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Farmers condemn Mariano’s rejection as DAR secretary

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned the rejection of Rafael Mariano as Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary and blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the Commission on Appointments (CA) decision Wednesday.

“The marching order to reject Ka Paeng came directly from Malacañang and President Duterte,” KMP in a statement said after the CA decision.

KMP blamed Duterte’s “fealty to landlords and oligarchs” for the CA’s decision, adding the chief executive “chose to throw away whatever reforms Mariano has started in DAR.”

The group said Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio was among those who opposed Mariano’s confirmation because her husband Atty. Maneses Carpio is a legal counsel of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC).

“The Lorenzo family (owners of LFC) and Lapanday strongly contested Mariano’s installation of 153 farmer-beneficiaries of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) to the lands grabbed by Lapanday in Tagum City,” KMP said.

The Lorenzos also acquired the controversial Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac from the Cojuangco family.

The farmers group also said “militarists” in the Duterte cabinet led by Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Año also lobbied for Mariano’s rejection.

“Lorenzana and Año connived with Mayor Duterte-Carpio in leading the governors of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental, through the Davao region’s Regional Development Council (RDC XI) and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC XI) in blocking the confirmation of Mariano,” KMP said.

The Davao RDC, the opposition of Lapanday and Hacienda Luisita are among the reasons of the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejection of Mariano, KMP added.

KMP said the oppositors submitted a resolution dated May 11 this year to CA chairperson Sen. Aquilino Pimentel informing him of Mariano’s alleged “involvement” in the attacks by the New People’s Army on Lapanday.

The group said the document was based on fabricated “intelligence reports (that) smacked of a witch hunt that has been a feature of the Duterte government’s dirty and bloody counter-insurgency program.”

“Landlords like the Lorenzos and the Cojuangco-Aquinos have wrestled their way to get back control of DAR to favor and protect their interests,” KMP said.

“Mariano’s rejection is another proof that pro-US and militarist hawks are intent on ensuring that genuine socio-economic reforms – including free land distribution and other pro-farmer reforms at DAR advocated by Mariano – won’t prosper,” KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said.

“It is consistent with the Duterte government’s refusal to address the socio-economic demands of farmers, and is part of the AFP’s arsenal perpetuating the people’s suffering,” Flores said.

CA committee on agrarian reform chairperson Senator Vicente Sotto III made the announcement on Mariano’s rejection, saying at least 13 members voted against the secretary.

“After an exhaustive deliberation and impartial scrutiny of the testimonies, endorsements, oppositions, and documents submitted, your committee called for a vote. In accordance with the results, in accordance with the rules, I should say, the weight of the scales ultimately tipped the balance against the confirmation of the appointee,” Sotto said.

As in the case of Mariano’s fellow National Democratic Front of the Philippines nominee to the Duterte Cabinet Judy Taguiwalo, the CA also did not announce the names of the 13 members who voted against the nomination.

Genuine peasant leader

KMP said CA’s rejection of DAR’s first genuine peasant secretary is an injustice to Filipino farmers.

“The decision of the CA to reject Mariano does not represent the demand and clamor of millions of farmers for a pro-farmer DAR,” KMP said.

“Behind Ka Paeng Mariano are two million members of KMP and their families, tens of thousands of agrarian reform beneficiaries and millions of rural poor and Filipinos aspiring for genuine agrarian reform, food sovereignty and peace,” the group said.

“Ka Paeng Mariano has staunchly stood by his position against the conversion of agricultural lands, the very policy that the elite-dominated Congress of landlords and capitalists wants to pursue and perpetuate,” it added.

KMP said Mariano is pursuing free land distribution, social services for farmers, food security for all Filipinos and significant reforms at DAR.

“There’s so much more to accomplish at DAR but militarists and pro-neoliberal elements in the Duterte regime and President Duterte himself are preventing genuine public servants like Rafael Mariano and Judy Taguiwalo to do their tasks,” KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mariano accuses Lapanday of mocking Duterte

Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary Rafael Mariano denied he committed graft and corruption when he personally led the installation of 159 agrarian reform beneficiaries last May 18 in Tagum City.

In a press conference, Mariano said all agrarian reform disputes are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DAR and only the Supreme Court may restrain the agency from implementing its decisions.

Instead, Mariano said Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) mocks the Duterte government’s call for change by using the courts to thwart the implementation of genuine agrarian reform.

