Since the whole of Luzon has been under “Enhanced Community Quarantine” since March 17, 2020, DAR Secretary John R. Castriciones has been getting in touch with his key officials through Online Video Conferencing to ensure that “the welfare of our personnel and any agrarian matters affecting our clienteles are taken-cared of.” DAR has tapped advanced technology to mobilize its key bureaus and address pressing issues and concerns of its personnel and its major stakeholders– the farmer-beneficiaries and the landowners.

Online video-conferencing has become a regular means of communication between and among DAR officials to keep everyone updated and responsive to the needs of their employees and clienteles. “In times of crisis like this, we need to be pro-active by using the latest technology to reach out and mobilize our people and respond to their needs, as well as, of our clienteles. We cannot afford to just sit down and watch from the sideline. We have to do our part no matter what it takes,” Castriciones said.

Through various communication and social media platforms, Castriciones and his legal team, headed by Undersecretary Luis Meinrado Pangulayan, had passed three (3) memorandum circulars, suspending the running of the reglamentary period for filing of pleadings and cancelling all hearings, inspections and meetings involving all agrarian and agrarian-related cases from March 15 to April 13, 2020. “We need to allay fears and apprehensions about the so-called legal obligations and responsibilities to set things right and avoid confusion,” he said.

The DAR chief also directed Undersecretary for Finance Management and Administration Lucius Junjun Malsi to start processing payrolls of regular employees, preparing the contracts of service staff and setting the releasing dates for salaries and benefits to help DAR employees cope up with the current situation. “This is to assure our employees that their welfare is of paramount concern to us,” he said.

Castriciones added that work plans during the lockdown period are currently being crafted for officials and employees so that the DAR could maintain its sense of readiness and responsiveness anytime its services are needed. “Suffice it to say, it’s business as usual in the DAR,” he said, adding that his office is maintaining a skeletal force to respond to any given situation. “This is to assure everyone that with or without crisis, you can count on the Department of Agrarian Reform,” the DAR Secretary said.