Bro John Castriciones is a lawyer and former agrarian reform secretary who has been practicing and teaching law for more than 23 years. He has also authored a number of books.
He was made secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform in 2017, an appointment opposed by a number of agrarian reform activists and farmer leaders who flagged what they called his anti-farmer and anti-union policies. During his confirmation hearing, he admitted to lawmakers that his agrarian law practice involved representing a landlord. He was also questioned about his alleged involvement in hazing rites that led to the death of a neophyte cadet at the Philippine Military Academy where he graduated along with the rest of the Maharlika Class of 1994. Castriciones was confirmed two months after initially being bypassed.
As agrarian reform secretary, he streamlined the legal procedures to manage the administrative cases pending with the department, reaching a near-zero backlog in the unresolved proceedings according to a DAR announcement.
He earned the ire of the president as well as peasant activists, however, over the slow pace of land distribution.
Castriciones had expressed interest to run for senator in 2019 but later decided to keep his DAR post.
Castriciones is running for senator in 2022 elections under the slate of the administration-backed PDP-Laban, campaigning on issues of agrarian reform and advocacy for farmers and vowing to pass laws that would strengthen campaigns against corruption, illegal drugs, and insurgency.
“Dapat gawin nating entrepreneurs ang ating mga magsasaka upang kumita sila mula sa kanilang mga ani. Gumawa at suportahan din natin ang mga kooperatiba upang mas magkaroon ng leverage at sustainability sa kanilang pagsasaka.”
JOHN RUALO CASTRICIONES – PROFILE
Full Name: John Rualo Castriciones
Nickname: Bro John
Birthday: January 08, 1962 (Age 61)
Birthplace: Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya
Marital Status: Married
Profession/Occupation: Lawyer/Public Official
- Master’s Degree in Comparative Government and International Law, Notre Dame University, 1998
- Bachelor’s of Law, San Beda College of Law and Arellano University Law School Philippine Military Academy, Maharlika Class, 1984
- Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, Trinity University of Asia (formerly Trinity College)
- Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary, 2017 – 2021
- Undersecretary for Operations for the Department of the Interior and Local Government, 2016 – 2017
- Director for Investigation, Security and Law Enforcement Services of the Department of Transportation and Communication, 2009
- Founder, Castriciones Legal Consultancy
- Professor, Arellano University Law School
Castriciones initially joined the Duterte administration as interior and local government undersecretary in 2016 but was forced to resign amid corruption allegations from anonymous subordinates. He is suing a Rappler journalist for libel over the alleged malicious imputations in his news reports that Castriciones and the two other undersecretaries received P100,000 salaries despite being on floating status, allegedly deliberately omitting to add that Castriciones was still the chairman of the bids and awards and grievance committees. Other news organizations had also reported on such complaints by subordinates.
He was then appointed agrarian reform secretary, mandated to lead the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and required to have at least five years of experience in land redistribution. Castriciones’ appointment was met with opposition by agrarian activists during the confirmation hearings when he admitted that his law practice involved acting as legal counsel for landlords and land tenants.
Castriciones oversaw administrative updates such as streamlining the legal procedures in the processing of land reform cases, including applications for land use conversion, with the DAR announcing on Feb. 18, 2020, that 100% of its pending cases had been resolved after the zero backlog program was launched in January 2019.
He also resolved pending appointments of DAR officials and employees arising from the DAR rationalization plan in 2013 and conflict between the DAR Employees Association and DAR administration.
Castriciones secured the president’s approval of Executive Order No. 75 in 2019 for the redistribution of idle government-owned lands to qualified beneficiaries without the need for amortization payments. Peasant rights activists, however, complain that Castriciones seems to be neglecting the distribution of private agricultural land, which compose 92% of DAR’s land acquisition and distribution balance.
Further, Castriciones claimed to have recorded the largest single-day land distribution on Dec. 29, 2018, involving 11,443 hectares of agricultural land to 6,424 farmers from 18 towns of North Cotabato, breaking Bukidnon’s previous record of more than 10,000 hectares distributed in September 1990. Upon questioning, DAR failed to provide data to support the claim of record-setting distribution, partly because there is no specific tabulation compiling DAR’s figures in single-day distributions since the start of CARP in 1972 to the present. According to a report by Rappler, disputed figures were not in the data provided by DAR as the page containing them is missing. The claim seems to have been based on estimates and recollections of regional office personnel.
