having done some auditing wok for the company previously. This motion was made shortly after an initial agreement was actually reached by all the parties on the details and timeline of the selection process in the meeting held on April 12 of last year.

“We welcome the Supreme Court's action on this matter, and we look forward to receiving a copy of its Resolution. The DAR submits, as always, to the jurisdiction of the High Court,” Paruñgao added.

The Supreme Court ordered the special audit in its final and executory decision in 2012 to determine if the proceeds of the sale of the land for commercial use and for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway were spent for legitimate corporate purposes, among others.