“President Duterte has time and time again warned against the ‘use of courts’ to block the mandate of land reform, which is to distribute land to agrarian reform beneficiaries,” Mariano said.

“We are just following the president’s directives,” he added.

Harassment

Mariano said the criminal and administrative complaint filed by LFC counsel Noel Oliver Punzalan “is a move by the LFC to harass officials of the DAR.”

Punzalan filed the graft and corruption charge against Mariano and DAR undersecretary for legal affairs Luis Meinrado Pangulayan before the Office of the Ombudsman for “unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference” to Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc. (MARBAI) on the day the farmers were formally installed in the property last May 18.

Punzalan sought a preventive suspension against Mariano and Pangulayan “due to the seriousness and depravity of the acts they committed.”

Punzalan also alleged that Mariano’s successive Cease and Desist Order (CDO), Writ of Installation and Break Open Order from December last year to this month violated a Writ of Execution by the Regional Trial Court of Davao City.

“Mariano’s CDO disregarded the fact that LFC’s possesion and management of the area is by virtue of a prior and final and executory order issued by the RTC of Davao City,” Punzalan said.

The embattled secretary however countered, saying “Lapanday’s contract is not binding to MARBAI as it was executed with the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 which already ceded the disputed portion of the banana plantation to MARBAI farmers.

He said he also served the writ of installation after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered him to proceed with the installation during his visit at the MARBAI farmers’ protest camp in Mendiola.

Pangulayan for his part said the DAR just executed its quasi-judicial powers and gave no undue benefit to MARBAI farmers.

DAR said Republic Act 6657 (the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law) gives DAR the sole authority to determine if a case in Court is an agrarian in nature.

“This is the reason why all Courts are required by Section 50-A of RA 6657, as amended, to automatically refer all such cases to DAR,” it said.

He also denied that the agency committed gross negligence and bad faith in installing the farmers.

“The charges are just selfish corporate interest manifesting itself,” Pangulayan said.

“We will reply to the charges when required by the Office of the Ombudsman,” he added.

Lapanday is liable

Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao for his part said LFC should in fact be grateful to Mariano who gave the agri-business corporation more leeway than it deserved, more so in light of its continuing violence against the farmers.

“DAR could have filed contempt charges against the company for refusing to comply with the agency’s lawful orders,” Casilao said.

The charges against Secretary Mariano and Undersecretary Pangulayan are “weak, baseless and should pave the wave for disbarment complaints against Punzalan for ignorance of the law,” he said.

“We call on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to be impartial, as (another Lapanday counsel) Mans Carpio is her nephew as we also condemn LFC’s continuing harassment of the farmers,” Casilao said.

Casilao said Philippine National Police personnel in Tagum City have noticed 100 LFC guards near the MARBAI property a day after Mariano installed the farmers.

DAR also said that armed LFC security guards have positioned themselves near the MARBAI farmers’ campout with military amphibian vehicles stationed within the 70-meter radius.

The farmer-beneficiaries have expressed alarm over their security with fears of being ejected again from their government-awarded lands.

Progressive murals

Meanwhile, Mariano and the DAR received support from other government officials who attended the agency’s flag-raising ceremony and installation of murals at the DAR Central Office lobby.

Murals on agrarian reform, national industrialization, social justice, self determination and other social issues by progressive artists have been installed along the main stairwell of the main DAR building in Quezon City.

Department of Social Work and Development secretary Judy Taguiwalo as well leaders of progressive groups, farmers and peasant organizations attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.# ( Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)

Progressive murals at the DAR lobby. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

 

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Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano joined this morning’s Human Chain for Just and Lasting Peace at the Quezon Memorial Circle.

In anticipation of the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Oslo, Norway in August, the activity is one of the support activities organized by progressive organizations. Read more

Peasant leader Mariano becomes agrarian reform secretary

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In his speech, “Ka Paeng” said his administration’s central program would be the free distribution of land to farmers.

He also said his office would be open to all farmers. Read more

Appointed DAR secretary Mariano sings for land distribution

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s appointed Department of Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano sings Asin’s “Gising na Kaibigan” at the 15th anniversary celebration of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)-Philippines Chapter.

Unknown to people outside of the progressive movement, Mariano loves to sing progressive songs and play the guitar.   Read more