In July 2019, the National Bureau of Investigation revealed that it was investigating Castriciones over an alleged P5 million payoff to exempt property from the CARP. The NBI report was forwarded to the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission. While denying the accusation, Castriciones admitted to the NBI probe and volunteered to undergo a lifestyle check by the PACC. Castriciones then set up a task force to investigate alleged anomalies in land conversion transactions.
By that time, he had earned the president’s ire over the slow land conversion and distribution process, including the 2,200 hectares of government land that Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said were available to former New People’s Army rebels. In October 2019, peasant group Task Force Mapalad also noted that the Duterte administration recorded the lowest land acquisition and distribution in its 1st three years compared to other administrations.
Castriciones maintained a private legal practice for more than 23 years as a general practitioner, becoming senior founding partner of Castriciones Legal Consultancy, for which his children now practice law. He also taught law and wrote a number of books.
PLATFORM AND POLICY
Agrarian reform; Advocacy of farmers
- Strengthen economic recovery after COVID-19
- Efficient distribution of idle lands across the country to farmers
- Improve the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program to enhance support services of farmers
- Shift to parliamentary federalism form of government
- Strengthen the judiciary system through trial by jury
Pass laws to:
- Ban political dynasties
- Strengthen campaigns against corruption
- Strengthen campaigns against illegal drugs and rehabilitate drug users
- Create a Magna Carta for Barangays
- Strengthen international diplomacy in the concept of genuine nationalism
Stand on economic reform
- Towards industrialization and establishment of a positive business atmosphere
- Establish a Department of Overseas Filipino Workers
John Rualo Castriciones graduated as Magna cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science at the then Trinity College of Quezon City, now Trinity University of Asia. He studied in the Philippine Military Academy and is a member of the PMA Maharlika Class 1984 before studying law at the San Beda College of Law and Arellano Law School where he was a consistent Dean’s Lister. After passing the bar exams in 1993, he pursued further studies and obtained a master’s degree in comparative government and international law from the prestigious Notre Dame University in London Law Centre, UK. His masteral thesis, “The Viability and Wisdom of Adopting the Jury System in the Philippines Legal System” earned him a Grade A, which was consequently published in the Arellano Policy Review.
Secretary John is also a tenured professor of law and the social sciences. Apart from teaching subjects at Xavier School Greenhills for five years, and lecturing to police officers in Philippine Public Safety College, he also taught several law subjects at the Arellano Law School for more than nine years, including Corporate Law, Obligations and Contracts, Sales, Investment Law, Practicum 1 and 2, Legal Ethics, Public and Private International Law and Criminal Procedure. He was also an MCLE lecturer for three years for subjects in International Law, Arbitration Law and Adoption Law, among others.
Moreover, Secretary John has authored several books such as: Internal Revolution: Political Vengeance and Societal Perdition, published in 2011, endorsed by Bishop Broderick Pabillo and Fr. Ted Gonzales; “A Risen Catholic Christian Soldier,” endorsed by the late Archbishop Cardinal Sin, published in 1998; Philippine Military Academy Hazing Case: A General’s Son Dies, published in 1990; and Sagutin Natin, published in 1984, endorsed by the late Msgr. Cesar F. Solomon and Bishop Pelayo of the military diocese.
For more than 23 years, Secretary John was a law practitioner who appeared in inferior and superior courts throughout the country. During this period, he also served as legal counsel for several corporations and top government officials in controversial and precedent-setting cases.
In 2009, He served as Director for Investigation, Security and Law Enforcement Services (ISLES) of the Department of Transportation and Communication, and as assistant spokesman and deputy chairman of the Task Force Gabay of the Tagapagligtas sa Karagatan. In the beginning of the current administration, he served as undersecretary for operations for the Department of the Interior and Local Government until his recent appointment.
At present, Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Castriciones is the national president of Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC); and founding senior partner of the Castriciones Legal Consultancy, where his children, who are also lawyers, practice their profession.